AFRICANGLOBE – As we’ve discussed many times before the problem with police is not just a question of individual personal bigotry. It’s that police are systemically directed and employed disproportionately against Black men. The NYPD still has arrest and ticket quotas to meet.
If a cop doesn’t meet these quotas he doesn’t get promoted. He doesn’t get plum assignments or overtime. There are a million and one ways that the command structure can mess with a cop thought to be insufficiently productive or aggressive.
The problem is that judges and prosecutors, when faced with evidence of police misconduct and lies, will do their best to turn a blind eye to such crimes, even if they have to protect the police from themselves by halting a trial or hearing. And obviously when police investigate themselves it’s quite rare that they ever find that they did wrong.
Although this incident could have been much worse, it’s important to remember that it’s still pretty bad. A young man spent two weeks in Rikers for a crime he didn’t commit, while a cop willing to commit perjury and plant evidence is still on the street along with his buddies who will insist they didn’t see anything funny.
The New York Times has obtained body-camera recordings that document one arrest earlier this year on Staten Island. The videos offer a rare look at a type of encounter the public seldom sees, and show how aggressively the police will pursue a minor marijuana case, in some circumstances, and the subtle social dynamics that shape policing in New York. But the videos also raise questions about how far the police will go to make an arrest.
Lawyers for the defendant, Lasou Kuyateh, argue that the recordings contain possible proof that one of the police officers planted a marijuana cigarette in Mr. Kuyateh’s car. The officer and the Police Department deny the allegation.
It is not unusual for defendants to accuse the police of planting drugs, but rarely does evidence exist to support the accusation. In this case, however, the footage provides ground for heightened suspicion. Though not conclusive, the recordings were problematic enough that prosecutors abruptly dropped the marijuana charge while one of the officers was in the middle of testifying at a pretrial hearing.
The judge expressed concern about the officer’s testimony. Prosecutors encouraged the officer to get a lawyer. An internal police investigation later found no evidence of misconduct. Mr. Kuyateh maintains that he was framed.
His case underscores how difficult it can be to find out what happens during police encounters, even when the officers are wearing cameras.“I don’t appreciate being lied to,” Officer Pastran responded. “I know there is weed in the car. I smell it.”
He and his partner searched the BMW. Officer Pastran searched the back-seat area and announced he had found nothing. Officer Erickson, whose camera turned off in the middle of the search, looked in the back seat and apparently found nothing. After several minutes, Mr. Kuyateh, the driver, shouted that Officer Erickson had put something in his car. He was arrested on the charge of obstructing the police investigation.
Officer Erickson then said he had discovered a marijuana cigarette, which he claimed had been burning on the floor behind the driver’s seat. It was in the same general area Officer Pastran had already searched, leading him to declare, “looks pretty clear.” Officer Erickson’s camera turned back on just before he made the discovery.