A Black police officer in Buffalo, New York, who was fired in 2008 for intervening when a White colleague employed a chokehold will be given back pay and a pension, a New York judge ruled.
The officer, Cariol Horne, was fired following a 2006 incident in which she tried to stop an officer from using a chokehold on a handcuffed suspect. Horne served on the Buffalo police force for 19 of the 20 years required to receive a pension.
“The message was sent that you don’t cross that blue line and so some officers — many officers don’t,” Horne said in a 2020 interview with CNN’s Brianna Keilar.
“I had five children and I lost everything but [the suspect] did not lose his life,” Horne said then. “So, if I have nothing else to live for in life, at least I can know that I did the right thing and that [he] still breathes.”
Tuesday’s ruling restored Horne’s pension and vacated an earlier court ruling upholding her dismissal.
CNN reached out to the city on Wednesday but received no immediately reply. Michael J. DeGeorge, spokesman for Buffalo, told the Buffalo News: “The City has always supported any additional judicial review available to Officer Horne and respects the court’s decision.”
Neither the Buffalo Police Department nor the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association immediately responded to a request for comment.
“The legal system can at the very least be the mechanism to help justice prevail, even if belatedly,” Erie County Supreme Court Judge Dennis E. Ward wrote in his decision.
Ward referenced the cases of George Floyd — who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck for nearly nine-and-a-half minutes — and Eric Garner– the New York man who died after being placed in a chokehold — among other alleged instances of excessive force by police.
“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,” Ward wrote.
Ward referenced Buffalo lawmakers who penned a law obligating police officers to intervene in instances of excessive force and named the legislation after Horne. In so doing, Ward wrote, the city “has thus already determined that Officer Horne intervened to save the life of a civilian.”
Horne addressed the court decision in a statement issued through her attorney.
“My vindication comes at a 15 year cost, but what has been gained could not be measured,” she said. “I never wanted another Police Officer to go through what I had gone through for doing the right thing.”
She called on lawmakers nationwide to pass similar legislation to Buffalo’s “Cariol’s Law,” which obligates officers to intervene and seeks to legally protect those who do.