New York judge reverses firing of officer who fought colleague over chokehold

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Richard Luscombe
·2 min read
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<span>Photograph: Derek Gee/AP</span>
Photograph: Derek Gee/AP

A judge in New York has overturned the firing of a long-serving Black former police officer who fought with a white colleague as he placed a suspect in a chokehold.

The state supreme court judge Dennis Ward praised Cariol Horne’s intervention during the 2006 incident, which led to her dismissal by the city of Buffalo two years later and a lengthy legal fight for compensation.

In an 11-page ruling, Ward pointed to deaths of Black men during confrontations with law enforcement, including George Floyd and Eric Garner, and the role played by other officers in attendance.

“Recent events in the national news, including the death last year in the City of Minneapolis of George Floyd, who died from unreasonable physical force being applied for over nine minutes, have sparked national outrage over the use of this practice,” Ward wrote.

“One of the issues in all of these cases is the role of other officers at the scene and particularly their complicity in failing to intervene to save the life of a person to whom such unreasonable physical force is being applied”.

The ruling to reinstate the former officer’s pension, back pay and other benefits, Ward said, was based partly on the city of Buffalo’s 2020 adoption of Cariol’s Law, which obliges law enforcement officers to intervene if a colleague uses excessive force.

“To her credit, Officer Horne did not merely stand by, but instead sought to intervene, despite the penalty she ultimately paid for doing so,” Ward wrote.

Horne said she had tried to prevent her fellow officer Greg Kwiatkowski from placing a suspect in a chokehold during a domestic violence arrest. Kwiatkowski was cleared during an internal investigation by Buffalo police but Horne was found to have breached policy and offered a four-day suspension, which she rejected.

In 2008, an arbitrator found her guilty of 11 charges and she was fired with 19 years’ service credit, one short of the 20 required for a full state pension.

Horne, who will not return to her old job, has been a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and is campaigning for Cariol’s Law, which also provides protections for officers who report wrongdoing by colleagues, to be adopted nationally.

“My vindication comes at a 15-year cost, but what has been gained could not be measured,” she said in a statement issued by her attorney. “I never wanted another police officer to go through what I had gone through for doing the right thing.”

Horne’s lawyer, Ronald Sullivan, said in the statement: “She saved a life that day, and history will now record her for the hero she is.”