Cop's Lies About A Traffic Stop Are Exposed By A Home Security Camera Located Across The Street

from the golden-age-of-surveillance-of-public-officials dept

Cops lie.

This is undeniable. But why do cops lie? There seems to be little reason for it. Qualified immunity protects them against all but their most egregious rights violations. Internal investigations routinely clear them for all but their most egregious acts of misconduct. And police union contracts make it almost impossible to fire bad cops, no matter what they’ve done.

So, why do they lie? If I had to guess, it’s because they’ve been granted so much deference by those adjudicating their behavior that “my word against theirs” has pretty much become the standard for legal proceedings. If a cop can push a narrative without more pushback than the opposing party’s sworn statements, the cop is probably going to win.

This reliance on unreliable narrators has been threatened by the ubiquity of recording devices. Some devices — body cameras, dashcams — are owned by cops. And, no surprise, they often “fail” to activate these devices when some shady shit is going down.

But there are tons of cameras cops don’t control. Every smartphone has a camera. And nearly every person encountering cops has a smartphone. Then there’s the plethora of home security cameras whose price point has dropped so precipitously they’re now considered as accessible as tap water.

The cops can control their own footage. And they do. But they can’t control everyone else’s. And that’s where they slip up. A narrative is only as good as its supporting evidence. Cops refuse to bring their own, especially when it contradicts their narrative. But they can’t stop citizens from recording their actions. This is a fact that has yet to achieve critical mass in the law enforcement community. A cop’s word is only as good as its supporting facts. Going to court with alternative facts — especially ones contradicted by nearby recording devices is a bad idea. (h/t TheUrbanDragon)

But that still doesn’t stop cops from lying to courts. Cops in Lake Wales, Florida tried to claim a driver attacked them during a traffic stop — something that could have resulted in a conviction on multiple felony charges. But camera footage obtained from a home security camera across the street from the traffic stop undermined the officers’ sworn perjury:

A Lake Wales man, who could have been sent to prison for years based on the claims in a police report, was saved by a home surveillance camera. It showed he didn’t attack an officer, as claimed in the report.

[…]

Officer [Colt] Black’s report said, “Cordero immediately exited the driver door and began to charge towards my patrol vehicle.”

It also indicated Cordero approached the officer with closed fists.

Sounds like an attempted assault on police officers — an assault only negated by the swift (and brutal) acts of officers on the scene. But here’s what really happened, according to an unblinking eye located across the street.

Cordero stood by his car for more than 20 seconds.

[…]

Black approached Cordero about 30 seconds later.

“He sucker-punched me from the back, right here, cracked a piece of my tooth out. I landed on the ground,” Cordero said.

Despite this being an assault of a citizen by Officer Black (with an assist by Officer Travis Worley), Officer Black claimed he “delivered an elbow strike” because he thought Cordero was reaching for a weapon. This lie was added to the lie that Cordero had “approached” the officers with “closed fists.” The security camera recorded the whole thing, which showed officers attacked Cordero as he stood motionless by his car.

So, what was the excuse given after security cam footage showed Officer Black had lied? Officer Black lied again. He claimed he was unable to accurately recall the traffic stop because it was so “stressful.”

After Cordero shared the footage with police, Officer Black wrote in another report, “I believe my perception was altered due to the high stress of the incident.”

If a regular traffic stop is so stressful it alters officers’ recollection of events, no officer — or at least not this officer — should be considered trustworthy when it comes to testifying about traffic stops or any other unrecorded interactions with citizens. Presumably most interactions are stressful. But that’s the job. And if the stress makes you make shit up about incidents that implicate a host of constitutional rights and people’s actual physical freedom, you probably shouldn’t be a cop.

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Comments on “Cop's Lies About A Traffic Stop Are Exposed By A Home Security Camera Located Across The Street”

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47 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Now, that followup...?

Funny how the stress of the situation didn’t prevent him from lying his ass off the first time, I guess it only prevents him from accurately remembering things that might be bad for him.

At a minimum he should be fired and charged with perjury as maybe some time in a cell will help his faulty memory, ideally he would be facing the same charges he tried to foist on his victim, though I suspect that the department will just brush the entire thing under the rug after issuing a slap on the wrist for getting caught, and even if they do fire him there are countless police departments for whom ‘assaulted a member of the public and then lied about it’ is seen as a positive for him to stay unemployed for long.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Now, that followup...?

Thing is, it’s not a black and white issue. In many cases, people in stressful situations DO misremember the events, even right as they’re happening.

Police are supposed to be trained to overcome this mental reconstruction though. So at a minimum, this should go as a note on both officer’s records, both at the precinct AND at the courts.

So if another similar situation crops up in the future, their memory by itself won’t be considered strong enough evidence to go on. And if other people step forward with charges of assault against the officers, those should be taken seriously.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Now, that followup...?

From what the camera opposite recorded, and with armed cops, if they thought there was any danger they could have stood off and controlled the situation. The incident reeks of intentional assault, and any claims of stress are related to the stress of finding out that their actions were recorded.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
JMT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Now, that followup...?

"In many cases, people in stressful situations DO misremember the events, even right as they’re happening."

He "misremembered" some very specific details (charged towards the patrol vehicle, approached with closed fists) that are way too far from the actual events to have even a shred of plausibility.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Now, that followup...?

Thing is, it’s not a black and white issue. In many cases, people in stressful situations DO misremember the events, even right as they’re happening.

How much leeway do courts give to non-cops with respect to perjury? As you say, cops are trained, so they shouldn’t get more than anyone else.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Now, that followup...?

"I misremembered me decking you completely out of nowhere because stress. The stress of unexpected court at a later date."

Yeah i don’t know if you are speaking of high-stress events generically, but no this is not how that works. Sure, it’s a valid thing when it isn’t made up by lying assholes. See also the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, memory in general, suspect identification…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Now, that followup...?

What stress? This was a routine traffic stop until the officer launched an unprovoked attack on his victim. There was no reason for the officer to be under stress and if he was under stress, the officer has no business working in law enforcement.

The officer should be permanently deprived of the authority to act as a police officer, as a prelude to a determination of his fitness to stand trial for aggravated assault, kidnapping and deprivation of rights under colour of law. If not found fit to stand trial, he needs to be confined in a mental institution for his own safety.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Now, that followup...?

So at a minimum, this should go as a note on both officer’s records, both at the precinct AND at the courts.

Yeah, and maybe some paid sensitivity training while they’re at it, and a week’s worth of detention.

You want to put a ‘note in his permanent record’ as if the union will ever let that note see the light of day. Maybe if the consequences for ‘misremembering’ something that had the potential to rob a man of his freedom should be something other than what you’d give a lying child.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Now, that followup...?

Perjury isn’t enough. Absent that video camera, the guy was staring down years in prison. If they were brazen enough to do this in broad daylight, they’ve done it other times.

The penalty needs to reflect the power they wield and the responsibility that comes with it. I don’t know what that is but years in prison seems like a start.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Now, that followup...?

Hence why I said that was the minimum that should be handed out, as I’m of the opinion that what should happen in cases like this is that the perjurer should face the same penalties that the accused would have had the lie not been discovered, in this case several felonies and years in prison.

Someone granted power and authority should face hefty penalties for gross abuse of it, and if they use their power to try to strip the freedom of someone then it’s only fair that they find theirs removed in turn.

R.H. (profile) says:

Re: Now, that followup...?

He resigned two days after the incident. Which is one day after the video was supplied to the state prosecutor’s office and the police department. Fortunately, this victim was able to bond himself out of custody after only one day and canvas the street where the incident took place looking for people with surveillance cameras. If he’d taken any longer some systems would have started overwriting.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

If a regular traffic stop is so stressful …. Presumably most interactions are stressful. But that’s the job.

It’s worth questioning whether this should be stressful, whether it should even be a cop’s job. The police didn’t initially view this as police work:

The “control of traffic, vice and crime presents entirely different types of problems,” Vollmer wrote, and having to deal with all of them hindered the police.
(Policing the open road p59)

Getting a ticket is annoying—but most people wouldn’t be too stressed about that, in and of itself. The police create this problem by sending heavily-armed people to enforce speed limits and other administrative rules. They escalate situations by taking these opportunities to search vehicles to try to catch people on unrelated crimes. It doesn’t help that drivers legitimately feel get could get killed; the cops almost get away with it.

There’s been significant research into conflict resolution and de-escalation. If cops are feeling stressed out, they can fucking do something about it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
McKay (profile) says:

So what you're saying is . . .

"I believe my perception was altered due to the high stress of the incident"

So, despite not being attacked, you were under stress, so your recollection can’t be trusted?

There you have it. Police can’t be trusted with the remembering the truth, even when not being attacked? We shouldn’t trust their word of events?

Koby (profile) says:

More Then Deference

So, why do they lie?

I say that for some of them, they develop a superiority complex. They may believe that they are judge, jury, and executioner. The subject in this case saw a police car following him, so he stopped his vehicle to see what was the matter. This action probably short-circuited whatever the cop was planning on doing, so it’s onto Plan B: deliver some "punishment" anyhow.

Except that the cop got caught on camera and lost his job. Good riddance.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

lost his job

He resigned. That isn’t “losing his job”; that’s him getting out before he faced actual punishment for his bullshit. And chances are good that, in a few months, he’ll be back on the streets as a cop in another department…or possibly the same department.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is a very real need for some nation-wide police reform. Of course, if the Dems do it, the republican rank and file will be up in arms about the Dems trying to create their own brown-shirt army and secret police. The Reps won’t do it because they’re the "Law and Order" party who back the police without question, though for the life of me I can’t see any "Law and Order" reason for allowing police officers to commit outright crimes without consequence.

And then, there’s the whole "states’ rights" issue.

Still I think the feds could do something like establishing a "LEO certification program" that trains would-be police and issues federal police certifications that would be withdrawn if dismissed with cause or found to lie in court – or after a suitable federal inquiry. Such a program could be set up and states could voluntarily require such certification to hold a police job in the state (possibly as well as their own or any municipal requirements). As an opt-in program, I can’t see how it could violate any "States’ rights" – not that members of the nut-job party wouldn’t complain, but they would almost certainly fail any legal challenge. Good investigative journalism may well push wavering states into signing up.

Not that it will come to pass, but one can dream…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: More Then Deference

Except that the cop got caught on camera and lost his job. Good riddance.

Oh it’s worse than that actually. Checking the source article the liar resigned(and as I noted above there are plenty of other departments who would sign him on in a second) and the other is merely under internal investigation, which is cold comfort when you read that both of them(and the department in general) have had multiple complaints filed against them before this to no avail, suggesting pretty strongly what’s likely to happen this time around too.

Anonymous Coward says:

it’s getting harder and harder to trust the police, the very people who are paid to protect us, certainly when innocent and even if having done something wrong, we should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law, not in the mind of these ‘people’! it’s getting so that a hell of a lot of the public wouldn’t pee on on the police if they were on fire and that is NOT the attitude to have! the problem is, of course, that so many police officers do absolutely nothing except cheat, lie and rob the very ones who pay for them to protect us! how the hell can that be right? and the higher up the police promotional ladder they get, the more bloody corrupt they get! then add in that the more corrupt they get, the greater the lengths they go to to preserve their positions and what they are up to, so much so that even the politicians assigned to watch the watchers, are tied in just as much! as far as the public are concerned, it’s a total lose – lose situation, the only thing to be grateful for is you’re not shot on your journey or in your own home for doing absolutely nothing!!

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
DB (profile) says:

I wonder what training course taught him this line:

"I believe my perception was altered due to the high stress of the incident.”

That is so carefully worded that it is unlikely to have been spontaneous. It’s not even a specific statement — it starts out with "I believe.." and thus cannot be disproved.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
bhull242 (profile) says:

I know cops lie, but sometimes I’m astonished at the gall they have with their lies, even after evidence has been shown to prove them wrong.

So, you were so stressed out about the situation that you can’t recall it correctly? What exactly is so stressful about a man standing motionless by his car, then attacking him from behind for no reason at all? Was the stress caused by you trying to come up with a good enough lie to explain why you assaulted an unarmed man during a traffic stop? Because that’s the only reason I can think of for the cop to be stressed in that situation. Well, that or he was stressed beforehand and decided to relieve his stress by assaulting a random civilian.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: perceptions matter

If stress is enough to get him to ‘misremember’ him assaulting someone else as them assaulting him then yes, every single case he was involved in needs to be reviewed, tossed outright or revoked(depending on the circumstance) as based upon unreliable evidence.

BalanceBlind says:

People should be more careful nowadays as they can be recorded from everywhere. As for cameras, they can definitely help in such a situation. However, some of them are useless. There is a great number of them in the UK I guess, the government put them to follow people. I don’t think it’s legal. But it is still worthy to have a home security system like Ajax. I am going to install it in the nearest future. I am tired of finding out that someone steals flowers in my garden.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Brady Evidence

Any prosecutor using these cops (David Colt Black, Travis Worley) as witnesses ought to be required to disclose the fact that on at least one occasion they have been caught falsifying reports and testifying untruthfully.

As further information, an investigation by the Polk County Sheriff (Grady Judd) found no wrong-doing by the cops. Act surprised.

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