Case #2057.0

A Rising Storm: Eric Garner and the Explosive Controversy over Race & Policing

Publication Date: March 3, 2016
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The controversial choking death of Eric Garner in New York City in 2014 is the point of departure for this rich and complex case, which tackles difficult questions of race, crime, and policing in poor, racially-isolated urban neighborhoods. The case begins with a background section describing two decades of the New York Police Department’s crime-fighting policies, including CompStat, “Broken Windows,” and Stop-and-Frisk. It explores the problems such policies were meant to solve, the rationale behind them, the city’s increase in misdemeanor arrests, the drop in violent crime, and the mix of reactions from the community. It goes on to describe the particulars of the Eric Garner incident, the Grand Jury decision not to indict the police officers involved, the rise of the Black Lives Matter protest movement, the controversial role of the Mayor, and the angry reaction of the NYPD rank and file. While the case offers many points of view, strongly expressed, it does not take sides. A three-page appendix describes the role of U.S. laws and policies in creating impoverished, racialized, high crime urban neighborhoods over the course of the 20th century.

Learning Objective:
This case was designed for The Responsibilities of Public Action, a core ethics course, where it is used to explore institutional racism, competing public values, and collective responsibility. The case invites students to question what is at stake for policymakers and stakeholders in the aftermath of Garner’s death and to evaluate the policy instruments available to them. The case could also be taught in classes pertaining to strategy, policy, criminal justice, and leadership.   

Other Details

Teaching Plan:
Available with Educator Access
Case Author:
Pamela Varley
Faculty Lead:
Christopher Robichaud
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States