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Cariol Horne was fired from Buffalo's police force after stopping a white colleague's chokehold.
After years of litigation, a judge said she should get her wages and pension back.
The judge said the deaths of George Floyd and Eric Garner show why cops shouldn't be bystanders.
A judge ruled Tuesday that the City of Buffalo must reinstate the pension of Cariol Horne, a Black police officer it fired after she stopped a white colleague's chokehold on a handcuffed man in 2006.
In his ruling, New York state Supreme Court Judge Dennis Ward cited the deaths of George Floyd and Eric Garner, two Black men killed in police custody, to show why it was right for Horne to act.
"The Floyd case as well as another notable case in New York, concerning Eric Garner, both involved multiple officers who either did nothing or actually assisted the officer applying the physical force, even while the individual was crying out that he 'could not breathe,'" Ward wrote.
Horne responded to a call to help her colleague, Gregory Kwiatkowski, during an arrest. When she arrived, she found the arrestee, a Black man, already in handcuffs and saying he couldn't breathe as Kwiatkowski put him in a chokehold, according to court records. She forcibly removed Kwiatkowski and stopped the chokehold, records say.
Horne was reassigned following the incident and ultimately fired in 2008, a year short of the 20 years of service needed to receive a full pension.
"The message was sent that you don't cross that blue line and so some officers - many officers don't," Horne told CNN in 2020.
Horne sued the city to reinstate her wages and pension, but a judge ruled against her in 2010.
In the wake of George Floyd's death in 2020, Buffalo officials called for a review of the case, as Insider's Ashley Collman reporter at the time, and the city council passed "Carol's Law" that established a duty for officers to intervene in excessive force situations. Attorneys from Kirkland & Ellis, a high-powered law firm, and members of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School represented Horne pro-bono to sue the city again.
This time, the judge ruled in her favor. Ward said that police officers who intervene while witnessing excessive force are now "seen as heroes."
"To her credit, Officer Horne did not merely stand by, but instead sought to intervene, despite the penalty she ultimately paid for doing so," he said.
Ward vacated Horne's termination, permitting her to collect back-wages and receive her pension.
"We are gratified that the court recognized that former Buffalo Police Officer Cariol Horne did the right thing in 2006 when she intervened when a fellow police officer had a chokehold on an arrestee," Neil Eggleston, a White House counsel for President Barack Obama and partner at Kirkland & Ellis, said in a statement. "The court has now set aside her wrongful termination from the police force, awarded her back pay, and has given her pension credit."
Kwiatkowski himself retired in 2011. He pleaded guilty to civil rights charges brought in 2012 for his conduct during the arrest of four black teenagers and ultimately spent four months in prison, according to the Washington Post.
Read the original article on Insider