Cariol Horne was fired for intervening when a White officer held a Black man in a chokehold. She may finally receive justice.
Cariol Horne served in the Buffalo, New York, Police Department for 19 years. In 2006, she stepped in when a White police officer held a Black suspect in a chokehold. Two years later, she was fired from the department for her intervention and ultimately lost her pension. She was only a year away from earning her pension but the department's final report claimed that her behavior had put her fellow officers in danger. Of course, nothing was said about the Black man whose life was at stake. It has been 12 years since she was fired, but she may finally see justice for doing her job right, City and State New York reports.
Brenda McDuffie, the president and CEO of the civil rights organization Buffalo Urban League, said in an interview, "The police department didn’t believe her story, and they punished her severely. She lost her livelihood. I mean, which one of us who has any humanity, seeing someone choked to death, just like those officers (in Minneapolis) who should have said, ‘Get off his neck.’ Excessive force is something that we’re finally dealing with as a nation. But we had a woman in our community who stood up and she has suffered greatly." The fact that Horne is a Black woman did, no doubt, factor into the case. "She’s a woman, and a black woman, and she broke the wall of silence," McDuffie explained. “So basically (the department said) let’s get rid of her because she’s somebody that we can’t depend on to be silent in matters like this."
In 2016, Horne revealed that losing her job impacted her life gravely. "It didn’t just affect me," she stated at the time. "I have three sons that I have to worry about now. The message that they sent was clear: Even as a police officer, you don’t stand up against police brutality." Now, the narrative has perhaps changed slightly. The three police officers who stood by as former officer Derek Chauvin held George Floyd in a chokehold were also held accountable for simply being bystanders rather than intervening. Nonetheless, this does not change the fact that Horne was wrongly fired for doing the right thing so many years ago.
In the wake of Floyd's death, the city of Buffalo's Common Council approved three new resolutions on Tuesday. One of these resolutions will enforce the city’s “duty to intervene” policy. This means if an officer sees a colleague using excessive force, they must compulsorily step in. The council will also create a task force to review existing police policies. Meanwhile, another of the three resolutions will ask the state Attorney General’s office to calculate how many days Horne would need to work in order to regain her pension. Since being forced to leave the department, she has been an active voice against police brutality.
She hopes to have legislation passed in her name that would protect officers like her who intervene when another officer uses excessive force. The law she envisions would also protect those reporting misconduct by fellow officers. McDuffie simply hopes she has the opportunity to be "made whole again and feels that whenever that happens that there were people who were listening and people who didn’t forget (her)."