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Officer Cariol Horne was fired after she stopped her colleague from using a chokehold on a handcuffed suspect. Horne was a 19-year veteran at the time of her departure, but for the Buffalo police force, a minimum of 20 years is required for an officer to receive their pension. To Horne, her firing was a clear message to any officer who attempted to hold their co-workers accountable.
“The message was sent that you don’t cross that blue line and so some officers – many officers don’t,” she told CNN. “I had five children and I lost everything but [the suspect] did not lose his life. 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.”
On Tuesday, State Supreme Court Judge Dennis Ward decided to rectify this wrong by annulling Horne’s firing. She will now receive her full pension, benefits, and back pay for the time she was off the force. Judge Ward explained that his ruling was swayed in part by George Floyd’s death.
“Recent events in the national news, including the death last year in the City of Minneapolis of George Floyd, who died from unreasonable physical force being applied for over nine minutes, have sparked national outrage over the use of his practice,” Ward wrote in his 11-page ruling per The Buffalo News. “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.”
“To her credit, Officer Horne did not merely stand by, but instead sought to intervene, despite the penalty she ultimately paid for doing so,” Ward added.
Although Horne was pleased by the verdict, she thinks the ruling is just one step of so many that need to be taken when it comes to police reform.
“If everyone is not vindicated then I’m not vindicated,” she said when asked by CNN if she felt vindicated.
Horne’s story gained national attention prompting the city to adopt “Cariol’s Law” in 2020. The law named after Horne was created to give “Retroactive Protection for Officers” so that they can properly hold each other accountable. It was also one of the deciding factors that led to her victory on Tuesday.