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Termination of Black Officer for Intervening With Chokehold Reversed

In 2006, Buffalo Police Officer Cariol Horne responded to a fellow officer’s call for help. When she arrived, she saw a white officer punching a handcuffed Black man while other officers stood by watching. Horne saw the officer put the Black man in a chokehold and that the man could not breathe. She physically interceded, removing the officer. They traded blows with each other. The white officer claimed he grabbed the suspect “around the waist and shoulder.” After an internal investigation into the events of the day, the department found Horne to be the only officer who engaged in any wrongdoing. She was reassigned and fired less than a year later, just short of being able to receive her 20-year pension. She pursued the matter to be able to get her pension.

More than a decade later, and at a time when police conduct towards Black Americans is the focus of much attention, a New York court reversed its prior ruling upholding her termination. She is now eligible for back wages and benefits through 2010, enough to get her pension. In reversing the decision, the judge acknowledged the impact of George Floyd’s murder. “While the …George Floyds of the world never had a chance for a ‘do-over,’ at least here the correction can be done.” The judge noted the societal shifts in the use of police force as well as new information regarding the officers Horne intervened against. “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.” While he continues to deny any wrongdoing here, the white police officer was later convicted of abusing his badge after shoving the heads of four handcuffed Black teenagers into a police car. Horne has also worked to get a law passed in Buffalo that will require a police officer to step in when fellow officers use unreasonable force.