Police Commissioner O’Neill’s decision to accept the final recommendation of the NYPD Trial Commissioner to terminate Officer Daniel Pantaleo marks a potential new beginning in police-community relations in New York City. As people of faith, people of conscience and community leaders, we are grateful that Commissioner O’Neill had the moral courage to honor the recommendation of the Trial Commissioner, made after considering days of testimony and other evidence. We are also grateful for the hard work of the Civilian Complaint Review Board in diligently pursuing this process to its conclusion.
For years, we have worked side-by-side with NYPD leadership to build bridges and ensure improved police-community relations here on Staten Island. We take pride in having maintained a spirit of cooperation and peaceful protest here on Staten Island, a spirit that was the direct result of intentional decisions to work collaboratively despite the pressures that have threatened to pull our great city apart. This work must be matched by accountability within the NYPD, and today’s decision is a welcome sign of that accountability from the highest ranks of the department.
As people of faith, we believe that all human beings are made in the image of God. Our hearts still mourn the death of Eric Garner, a son, a father, a husband, a neighbor, and our thoughts and prayers remain with the Garner family, a family that has experienced unthinkable losses in the last five years. Today’s decision will not bring back their son, father or husband, but we hope it brings a small amount of peace and closure to their lives.
We also see this decision as a new chapter in our borough, an opportunity to move forward to find common ground. We deeply respect the NYPD and the difficult job it performs every day. Many of us have members of the NYPD in our congregations and in our own families. We acknowledge that most police officers are diligent, respectful public servants devoted to protecting and serving the people of New York City. For every New Yorker — many of them our cherished neighbors and congregants — who lives in the real fear that they or their children could become a victim of deadly police misconduct, we hope that this decision will provide some comfort. Yet, we know there are others who will react with anger to today’s decision. We respect their right to peaceably disagree. As people of faith who live or preach on Staten Island, we believe we must find a way, despite our different perspectives, to live together. We hope people on all sides of this discussion can enter into dialogue peacefully, seeing the humanity in those with whom we disagree.
As people of faith, we conclude with the following prayer for our borough and our city:
Eternal God, source of comfort, wellspring of inspiration, master of healing and mending, we call upon you today in all your many faces to humanity. We speak from many faiths and backgrounds but today we speak with one voice in your name. May You hold the Garner family in your loving embrace as they continue to mourn. May they, and we, find solace and strength in the words of your prophets who speak of the time, long foretold, when “justice will well up like water, righteousness like an unfailing stream.” Until that great day, may you uphold and sustain all those who labor to realize your vision of a world redeemed from racial injustice and the abuse of power. Bring near the day when peace and contentment will reign in every household of a city where the life of a person of color will matter as much as a white son or daughter. We pray, too, for Officer Pantaleo and his family as he receives this news and for all the members of the NYPD who continue to serve our city and all of its inhabitants. Watch over those who cherish the communities they protect and serve. Let them know that they, too, are our brothers and sisters for whose understanding and safety we pray. May God bring healing to our city and may God bless us all with justice and peace.
New York City Council Member Debi Rose, 49th District
Imam Zulqarnain Abdu Shahid, Bait-ul Jamaat- House of Community
Madeline Akibo-Betts, Lay Preacher/Servant
Rev Alfredo E. Archibald, Senior Pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Tony Baker, Pastor, St. Philips Baptist Church
Rev. Judy Brown, Bethel Community Church
Bishop James Burrus, Pastor, By Divine Purpose Christian Center
Rev. Dr. Demetrius Carolina, Pastor, First Central Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Alfred and Marilyn Correa, Brighton Heights Reformed Church
Rev. Emily DeTar Birt, The Unitarian Church of Staten Island
Antoinnette Donegan, Associate Minister of First Central Baptist Church
Rabbi Michael Howald, Temple Israel Reform Congregation of Staten Island
Rev. Maggie Howard, Stapleton UAME Church
Rev. Karen Jackson, Reformed Church of Prince Bay, Co-chair of Staten Island Inter-Religious Leadership
Exhorter Karesha Jordon, Stapleton UAME Church
Edward C. Josey, President, Staten Island Branch NAACP
Deacon Novella Lawrence, Staten Island Council of Churches
Rev. Dr. Kathlyn Layne, Reach Out and Touch Ministries
Rev. Wayne McDougall, Mt. Sinai United Christian Church
Minister Joyce Parr, Bethel Community Church
Minister Dale Smith, Central Family Life Center
Rev. Dr. Terry Troia, Pastor/Minister, Reformed Church Huguenot Park