By the time Mr. Pantaleo approached Mr. Garner outside a Staten Island beauty supply store because he thought he was selling untaxed loose cigarettes, the city’s independent Civilian Complaint Review Board had substantiated four allegations of abuse against him in two incidents since he joined the department in 2006, according to leaked disciplinary records published by ThinkProgress last year.
That record should have served as a red flag. As of May, just 8 percent of the city’s 36,000 police officers have ever had a single complaint against them substantiated by the review board. Just 550 officers — 2 percent of the force — have had two substantiated complaints. Mr. Pantaleo was disciplined just once, lightly. After an abusive frisk in 2012, the Police Department docked two days of his vacation pay.
The Garner case is an example of a larger problem: Like his predecessors, Mr. de Blasio, who was elected promising to make policing fairer for black and Latino New Yorkers, has not done enough to hold the police accountable for misconduct and abuse.
There are signs of progress. Complaints against officers are down since Mr. de Blasio took office. So are police stops, though they had already begun a steep decline in 2013 under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, after a federal judge struck down the city’s aggressive use of the tactic known as stop and frisk as unconstitutional.
But in many ways the mayor — stung in his first term when hundreds of police officers turned their backs on him at the funerals of two police officers murdered because of the uniform they wore — has resisted attempts at reform.