HUDSON, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A group of law enforcement hopefuls received a strong message Monday night about what it means to wear a badge and how their actions are received by the community.
The name Eric Garner made national news in summer 2014 when cellphone video showed the man being held in a choke hold by a New York Police Department officer in Staten Island, N.Y. Garner could be heard on the video telling the officer he couldn’t breathe. Garner later died. A grand jury denied to indict the officer.
The Garner case, as well as the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. just one month later in August 2014, has sparked criticism of the U.S. justice system and highlighted calls for change.
On Monday, candidates taking part in the Law Enforcement Diversity Initiative Program in Hudson heard from a judge, a district attorney, a defense lawyer and Eric Garner Jr. to learn first-hand how they need to act if they want to be successful police officers.
“They should have this in every borough in the city,” Garner Jr. said.
Garner Jr. said he misses his dad.
“He can’t be at none of the basketball games,” he said.
Garner Jr. shared his experience with 20 hopeful police candidates.
“Just make sure you talk to people right,” he said.
That’s a lesson Earl Pommills is focused on.
“My whole life I’ve wanted to work in law enforcement and help out society,” he said.
Pommills is taking part in the program that’s aimed at helping more minorities become officers. Retired state police Lt. Gregory Mosley volunteered to direct the class.
“This program is designed to prepare them for a career in law enforcement,” he explained. “This is what we really need to help diversify our law enforcement agencies.”
The program is a grassroots effort that’s instilling integrity among the class.
“It is designed to help improve relationships between law enforcement and the communities,” Lt. Mosley said.
Garner Jr. said those improvements are needed – even though he once wanted to wear a badge.
“Thought they was cool,” he said. “I wanted to be a cop.”
But now, Garner Jr. said he won’t even get a driver’s license because he’s scared he’ll be pulled over and harassed.
“I don’t want to get stopped by the cops,” he said. “I would just rather take public transportation.”
Pommills hopes he can help change the perception of cops by growing diversity within police departments.
“Doesn’t matter if it’s black, females; diversity is needed in law enforcement,” he said.
The class plans to meet several more times in 2015. Lt. Mosley hopes the program is adopted by communities around the state and country. At least one of the candidates has already passed some of the steps to one day become a New York State trooper.