By Davy V.
Once again, the NYPD has shown they are out of control.
This time, it was the shooting of a mentally ill man which was caught on video, by onlookers and tourists, in a crowded Times Square on Saturday August 11, 2012.
It all started minutes earlier when NYPD officers claim to have spotted 51 year old Darius Kennedy smoking a joint in front of a military recruting station near 44th Street and 7th Avenue.
According to the NYPD, when approached by officers, Kennedy became angry and pulled out a knife, at one point tying a headband around his head.
What followed was a slow foot chase down seven of the most crowded blocks in New York City, in which dozens of NYPD cops, with their guns drawn and pointed at Kennedy, are seen following him down 7th Ave.
Several videos of the pursuit have been posted on the internet.
A few on Youtube, show different angles of the incident.
Then, sounds of NYPD sirens followed by several quick gunshots can be heard on the videos, as a crowd of NYPD cops and onlookers can be seen looking down at the sidewalk.
Different comments can be heard on the videos.
In one, someone says “They killed him.”
In another, someone is heard saying “That was not a justified kill… that was not a justified kill.”
However, none of the videos show the actual moment in which NYPD officers claim that Darius Kennedy “lunged” at them wielding his knife, and as a result was shot in the torso by NYPD cops who shot at least 12 rounds, which could have seriously injured or even killed innocent bystanders.
Enter Julian Miller, a 21 year old Boston resident who was visiting New York City.
In an interview, Miller says that the NYPD confiscated his phone after he recorded video of the confrontation between the NYPD and Kennedy.
Miller said he followed the pursuit down 7th Avenue, from 44th to 37th Street, all the while recording.
After the NYPD shot Kennedy multiple times, Miller says an NYPD detective stopped him, pulled him aside and asked to see his phone, and the video of the shooting.
“His eyes got big when he saw the video,” Mr. Miller said, adding that he had captured the shooting on video. “He went to go show his boss, and then they took my phone away.” He said the officer told him not to speak with the news media.
And just like that, what was probably the only video capturing the exact moment in which NYPD cops shot and killed a man with some obvious mental health issues, who needed help, and who they claimed “lunged” at them, is gone.
And the chances of that video ever being seen by the public, are slim to none.
Now, while disturbing, the fact that the NYPD, without any exigent circumstances, or legal basis illegally confiscated a private citizen’s phone, is nothing new.
Not just with the NYPD, but with law enforcement everywhere.
In fact, after Miami Beach police officers fatally shot motorist Raymond Herisse, in a hail of gunfire on Memorial Day 2011, officers tried to confiscate Narces Benoit’s cell phone, after Benoit, who was driving in the area with his girlfriend, recorded the shooting.
Benoit said that after Miami Beach Police officers saw him recording the shooting, they confronted him.
“When he noticed me recording, one of the officers jumped in the truck, put a pistol to my head,” he said. “My phone was smashed. He stepped on it, handcuffed me.”
“They handled us like we were criminals,” Benoit’s girlfriend, Ericka Davis said. “The officer came over to the driver’s side, on my left, and just put the gun to my head.”
“They took everyone’s phones and smashed them,” she said.
Benoit was able to remove the phone’s tiny memory card, hiding it from officers, after they told him to hand over the video.
“I took the chip out and put it in my mouth,” Benoit said. Narces Benoit kept the memory card in his mouth, even while being interviewed by Miami Beach Police at a nearby mobile command post.
The video shows a Miami Beach Police officer on a bike approaching his truck and pointing a gun directly into the camera; giving an indecipherable command; and then backing away.
Then, another officer is seen ordering them to stop filming and get out of the truck, and then the video ends.
Throughout the country, police confiscating citizen’s cameras and cell phones and, as a result, violating citizen’s first and fourth amendment rights has become a serious problem.
Which brings me back to the NYPD, a department which despite it’s long standing history of dishonor, corruption and murder, is still heralded by many as “the best police department in the country”, when in fact quite the opposite true.
From the 1999 execution of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed 23 year old Guinean immigrant who was shot at 41 times by N.Y.P.D. cops for simply having his wallet in his hand, to Abner Louima, a 30 year old Haitian immigrant, who suffered severe internal injuries when N.Y.P.D. officer Justin Volpe sodomized him with a broomstick in Brooklyn’s 70th precint, afterwards proudly displaying the excrement and blood stained broomstick to his fellow officers as he bragged that he had just “broke a man.” And, Sean Bell, who was executed by N.Y.P.D. undercover cops on the morning of his wedding day, in Queens, after leaving a club with friends. NYPD cops fired a total of 50 rounds at Bell’s vehicle, killing Bell and severely injuring his friends.
Yep, the NYPD has no shortage of deplorable, disgusting acts of abusing, torturing and killing innocent citizens.
And, when it comes to abusing, falsely arresting and violating the rights of photographers, whether with the media, or independent, private citizens, the NYPD has proven that they are truly out of control.
We saw this during the Occupy movement in New York City where it seemed as if every day a new video was surfacing on social media sites like Youtube, showing NYPD officers mistreating, beating and falsely arresting photographers.
Just last week, Robert Stolarik, a veteran freelance photographer who has worked for the New York Times, and has covered conflicts in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and South America, as well as general news here in the United States like the D.C. Sniper and Virginia Tech shootings, was beaten by NYPD cops for taking photos of the NYPD arresting a 14 year old girl.
According to Stolarik, as he was taking photos, an NYPD officer instructed him not to take pictures. Mr. Stolarik identified himself as a journalist for The New York Times. At that point, a second officer appeared, grabbed his camera and “slammed” it into his face.
Mr. Stolarik said after he asked for the officers’ badge numbers, the officers took his camera, dragged him to the ground and proceeded to kick him. As a result he received scrapes and bruises to his arms, legs and face.
In an August 9, 2012 New York Times editorial piece regarding Robert Stolarik’s beating by NYPD, Mickey Osterreicher, General Counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), wrote, “The arrest of Robert Stolarik, a freelance photographer for The New York Times, by New York City police officers is a giant step backward in police-press relations. Despite police assertions to the contrary, it appears that Mr. Stolarik was only doing his job when he was tackled and handcuffed by officers in the Bronx. Adding insult to injury, the police also seized his cameras and their contents and confiscated his press credentials. Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly’s citywide directive last November instructing officers to cooperate with the press was a good start. It is unfortunate that the rights of the press and the public to record and photograph matters of public concern on city streets are frequently disregarded by both patrol and supervisory officers. To improve the situation, we urge the New York Police Department to work with us to improve training and supervision for its members starting from the top down.”
I contacted Mr. Osterreicher, asking him what advise he could give to citizens who may find themselves in a similiar situation as Julian Miller, whose phone, with which he recorded the NYPD’s shooting of Darius Kennedy in Times Square, was confiscated by the NYPD.
“Every situation is different. My only advice is that consent must be voluntary – in other words only display your recordings or provide them to law enforcement if you want to. If officers ask for or try to seize your device offer to supply them with a copy of the file (if you want to). You might even be able to share or email the file right at the scene. Once again only consent to this is you want to. If your device is seized make sure you obtain a property receipt for it”, said Osterreicher.
Given the NYPD’s continuous pattern of abusing, beating, falsely arresting innocent citizens and violating their first and fourth amendement rights, I asked Mr. Osterreicher what he felt it was going to take to get the NYPD under control.
“I believe the department already has adequate guidelines in place but without more, those are just pieces of paper. It will take proper and continuing training of officers and supervisory staff as well as appropriate discipline of officers who violate those written policies. It is very difficult to bring about cultural change in any police department unless those directives are constantly enforced”, Osterreicher said.
Carlos Miller, a multimedia journalist, and founder of Photography Is Not A Crime (PINAC), who himself has been arrested for photographing law enforcement officers, had this to say from his home in Miami, Florida. “Cops are pretty much out of control when it comes to violating our Constitutional rights to record them. The law is very clear but cops know they can violate citizens rights and get away with it, so they continue doing so.”
In today’s “tech word” there are applications where one can download video one has just recorded, therefore saving it, for example to your computer, in case a police officer confiscates or breaks your camera or phone.
Miller added, “One app I just wrote about in my blog Photography Is Not A Crime is TapIn.Tv but there are several others out there. The problem with this is that when you record with your phone, you risk getting your phone confiscated, which contains a lot more personal information than just video footage.”
I asked Carlos Miller what advice he had for anyone interested in documenting law enforcement and their interactions with citizens. “Never leave home without a camera and always ensure you have enough hard drive space and batteries to video record, because you never know when you’re going to need it. Also, it is essential to learn the laws because police will lie to you about laws” Miller said.
Police will lie to you about laws.
As we have seen, and continue to see, police will do just about anything to prevent you from recording them.
From confiscating people’s personal property, to smashing their phones after holding guns to their heads.
Perhaps MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, host of The Last Word, says it best in the show’s Rewrite segment, where he breaks down the NYPD’s brutality against citizen-journalists during the Occupy Wall Street protests.
O’Donnell begins by saying “This week a few troublemakers turned a peaceful protest against Wall Street greed into a violent burst of chaos. The troublemakers carried pepper spray and guns and were wearing badges.”
O’Donnell then plays a video showing several NYPD officers, including an NYPD Commander grabbing a man who is holding a video camera and slamming his head into a parked car.
As the video plays, Lawrence O’Donnell is heard saying “The reason this man is being assaulted by the police is because of what he is holding in his hands. He’s holding a professional grade video camera. Since the Rodney King beating was caught on an amateur camera, American police officers have known video cameras are their worst enemies. They will do anything they can to stop you from legally videotaping how they handle their responsibility to serve and protect you. So this police commander has decided that the correct response to this man shooting video is to grab him and slam his head into a parked Volvo.”
And with that, Lawrence O’Donnell hit the nail right on the head.
The NYPD and law enforcement everywhere will do anything they can to stop citizens from legally recording them.
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