Within the last two months, Eric Garner, 43, unarmed, was killed on July 17 by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo who placed him in an illegal chokehold while questioning him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes; John Crawford, 22, unarmed, was shot and killed on August 5 by two Ohio police officers, David Darkow and Sean Williams, in Walmart after he was spotted holding a toy rifle; 18-year-old Mike Brown, unarmed, was gunned down by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson while walking with a friend in his neighborhood; and Ezell Ford, 24, who was also unarmed, was shot and killed by unnamed officers in the LAPD on August 12.
In the wake of these tragic events and renewed intense conversations surrounding police brutality against Black men, a video of police in Boynton Beach, Florida threatening to “put a round” through four Black men during a routine traffic stop has emerged and begun making the rounds on social media.
One of the occupants in the video records the interaction, even after the officer tells him to stop, to which he responds:
No, I have rights. I’m not intimidated. I have rights.
Sir, I’m recording your ass. What the f*ck you going to do?
B**ch, you’re on camera. What the f*cks wrong with you. Stupid ass cracker.
The driver of the car repeatedly asks the officer who stopped them for his badge number. The officer provides his name, but not the number, prompting the driver to attempt to take a picture of his badge. The officer slaps the phone out of his hand, pulls him from the car and places him face down on the ground.
That’s when another officer, presumably his partner or back-up rushes to the window, gun drawn, and says:
“I’ll put a round in your ass so quick,” with his weapon threw the window pointed directly at the men.
A message from Boynton Beach Police. Chief Katz: Boynton Beach Police Chief Katz I’ve seen this video before – probably about a year ago. It continues to surface despite the fact nobody has made a complaint or provided helpful information from which we could put this incident in context or take corrective action if applicable. Despite this fact, my staff and I did an exhaustive search of our records in order to try to identify this incident, which occurred on February 4, 2013. What we learned is:
• The persons within this car were within a 2 mile perimeter officers established in response to a violent home invasion robbery in which the suspects were armed with a machete (BBPD Case number 13-5715).
• The persons within the vehicle were – as you can see on the video – less than cooperative and, in some cases antagonistic toward the officers.
• The driver reached out of his window with a black object in his hand. The sergeant immediately felt threatened by this gesture and took actions to protect himself and others on the scene.
People these days seem to like to draw strong and definitive conclusions based upon clips of video and information. That’s not how this complex world works, folks. The driver and occupants of a vehicle have far more to do with the outcome of a traffic stop than does the initiating officer. Respect begets respect. Antagonism and hostility are met with defensiveness and it escalates the officers’ stress response – this never leads to a more productive and civil engagement. When I watch this video, I don’t see a car full of young men who are behaving in a manner consistent with fear of the police. These young men are escalating this incident, being uncooperative with officers who are investigating a violent crime, and recording their interaction – presumably with the hopes of catching a “gotcha” moment on the part of our personnel.
I hate to disappoint them, but no gotcha moment exists here…which is why I suspect nobody ever came forward to make a complaint about this. Rest assured, absent a complaint we still looked into this incident and found the officers’ actions to be appropriate and justifiable given the totality of the circumstances. To those who are attempting to use this video to stoke racial tension and fear – I’d encourage you to work toward a solution and engage productive behaviors. For example:
• Report what you perceive to be police misconduct – and let us know when we are doing something right as well!
• Participate in our citizen’s police academy, and learn more about why and how we do the things we do… Ignorance is a terrible catalyst to judgment.
• Make an appointment to come chat with me about the direction of the department and offer your suggestions for improved service.
If you didn’t know the information I shared with in about the broader context and circumstances of this incident and drew a conclusion, reconsider with these facts in mind. Facts are a stubborn thing.
The officers felt threatened…by a cell phone.