Eric Garner death: Police take to internet in defence of Daniel Pantaleo

New York City police watch protestors following the announcement that Daniel Pantaleo will not be indicted. Image copyright Getty Images

After a New York City grand jury did not indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo for causing the death of Eric Garner, protesters headed to the streets, city officials went before the cameras and at least some police officers took to the internet.

On websites catering to the law enforcement community, the mood was largely angry and defensive - reflecting a community that sees itself as under siege by an unappreciative public.

On Thee Rant, a message board for New York Police Department officers, many posters expressed relief at the grand jury's decision and concern for backlash against fellow cops.

Although the users are anonymous, the site attempts to limit its membership to verified law enforcement personnel.

"I was afraid this was going to be payback for Ferguson," writes one. "Thankfully that wasn't the case."

"To all the active cops working, be alert," says another. "Put your cellphones away, and watch each other's backs."

The grand jury's decision proved that the system works, writes "Officer Joe Bolton".

"You can hook up every cop in the nation with body cams, but the system, which is comprised of everyday citizens, ultimately decide the fate of all," he says. "This is our jury system, and it's not a lynch mob, it's a democratic process."

Posters on PoliceOne, a national law enforcement website with restricted membership, echoed these sentiments.

"Every now and then we win one," writes a poster. "Horrible situation, man lost his life, but like in the Ferguson case he controlled his own destiny."

One particular point of contention in many of the messages was media descriptions of the restraining move used by Mr Pantaleo as a "chokehold".

"He was not choked to death," writes officerloney. "He was taken down by the neck after refusing to comply with the lawful arrest of officers of the NYPD."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some posters on law enforcement message boards wonder if they should sacrifice themselves "for a community who routinely sides with the criminals"

Another says Mr Pantaleo was using a "lateral neck restraint" that, if done correctly, renders the "individual unconscious for a short time, enabling the officer to place handcuffs on the suspect". Garner, some asserted, died as a result of complications from pre-existing medical conditions such as his weight and asthma.

Discussion also broadened to larger issues of effective policing. Many asked whether the public wants police officers to just stand by if they see a crime being committed or back down if challenged by a suspect.

"I'm sorry for past issues involving race that I DIDN'T have anything to do with; but if you don't listen to what I'm telling you - like you are under arrest - then any problems from that point on are your fault!" writes Aviano25.

The frustration boiled over for a number of members, who wondered why they should risk their lives for an ungrateful public.

"Answer calls, take reports, TAKE YOUR PAYCHECK, and go home," one writes. "Don't be proactive; let the neighbourhood destroy itself."

"Honour dictates we give eight hours of work for eight hours of pay, but it does not require we sacrifice ourselves for a community who routinely sides with the criminals," says another.

"Maybe someday, the majority of the public will look up from the TV and wonder what the hell happened to the country," Aviano25 says. "Maybe they will actually want to see the laws that they passed enforced. Maybe they will want to feel safe in their communities. And if they're very lucky, there might still be a cop around that gives a damn."

A number of the messages contained angry attacks on New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio, US Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama - some with overtly racist epithets. On Thursday social media erupted with anger over the tenor of these posts, with links to or images captured from the websites.

Huffington Post justice reporter Ryan J Reilly, among others, tweeted the more offensive messages. New York magazine's Joe Coscarelli also covered the subject and presented choice quotes.

"By no means a comprehensive view of law-enforcement feelings about the incident, the postings do provide a different - if beyond upsetting - perspective," he writes.

Others were less sanguine.

"I love when people periodically rediscover PoliceOne," tweets the Fix columnist and Atlantic magazine contributor Jeff Deeney. "Yes, white cops are racist right-wing culture warriors. THAT'S WHY THEY BECAME COPS."

If many law enforcement officers feel embattled it's likely because the grand jury's decision in the Garner case has been almost universally condemned, on the right and the left. Even conservative Fox News panelists, many noted, were openly critical.

"Let's be real about all this," NYCTPF writes on Thee Rant,. "A NYC cop's life, whether it be his physical life, his financial life, his family life or the lives of his family, mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to any of the characters in all this crap."

A popular term used to describe police is that they are a "thin blue line" protecting the general public from dangerous criminals. Given the outrage in Ferguson and New York, combined with the apparent frustration on the part of some in law enforcement, that line may be growing increasingly frayed.