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 tail end of the "arrest" and the officer's questionable demand for the witness' cellphone can be seen here:
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.
[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.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.
"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."