NYPD Sergeant Kizzy Adonis has received internal disciplinary charges for her involvement with Eric Garner’s death. Adonis, who is Black, is the first person to face charges in the case. She faces four counts of “failure to supervise” charges.
The police department is still conducting a federal investigation, so Adonis’s case will not begin until that is complete. But the department faced a Jan. 17 deadline to file charges due to an 18-month statute of limitations for filing administrative charges.
Police confronted Garner, 43, for selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island on July 17, 2014. He died following the use of an illegal chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Garner was unarmed at the time of his death.
During the struggle Garner let out a cry of “I can’t breathe!” at least 11 times; these now well-known words have become representative of the treatment of Black men by police.
Pantaleo has been on desk duty since Garner’s death. The results of an internal investigation on Pantaleo will not be released until the Justice Department has concluded its own investigation.
Adonis has been stripped of her badge and gun and is now on modified duty.
According to a police source, Adonis faces charges due to her inaction at the scene, saying, “If you look at the video, she just stood there.”
“Her role as a sergeant is to take charge of the situation and supervise,” the source said. “She was supposed to take charge.”
At least one witness to Garner’s arrest provided a different account. The store manager of Bay Beauty Supply (located on Bay Street, where Garner’s arrest and death occurred) said he heard Adonis tell the other officers, “Let him up, you got him already.” One officer looked up but did not let go of Garner.
According to Sgt. Edward Mullins, head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association — the union that represents Adonis — Adonis “did what the NYPD teaches her to do.”
“So for Commissioner [William] Bratton to come to the conclusion that she failed to supervise — what would he like her to do” Mullins questioned.
Adonis, who was promoted to sergeant less than a month prior to Garner’s death, was not on patrol at the time of Garner’s arrest but chose to respond. With these charges, she faces possible termination. A departmental judge will make a recommendation to Police Commissioner William Bratton, who will make the final decision.
Mullins said he believes that the charges are politically motivated and pointed to Adonis’s “unblemished record.”
“This can only be described as political pandering to the antipolice rhetoric that is out there, that we’re seeing across the country, and a failure of character to stand up and make a decision that is, although not popular, would be the right decision,” he said.
Mullins believes the blame should fall on Bratton.
“The only one who should be charged with failure to supervise is Commissioner Bratton,” he said. “He was in charge of the NYPD during the Garner incident and ultimately bears the responsibility of failed policies that lead to the enforcement of an act that sadly caused the death of Eric Garner. Bratton’s actions are nothing more than political pandering and a failure in leadership and character.”
Bratton faced scrutiny last month as well when NYPD Officer Kenneth Boss was promoted to sergeant. Boss was one of four officers who fired deadly shots at Amadou Diallo, 22, on Feb. 4, 1999. Boss and the other officers thought Diallo, a Guinean immigrant, was a rape suspect and opened fire when Diallo reached into his jacket. But Diallo, who was killed when 19 of the 41 bullets hit him, was reaching for his wallet, not a weapon. All four officers faced second-degree murder charges but were acquitted in 2000.