from the worth-a-thousand-words dept
Several weeks ago, Tim Cushing wrote about a case in New Jersey featuring an officer accused of abusing a cyclist who failed to engage his dash-cam during the incident. As noted in the piece, the value of having optional tape of any incident occurring between an officer and the public should be obvious. On the one hand, the public is already under a great deal of public surveillance, which can often times be used as evidence in any criminal proceedings. Tape featuring law enforcement action is valuable both ways, first in holding our public servants to account should they fail to behave appropriately and second to exonerate them if they are accused of wrong-doing.
In this latest story, also in New Jersey, we see an example of the former. Marcus Jeter was met by police at the home he shares with his girlfriend after a domestic violence call made to police. Once there, police reportedly spoke to Jeter, who says he left amicably after briefly talking to officers. It's worth noting that no charges were ever filed for that domestic incident. What happened next, however, is another matter entirely. Jeter was pulled over by officers shortly after leaving the site of his home.
The New Jersey DJ, 30, was arrested in a 2012 traffic stop and charged with eluding police, resisting arrest and assault. Prosecutors insisted that Jeter do prison time.The plea deal offered to Jeter was five years of prison time, for resisting arrest and assaulting police officers. Those were the charges levied in the officers' report. Those charges, as would later be determined by an active police dash-cam, were utter bullshit.
The video, which prosecutors say they never saw before filing the initial charges, shows Jeter holding his hands above his head.Oops. As it turns out, there wasn't any resisting of arrest and the only assault occurring was when the officers beat the hell out of Jeter. On top of that, the officers in question elected to omit surely-unimportant details of the arrest from their reports, such as when one of them careened over a median into Jeter's vehicle, which was also shown in the dash-cam footage. On top of that, police had their weapons drawn almost immediately, despite the fact that Jeter had pulled over to the shoulder as requested and remained in his vehicle, terrified.
"The next thing I know, one of them busts the [car] door and there is glass all over my face," he told ABC News station WABC-TV about the arrest. "As soon as they opened the door, one officer reached in and punched me in my face. As he's trying to take off my seat belt, I'm thinking, 'Something is going to go wrong.'" Jeter says the cops continued hitting him, telling him not to resist arrest.
Thanks to Jeter's attorney filing a request for records, which included the footage, the charges against Jeter were dropped and charges were instead filed against the officers. Those charges include aggravated assault, conspiracy, and official misconduct.
Now, we can and should respect law enforcement, but that respect doesn't come without the public's right to verify our public officials are behaving honestly and judiciously. Let there be no argument: the public has a right to the footage of officers in action.