June 3, 2011

Memorial Day Shooting

Lots of hot hair is pumping over the police shooting of Raymond Herrisse on Monday.  Were the police justified? I don't know.  If they find residue on his hands, placing the gun found in his car in his hands, then very likely, yes.  If ballistics from that gun show that it was used in an armed robbery back in November, then it's pretty clear the police did the right thing.

No, the shooting of an (alleged) armed criminal doesn't bother me.  It's the people shooting video who claim they were assaulted, or had their cameras seized, that worry me.

The Miami Herald spoke with a couple who recounted their experience.
A West Palm Beach couple who filmed Monday morning’s deadly officer-involved shooting on South Beach has accused officers of intimidation, destroying evidence and twisting the facts in the chaos surrounding the Memorial Day shootings – a charge that police officials say they know nothing about.
Sadly, it's a familiar story in South Florida; cops are filmed arresting a suspect, and then round up the footage.  Usually, the arrest involves complaints of excessive force, and often the video proves just that.

In theory, if the officers were following proper procedure, the videos would of course prove that beyond reasonable doubt.  So when officers start grabbing cameras, we, the people, must be suspicious of this behavior.

Narces Benoit and Ericka Davis say that Miami Police got very scary:
The video shows Benoit get into the car, where his girlfriend, Ericka Davis, sat in the driver’s seat. He raises his camera and an officer is seen appearing on the driver’s side with his gun drawn, pointed at them.
“They put guns to our heads and threw us on the ground,” Davis said.
Benoit said a Miami Beach officer grabbed his cell phone, said “You want to be [expletive] Paparazzi?” and stomped on his phone before placing him in handcuffs and shoving the crunched phone in Benoit’s back pocket.
Benoit was later uncuffed, and slipped the memory card out of his wrecked phone.
Officers again took his phone, demanding his video. He said they took him to a nearby mobile command center, snapped a picture of him, then took him to police headquarters and conducted a recorded interview while he kept the SIM card in his mouth. He insisted his phone was broken.

He was given a copy of a police property record receipt dated May 30.
Not surprisingly, the police deny it.  Specifially, Police Chief Carlos Noriega denied it.
“I was there during the second shooting and it was quite a chaotic scene,” he said. “We were trying to figure out who was who and it was a difficult process. Not once did I see cameras being taken or smashed.”
He goes on to say that if a complaint had been filed, Internal Affairs would be investigating.

IA is a division of the Police Department whose members just destroyed Benoit's phone, and held him and Davis at gunpoint, remember.  Yeah, I'm sure they were anxious to run down to the Police Department after that experience.

When cops lash out at witnesses, confidence in the integrity of the police force is greatly diminished.  Benoit and Davis had committed no crime, but still ended up being handcuffed at gunpoint, according to their testimony.  Not filing a complaint with that police department is wholly understandable.

Noriega did make the observation that the video could help the investigation of the shooting, and he's right.  But the law does not allow police to seize the private property of witnesses.  They have to get a court order to do that.

Some people complain about the backlash of outrage whenever cops start seizing cameras.  They say things like "well, the videos never show what happened before" or "they edit them to make the police look bad."  And sometimes that is true.  But maybe, if cops would follow the law instead of assaulting and harassing those with cameras, perhpas fewer people would be trying to slant the footage.  And if the law was followed, court orders would bring out the full, unedited, video in each case, showing the real story, whatever it happens to be.

Of course, one would have to be confident that one had properly followed procedure before taking the legal and legally binding steps to secure the footage.  After all, once it's been gathered by a court order, it becomes part of the public record.  Video you grab in the heat of the moment can conveniently disappear if it shows you violating procedure.

And that's why the tendency of the police to lash out at photographers and videographers is so damning in the public eye.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post.

    It’s just another example of a generally para-militarized and overly aggressive police culture that permeates South Florida communities.