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Community Groups Discuss Garner Case with City Investigators

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A closed-door meeting between investigators, police and community activists was held Friday to diffuse tension over the death of Eric Garner.

The meeting was held at the city Department of Investigation's headquarters in Lower Manhattan.

It came amid a debate over a planned march across the Verrazano Bridge in the wake of Garner's death.

The National Action Network and the Rev. Al Sharpton said they wanted to hold that march on August 23, going from the Brooklyn side of the bridge over into Staten Island to protest.

However, several political leaders on Staten Island said they don't want the march across the bridge because it could cause a traffic problem.

Civil rights leaders are now discussing if they should just bus people to Staten Island to pressure the district attorney to prosecute the officers involved.

"The National Action Network does not ask for permits. Other of our partners may ask for a permit," Foy said. "The permit is not the issue. The bridge is not the issue. Again, the issue is, how do we get the attention of the prosecutors, and how do we get them to understand that we are serious, we're not going to let this issue rest."

As a part of that, the members of the National Action Network, as well as several members of black and Latino law enforcement agencies, met with the head of the city Department of Investigation Friday afternoon, as well as the new NYPD inspector general, to talk about the Garner case and other alleged cases of police misconduct.

Retired NYPD officers said they believe police broke several laws and rules in the Garner case.

"If you're responsible, you need to take the weight for what you did," said Graham Witherspoon of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance. "And this was not an accident. He repeatedly said, 'I can't breathe, I can't breathe, I can't breathe.'"

"All of the officers that participated in the death of Eric Garner, all of them should be disciplined, and we're not going to accept anything less," said Carlton Berkley of Brothers and Sisters Who Care.

The retired officers said the head of the Department of Investigation and the inspector general didn't make them any promises, but they said the meeting was important to have.

"I hope and pray that this new inspector general can really make some changes and change the culture inside the police department," said Charles Billups of the Grand Council of the Guardians. "Otherwise, then that is a waste of time, it's a waste of money, it's a waste of energy."

Also Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Cardinal Timothy Dolan will be holding a meeting with religious leaders from around the city for healing and improving police-community relations.

The mayor and Police Commissioner William Bratton are scheduled to attend that meeting alter this month.

Meantime, Bratton responded Friday to criticism the NYPD has been receiving over the death of Eric Garner.

Bratton defended his broken windows policing policy on "CBS This Morning."

He says police only target certain behavior, not specific communities.

He says all evidence needs to be considered by investigators in Garner's death, but admits the widely-seen video of the arrest has had a great impact.

"This particular scene which has been repeated thousands upon thousands of times really has struck a cord with the public," Bratton said.

Bratton says it's up to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to decide whether to authorize a closure of the bridge for the proposed demonstration.

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