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Cops losing morale over reaction to deaths
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By Andrea Peyser
September 8, 2014

Cops losing morale over reaction to deaths

A cop I know who has patrolled the streets of Brooklyn for six years joked that he must have been drunk the day he joined the New York City Police Department.

“I’d rather join the Fire Department and take my chances in burning buildings,’’ he told me.

Reports about police officers running for the exits, while anecdotal, grow in number every time their ranks are in the cross hairs, and I’ve never witnessed our men and women on the force feeling so much hostility from some politicians and segments of the public.

The last straw might have fallen on the Friday before Labor Day weekend.

Ronald Singleton, from Manhattan’s Kips Bay neighborhood, died July 13 while crazed on the hallucinogenic drug PCP, or angel dust. He fought with police, who placed him in a protective full-body wrap. Then, just ahead of the holiday, the city’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner announced that an autopsy determined that Singleton had died as the result of a “homicide’’ at the hands of cops.


The death of Singleton, a married African-American 45-year-old father and grandfather with 61 arrests on his record, including busts for drugs, assault and weapons possession, was caused by “the physical restrain[t] by police during excited delirium due to acute phencyclidine [PCP] intoxication,’’ read the ME’s statement.

It noted that Singleton’s obesity — he stood 5-feet-7 and weighed 210 pounds — plus heart disease and hypertension, were contributing factors in his demise.

His widow blamed the police.

“They used brute force, not paying attention to the person’s needs,’’ Lyn Singleton, 44, told The Post. “They should have paid attention. I’m lost. I can’t find my way.

“I was thinking that this case is very similar to Garner.’’


The Singleton homicide ruling came less than a month after the ME’s Office determined that the death of another African-American married father who resisted arrest, Staten Islander Eric Garner, 43, who’d been busted 31 times since 1988, also was the result of a homicide at the hands of police.

An autopsy determined that Garner died from “compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,’’ the ME’s report said. The chokehold, a maneuver banned by the NYPD, was allegedly used on Garner July 17 as officers tried to arrest him for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. The report also listed obesity, heart disease, asthma and sleep apnea as contributing factors in the death of the man, who stood 6-feet-3 and weighed 350 pounds.

Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for the office of Dr. Barbara Sampson, the city’s acting chief medical examiner, assured me that the term “homicide’’ does not suggest whether a criminal act occurred. It means a “death at the hands of another person,’’ and “implies no intent or culpability.’’

“The Medical Examiner’s Office is neutral and impartial,’’ she added.

But a former high-ranking police officer, who agreed that use of the word “homicide’’ by an ME is not unusual, protested that the ME’s reports go too far.

“What we have not seen in the past is a statement from an ME’s office that offers its opinion about how the injury was sustained — like chokehold by police or restraint by police.

“This is not a medical or scientific conclusion,’’ he said. “It’s an opinion.’’

Perhaps trying to soothe cops’ frazzled nerves, Mayor de Blasio defended the officers who subdued Singleton, who, he said, was “in a very difficult situation, flailing about and not able to stop, and a danger to himself and others.’’

“From everything we’ve seen so far,’’ de Blasio said at the West Indian Day Parade on Labor Day, “protocol was followed to protect him and protect everyone around him by restraining him.’’

Singleton had cursed and screamed in the back of a taxi near St. Patrick’s Cathedral, causing the driver to pull over and flag down a cop.

Backup officers arrived, and the wildly agitated man was placed in a body wrap. Singleton was transported by ambulance toward Bellevue Hospital, where he was to undergo a psychiatric examination, but he went into cardiac arrest and the ambulance was diverted to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.

It seems clear that these officers performed their duties as best they could. Yet, cops in the Singleton case are cooperating with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which is investigating the death, a police spokesman said. De Blasio said the police Internal Affairs unit is looking into it.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said he’s investigating the death, too.

The race-baiting rev has become energized lately by the tragedies. He led an anti-police-brutality march and rally on Staten Island last month, co-sponsored by the United Federation of Teachers, marching alongside the president of the city’s UFT chapter, Michael Mulgrew.

This caused some teachers to wear cop-supporting T-shirts on the first day of school last week, emblazoned with the letters “NYPD’’ — ignoring messages e-mailed from the teachers union warning that they risked harming their careers by showing support for police. (Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña insisted that teachers are free to wear the shirts).

No one has been charged at this time in either case.

Patrick Lynch, president of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, called Singleton’s demise a tragedy: “PCP killed him.’’ But the union chief denied that Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo used a chokehold on Garner, despite a videotape made by a witness that appeared to show otherwise.

“It was a takedown maneuver,’’ Lynch said.

Cops are nervous. “You can go to work one day being a fine upstanding citizen,’’ said Lynch. “Then suddenly, you face criminal, civil and departmental charges.’’

That burning building is starting to look inviting.

©2007-2024 Andrea Peyser and; No Reuse without permission.
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