NJ State Trooper Feels The Best Part About The Required Dashcam Is The OFF Button
from the welcome-to-new-jersey,-here's-your-complimentary-beating dept
The virtue of having a video of police encounters has been proven over and over, whether because it belies the allegations of a crime or proves them. But then, sometimes the guy with his finger on the dashcam's "on" button may not want evidence of what is about to happen. Via NJ.com:Ultimately, the charges against Bass were dropped because the officers failed to show up in court. That, in and of itself, doesn't necessarily indicate any sort of irresponsibility or maliciousness on behalf of the troopers involved. But one of State Trooper Dellagicoma's actions during the incident certainly does.
Allen Bass, 50, sued Trooper Gerald Dellagicoma and others in 2009, claiming they punched and kicked him multiple times, causing him to urinate on himself, after he complied with their commands to get off his bicycle at Ellis Avenue and Clinton Avenue in Irvington a year earlier.
[Bass] was riding his bike July 10, 2008, in Irvington when Dellagicoma and other troopers who were on patrol in the area got out of their patrol cars and ordered him to stop. Bass claimed he laid on the ground chest-down and spread his arms and legs.
Troopers allegedly then punched and kicked him before arresting him. Bass was charged with drug possession, resisting arrest by flight and resisting arrest by force, court documents show.
Court documents show Dellagicoma, who joined the force in 2001, failed to activate his patrol car camera and was suspended without pay for 30 days, but only served 15 days of that suspension.And this wasn't an isolated incident.
Records show Dellagicoma was reprimanded several times prior to the incident for the same infraction.In fact, Dellagicoma is named in another federal civil suit for basically the same actions:
In another federal civil lawsuit, Salah Williams of Newark, an African-American, claims he was a victim of racial profiling, excessive force and malicious prosecution when Dellagicoma allegedly assaulted, maced, arrested and charged him for no reason while walking near his store in the city... Similar to the Bass case, Dellagicoma also failed to activate his patrol car camera and appear in court, resulting in the dismissal of the charges against Williams.This is a big problem. As Greenfield points out, New Jersey State Troopers are required to record every interaction with the public.
What makes this special is that in New Jersey, there is a requirement that arose from the racial profiling scandal that rocked the Turnpike, that all encounters with State Troopers be videotaped. The state was kind enough to put cameras in cruisers. Never again would a trooper be falsely accused of profiling a driver just because he was black. (This is known as the "black plus" theory of profiling.)The bigger problem is the handling of those who choose to grant themselves exceptions to this requirement. The offense is treated as a minor infraction, punishable by a written reprimand or a short suspension -- neither of which are severe enough to make troopers like Dellagicoma reconsider hitting the OFF switch when it suits them.
The only way an incentive system works is to make the cost of noncompliance greater than the cost of compliance. Apparently, a written reprimand and a few days suspension doesn't cut it. And when it happens repeatedly, it is clearly failing to serve as a deterrent. That's not good enough.Citizens aren't going to be on hand to record all of these interactions, although each passing day provides more and more documentation captured by the public, many of whom put themselves in harm's way to secure this footage. And it's a sign that the system is pretty screwed up if "recording the police" often equates to "putting yourself in harm's way."
The efficacy of video depends on its actually being used, in every instance and including the entire encounter. Anything less reduces it to a game, where the police make the rules, and the rules will not be good for the other side.
This single incident cost New Jersey taxpayers $50,000 and did more damage to the already-questionable reputation of NJ state troopers. All it cost Dellagicoma was a single paycheck, leaving him free to "fail to activate" his camera again and again as the situation suits him.