A Black former police officer in upstate New York who was fired more than 14 years ago after she tried to stop a fellow cop from choking a handcuffed Black man has had her termination annulled. A judge’s landmark ruling Tuesday will allow Cariol Horne to not only have her pension reinstated but also be entitled to collect back pay from the Buffalo Police Department.
“My vindication comes at a 15-year cost, but what has been gained could not be measured,” Horne said in a statement following the ruling. “I never wanted another police officer to go through what I had gone through for doing the right thing.”
State Supreme Court Judge Dennis Ward wrote in his decision that his ruling was at least partly influenced by one current case involving similar allegations of excessive police force against an unarmed and handcuffed Black man who was also purportedly being restrained with a chokehold, the Buffalo News reported.
“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 his 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 was a long time coming for Horne, who was fired in 2006 after she said she tried to stop Buffalo Police Officer Greg Kwiatkowski’s chokehold on Neal Mack. She told CBS News last year that “Neal Mack looked like he was about to die. So had I not stepped in, he possibly could have. He was handcuffed and being choked.”
According to the New York Times, Kwiatkowski pit himself as the victim and told officials that Horne hit him in the face, “pulled him backward by his collar and jumped on him.”
An internal investigation ultimately cleared Kwiatkowski of any wrongdoing and led to a 4-day suspension for Horne, who declined her punishment. That prompted two hearings, one in 2007 and another in 2008, both of which found that Horne was the one guilty of using excessive force against her follow officer.
Horne was filed in May of 2008, one year shy of the 20 years of employment required to fully collect one’s pension. On Tuesday, after years of fighting for her just due, Horne was finally granted it.
“Her conduct should have been encouraged and instead she was fired,” one of Horne’s lawyers, W. Neil Eggleston, told the Times.
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