New Jersey Cop Demands Camera From Eyewitness After Police Dog Allowed To Maul Prone Suspect

from the additional-narrative-control-efforts-to-follow dept

If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide, right? That’s what the government tells us when it wants to erect cameras and fund domestic surveillance efforts. So, what do you tell a police officer who demands a citizen hand over their phone? Even if the officer has done something wrong, he still can at least attempt to hide it. And even if the effort fails, he still likely has nothing to fear. That’s the imbalance of power at work and it leads directly to this sort of thing.

New Jersey police may have gone too far when they took the cell phone from an onlooker who recorded their encounter with a suspect who was mauled by a police dog and later died.

The man, Phillip White, had dog bites all over his body last week, his lawyer said, and a jarring video shows cops struggling to pull the dog away.

A police officer took the video from a witness who was recording the arrest — possibly in violation of the law — but the footage was later obtained by NBC Philadelphia.

The tail end of the “arrest” and the officer’s questionable demand for the witness’ cellphone can be seen here:

[And here’s additional, just-released video, courtesy of PINAC that seems to show the suspect was unconscious for a majority of the “altercation.”]

Demanding personal information from an eyewitness is one thing, but demanding the person turn over the phone is something else entirely. Either the demand failed to take or the phone was returned intact to its owner (third possibility: an automatic upload to cloud storage after recording was interrupted) because the footage was later turned over to a Philadelphia news station.

No excuse has been offered for this officer’s actions yet, but one imagines the justification will fall under the “evidence of a crime” warrant exception. Of course, any criminal activity committed by Phillip White, the suspect being mauled by a police dog in the video, had long since ceased. The only potential criminal activity captured by this recording would have been committed by law enforcement officers.

The officer’s line of questioning gives some insight into his motivations. First, he asks if the witness saw everything. Then he informs the witness that he’ll need to take the cellphone.

The police were responding to a “disorderly person” call. By the end of it, the “disorderly” person was dead. Police claimed White was combative and a dispatch recording contains an officer claiming the suspect tried to grab his gun. Eyewitnesses, however, said White wasn’t resisting. Even the single eyewitness who did say White was resisting said he wasn’t by the time the recording was captured.

Agustin Ayala of Ayala Towing said he was driving down Grape Street in his tow truck when he saw two police cars on the street and two officers trying to handcuff a man.

“He was resisting,” Ayala said of White.

The two officers, including a K9 officer, handcuffed the suspect and brought him to the ground, he said. Ayala said he asked the officers to stop because he was concerned for the man’s welfare.

An officer then reportedly said to Ayala, “you didn’t see him try to take my gun.”

So, it would appear the deployment of arguably excessive force was retaliation for White’s earlier, alleged gun-grabbing. For making an officer feel fear, he was restrained to death with an assist from a four-legged officer — one who won’t stop attacking until instructed otherwise. And at the end of it all, there’s an illegal “request” for a citizen’s camera. There isn’t much about the incident that looks good and the officer’s demand for the unflattering footage seems to confirm he’s well aware of this.

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Comments on “New Jersey Cop Demands Camera From Eyewitness After Police Dog Allowed To Maul Prone Suspect”

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Blackfiredragon13 (profile) says:

It'd probably result in my own death by excessive force...

But in the position of the eyewitness I’d likely say something along the lines of “screw you, I’m not giving you my phone short of showing up at my door with a signed court order and 20 of the national guard backing you up. So go on back to your little tree fort and complain with tears in your eyes to the rest of your laughably dressed, blue-clothed jarheads that are you and those you work with.”
Probably not the brightest idea but meh I’m too stubborn and have a temper.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: It'd probably result in my own death by excessive force...

It’s one thing to say you will do that in a forum post. It is a totally different thing to actually say that to a couple of police officers that just ordered their dog to attack and kill someone in front of you.

I cannot imagine anything more intimidating than knowing the person asking for my cell phone JUST KILLED SOMEONE.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: It'd probably result in my own death by excessive force...

I can, and it’s the fact that both bystanders and cops know full well they could add another charge of ‘resisting arrest’ if you decline, which is apparently deserving of summary execution these days, and face no real repercussions for it.

Knowing that they just killed someone, and are now trying to destroy the evidence is bad, but knowing that there’s pretty much nothing at all stopping them from doing it again if you say ‘No’, that strikes me as much more intimidating.

Padpaw (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It'd probably result in my own death by excessive force...

if that witness had a gun they could defend themselves by shooting the dirty cop. They would mostly likely die by said cop or when a group of other dirty cops came for him in revenge , but they could possibly take him out as well.

I am all for killing dirty cops as I really do not see the system punishing them at this point. 9 times out of ten they are rewarded for breaking a law be it a petty crime or a capital one.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 I don't think it's necessarily about what good it will do.

We are seldom compelled by reason, though we are really good at seeing and recognizing injustice. Usually, when we see this sort of thing, we’re not armed, or armed with cameras rather than handguns.

The question is what happens when, in paranoia for our own safety against peace officers (what are essentially state-sanction gangsters), we start arming ourselves in advance with something more, whether that is a weapon of our own, or a hotline to someone else with more firepower.

Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France…

Bill says:

Re: Re: Re:3 It'd probably result in my own death by excessive force...

Ask the French how appeasement worked out for them.

I was at a Community Watch meeting recently (3rd old fat guy from the left) and mentioned that I would be willing to help the officer if he was getting the worst of it that looked like he was about to be killed.

His response? “Better hope that I don’t mistake you for the bad guy.”

Since the bad guy would likely be bleeding already and since if the cop could have gotten to his gun he’d have shot the bad guy himself, WTF was he threatening ME for?

I didn’t bother debating him … but I know one cop I won’t be taking a risk for.

MikeC (profile) says:

Since suspects keep going for the cops gun maybe........

The obvious thing in common is the “he/she went for my gun” excuse why you beat the daylights, living tar –“life” out of the otherwise non-armed suspect.

A simple trail of logic here has determined the most dangerous thing to the officers life is all the guns they each bring to the scene of the crime. In these cases it keeps seeming the “perps” are all unarmed and if the officers didn’t have guns then they would be a lot safer.

Further proof is submitted in the fact every time there is a big gun fight — the suspects are shot dozens of times while the officers expend hundreds of rounds. If you calculate the misses by the officers it would seem they are a much bigger threat to themselves and “innocent” camera wielding bystanders than any of the criminals they are protecting us from. Remove the officers weapons and problem would be greatly reduced if not solved.

lucidrenegade (profile) says:

This doesn’t surprise me at all. I work with a guy who is a volunteer sheriff deputy, and the stories he has about morons who get hired and can’t even pass the most basic training are disgusting. The union contract states that you can’t fail them for not passing the required tests. You have to continue to work with them until they do pass. How screwed up is that?

Bergman (profile) says:

I'd say: Show me your warrant

The difference between an act of armed robbery and a lawful seizure of a bystander’s valuable property (phones are valuable enough that phone theft is felony theft in many states) is whether the officer has a lawful authority to do so.

The law grants them quite a bit of leeway in exigent circumstances and a warrant gives them that authority without exigency. But just because they want something doesn’t give them exigency.

Exigency is when the video will be destroyed or lost if they fail to act. If every seizure were exigent, they’d never need warrants for anything.

If you truthfully identify yourself with contact details, and inform the officer you intend to publish the video, his lawful options shrink down to just two: Get a subpoena for a copy or forget about it entirely. Warrants are entirely off the table at that point.

Of course, if nobody ever broke the law nobody would have ever invented police officers. Or Internal Affairs divisions. Cops don’t like to hear the word ‘no’ and will often respond violently. If the unlawful seizure weren’t already armed robbery, it would be after a violent response.

Cops are not immune to arrest, and in many states resisting a citizen’s arrest is just as illegal — and justifies just as much force to complete the arrest — as an arrest by police.

If you piss him off enough to attack you, he’ll probably kill you anyway. He might even kill you if you cooperate. Why NOT attempt to arrest him for his crime?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'd say: Show me your warrant

In response to your question at the end:

He probably has enough distance between you and him and a fast enough draw so he can shoot you before you get near him. Also, don’t forget that he’ll usually call in two or three more cops so the ‘bad shot’ becomes a ‘good shot’ thanks to other testimonies saying you were coming at with intent to kill or maim even if there is video evidence saying otherwise. I did remember to point out the fact that the other cops are also carrying guns too, right?

On the bright side the people who witnessed your death will be able to point out a group of corrupt cops provided they ever scrounge up the bravery to point them out to a courtroom.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m concerned if I record police officers committing a crime, they will try to take my cellphone camera and the officers will claim they can lawfully seize my cellphone because I recorded a crime, aka their crime, in progress.

In other words, because the police officers committed a crime and I captured it on my cellphone. They’re legally allowed to seize my cellphone. Due to my cellphone having a recording of their criminal activity on it.


That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Theoretically legal anyway.

The usual excuse they bring out to justify seizing the phones of onlookers is that any videos on them are ‘evidence’ of a crime(their’s to be specific, though they conveniently leave that out). Of course the fact that said ‘evidence’ always seems to be ‘accidentally lost’ while in police custody is just pure coincidence I’m sure, and has nothing to do with destruction of evidence in an attempt to hide their actions.

If someone was willing to risk being on the receiving end of ‘resisting arrest’ or ‘obstruction of justice’ charges(trial and sentencing to be carried on the spot by the nearest officer), you could provide contact details and offer to send them a copy of the video, though in any case, your best bet is likely to have an automatic off-site uploader running, so they can’t delete the video no matter what they do.

Just… don’t mention that little detail, as it would likely lead to the aforementioned ‘resisting arrest’ charges and ‘punishment’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’d go ahead and surrender the phone, but as I’m handing it over, I’d make a very pointed effort in letting them know that said video has already been uploaded to youtube, and backed up to several cloud accounts. Many of which I don’t own or control.

Chances are you’d likely get your phone back without a word.

Padpaw (profile) says:

If there ever was a mass collection of Americans guns or if people were slated to be put in camps. They don’t need the military which would probably refuse said orders. As the powers that be have an army of homicidal dirty cops more than willing to kill unarmed and unresisting people as they do it on their own initiative.

Why else are police allowed to break the laws they enforce if they are not being trained for some evil purpose

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why else are police allowed to break the laws they enforce if they are not being trained for some evil purpose

Occam’s razor is your friend. Don’t attribute anything to malice when ineptitude, laziness, stupidity … can more easily explain it. If the powers that be intend to go all Nazi police state, there’s very little to stop them from just going for it now. Or, perhaps they just prefer using the boil a frog strategy as it may ultimately be less messy in the end.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: My preference would be some conspiracy of elder gods and shadowy societies

It is far more frightening to me that human nature for what it is shambles like mindless zombies towards the rise of oppressive dystopian nightmare-states, since the implication is that left to our own devices we would develop happy, symbiotic communities.

I suppose it’s true in the long run, that misery and outrage of injustice and social inequality drives us towards efforts to tweak our societies and strive for utopia, but it’s frustrating to discover that it’s a long road and we are not as far along as we’d previously believed. More selfishly, that my generation won’t see such idealistic fruits.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Ugh. Difficult to parse grammar...

That is to say, the implication of an outside corrupting influence, such as a unified military-industrial complex or dark deities that feed on the tears of widows and orphans, is that the human species would be just fine if left alone.

I’m certain that those powers that would organize to shape human affairs are not so organized and not so malevolent, and that it is human nature is what drives our misery.

My own hypothesis is that we strive for a lifestyle more comfortable than the one for which are instincts are modeled, but I’m only an armchair anthropologist at best.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here is the rub, a lot of people the people deal with are dirtbags. We as a community ask the police to deal with these dirtbags. Our society would probably be better off without these dirtbags amongst us. You and I sure don’t want to have to deal with these dirtbags, that is what we have the police for.

So we ask these attack dogs to deal with the dirtbags (for us) and are surprised when they bit someone they shouldn’t?

I understand that it is better for 1,000 guilty people to go free to prevent the one innocent man to be put in prison (or killed) but is that really true, is that what we want? What happens when 100 of those guilty people go out and murder 1,000 innocent people? Where are we then?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“is that really true, is that what we want?”

Yes, it’s really what I want.

“What happens when 100 of those guilty people go out and murder 1,000 innocent people? Where are we then?”

Then we need to do something about a police force that is so inept that it can’t catch serial killers or mass murderers.

If the principle of justice that there’s nothing worse than convicting someone who is innocent actually gets in the way of convicting people who are guilty, that speaks to the failure of the justice system, not the principle.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“If the principle of justice that there’s nothing worse than convicting someone who is innocent actually gets in the way of convicting people who are guilty, that speaks to the failure of the justice system, not the principle.”

Around a hundred thousand people are serving time for crimes they didn’t commit and ten times more are serving time for none violent crimes.

I don’t know what you’re trying to get at but you seem a bit off in your perceptions of the justice system…

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I understand that it is better for 1,000 guilty people to go free to prevent the one innocent man to be put in prison (or killed) but is that really true, is that what we want?

Yes. I connect it with “for, of, and by the people” and all that. The people are supposed to have primacy per the Constitution. If you’d prefer it to be for, of, and by the state, move to France (or Quebec?). Napoleonic Code assumes guilty until proven innocent. I prefer ours over theirs. I think it’s a far more enlightened form of governance, and far less inclined towards tyranny.

Anonymous Coward says:

Looking forward to confirmation of the K9 being put down

Dogs get one free bite, and even that is usually only free if the damage was below a certain threshold. This one got a lot more than that, and as a police dog it should have been better trained too. For the safety of the public, this animal must be put down.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Looking forward to confirmation of the K9 being put down

“Dogs get one free bite”

It depends on the local laws. When my daughter was young, she went on a camping trip with her grandparents and aunt & uncle. She was bitten by her uncle’s dog (a bite that was entirely justifiable as self-defense, as the dog was tied up and my daughter was poking it with a stick). She ended up going to the emergency room to get stitches.

The laws in that county about dog bites were draconian. If a dog bites a person, then the dog is put down if the bite victim demands it. If the person goes to the hospital and the hospital reports it as a dog bite (which this one did), then the dog is put down no matter what. Even on a first bite.

We ended up having to smuggle the dog out of the county.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Looking forward to confirmation of the K9 being put down

For the safety of the public, this animal must be put down.

I’m beginning to wonder if we ought to be using dogs in policing in the first place. Yes, their sense of smell is very useful, and they can be a powerful ally. However, they’re animals. They can’t testify in a trial and there’s a lot of room for a corrupt (or incompetent) dog handler to abuse their abilities.

I can see them being useful for their tracking abilities, but as this case shows, they’re quite capable of being little more than a hard to control loaded weapon.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Looking forward to confirmation of the K9 being put down

I’d certainly debate that guard or attack animals are dubious, since they obviously cannot be always controlled by the handler. In a world where police were actually disciplined for inappropriate use of service weapons, I’d figured we could address dog attacks similarly to if a police officer used a taser or handgun.

But I’m sure the dog’s handler feared for his safety from the incapacitated man.

Plenty of dogs are used for non-aggressive purposes, such as drug- and bomb-sniffers. While there have been ethical questions raised about a dog being used to justify probable cause for a given civilian (say a car pulled over for a traffic violation), the use for more general scans, such as stacks of airline luggage, seem to be a reasonable use.

My aunt pointed out the best dogs she’s seen for attack / guard duty were search and rescue dogs who were trained to immobilize targets (knock them over and keep them prone) since they were meant to find and arrest disoriented civilians (often children), not suspects of crimes. Maybe we shouldn’t train our attack dogs to attack per se, unless we’re prepping them for military assault.

An attack dog is essentially a weapon. We should regard them as such which considering when they should be used and how well they can be controlled.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Looking forward to confirmation of the K9 being put down

My aunt pointed out the best dogs she’s seen for attack / guard duty were search and rescue dogs who were trained to immobilize targets …

Yes! That’s exactly what they ought to be doing. Why don’t cops understand this?!? Because they’re militarized! They think they’re fighting a war against domestic insurgents.

Their bosses should be brought up on war crimes charges. Maybe that’ll force the point home. If they don’t like it, maybe they shouldn’t be trying to fight a war on their own people.

connermac725 says:

Officers are Not what we Thought

police were created to protect unarmed people from being killed in the streets by criminals
yet today it is the officers killing unarmed people with clearly made up reasons how can an unconscious man grab for a gun? more likely because he was unconscious when they tried to roll him over his limp arm brushed the gun.
in either case killing him was NOT justified.
and that whole feared for my life excuse they use only make them sound like a bunch of pussies not like trained law enforcement

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Feral Pigs do what feral pigs do.

The entire management chain above the pig should be put on trial for treason and shot.

No need to go to the treason card, nor an expensive and wasteful trial. Abysmal mismanagement should be all that’s needed here. If a dog won’t hunt, take it behind the barn and put it out of its misery. Or, in their case, just fire the bastards for their egregious incompetence. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Anonymous Coward says:

Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns.

So, you’re a cop (police officer, peace officer)? I’ve always looked up to cops. They’ve never been other than great and useful and helpful in my experience. I respect that you do the ugly stuff that needs to be done that we can’t. “To serve and protect” is an honorable goal and profession.

That said, geez, man! I’ve learned from talking to people online that my experience is not typical. I’m a male caucasian, so most of the shitstorms I read about online don’t happen to people like me. They happen to minorities, or people in specific areas of the country. I imagine the vast majority of cops are good people trying to do what’s right, but doing what’s right includes not covering for the bad cops, and that’s seldom happening. There are a lot of bad cops based on what I read, and even if they’re caught and fired, they just move off to another jurisdiction and continue being bad cops, because they’ll shelter them too.

I realize you don’t get to write the laws you have to enforce, and I realize the union (Police Benevolent Assoc.) can be ridiculous, and there’s politics, and the drug war, and the military is arming you with stuff you really shouldn’t have as “Peace Officers”, …

We would all love it if cops with guns and dogs weren’t called out to handle everything, but that’s the situation these days. Problem? Call the cops. Maybe send SWAT. Is the precinct’s tank necessary for this? Did they give you the correct address? Did any of the team verify the address matched the complaint address? Is the first move to toss in flashbang grenades, even if there’s childrens’ toys in the front yard? Are you going to hang the perp over the balcony to get him to cough up where the money and contraband are?

Firemen and EMS have dangerous jobs too. Lots of professions are dangerous. You’re not the only ones with their lives on the line. Sadly, very often (not always, but very often) police act like they’re fighting a war on domestic insurgents. That’s not how it should be, that’s not what I was brought up to expect of police, and we resent the fact that so many of you have gone that way.

If you show up to a situation you can’t handle as peace officers, call in the national guard or military. You shouldn’t be expecting to fight armed insurgents military style. That’s not the job we hired you to do.

Lots of cops appear to have forgotten how to do basic investigation. “Kill ’em all, and let God sort it out” is not good enough!

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