By Robert A. Vella
Two stunning All In with Chris Hayes videos which aired yesterday show an NYPD cop apparently stealing money from a man during a stop-and-frisk encounter, and a white female attorney who comes to the aid of another black man who Washington Metro Police officers were probably racially-profiling as being in the “wrong neighborhood.”
Watch the videos:
Cops caught on camera – After a new video appears to show an NYPD officer taking money from a man, Chris Hayes talks to a former NYPD officer about the phenomenon of police interactions being captured on cellphones.
Race and power at the center of a police interaction – Chris Hayes looks at shocking cellphone footage of a police interaction that doesn’t end the way you might expect.
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SEE IT: NYPD cop allegedly took more than $1K in cash from Brooklyn construction worker’s pocket during stop-and-frisk
The video of the cop taking the money is pretty amazing. (It is in line, however, with the grasping mentality caused by all the civil forfeiture laws that allow police to seize property on the basis of “probable cause” that a crime was committed. This may be perfectly legal.)
A question occurred to me, however, while watching the Chris Haynes video: Shouldn’t there be more to journalism (especially broadcast journalism) than simply showing something already on the internet and discussing it with other talking heads? Like, e.g., demanding answers from the police department, D.A., mayor, local leaders? Maybe tracking down those involved or witnesses and interviewing them/ Or is this all now things from a lost age? I have seen respectable news outlets publish pieces which simply explain what someone has tweeted and then copies the tweet. It seems that actually investigating things is no longer part of big-time journalism and nothing is reported except what the reporter sees on his computer.
Regarding the news media, you’re preaching to the choir. In this era of huge, consolidated media organizations who prioritize profits over actual journalism as a matter of course, and whose twisted business models profoundly shape the content and editing of news stories, it’s surprising that investigative journalism even still exists in any recognizable form.
Regarding the thieving cop, it’s going to take a lot more than just the idea of “civil forfeiture” to convince me that a stop-and-frisk encounter gives a police officer the legal right to steal.
If you want to see how civil forfeiture works to allow the police to rob from the poor in New York, check this out:
This same procedure is available in most states. (I read of a Texas town whose police routinely stopped out of state cars and wherever it looked like the owner didn’t have the wherewithal to fight it in court, simply took the car claiming they had a reasonable suspicion that it was or may be an instrumentality of a crime. A friend of mine told me over a person in a BMW, who the police noticed a pot roach in the ash tray, and they seized the car.) The burden is on the owner to get the property back. But he first has to submit papers and commence a proceeding. Almost all poor people (or non-rich people) just give up because they would have to hire a lawyer.
The proceeding is “civil” only in the sense that it doesn’t require a criminal charge and the burden of proof is only “more probable than not.”
The fact that the policeman in thee video was not concerned that he was being filmed shows you how impudent the system is and how he believed nothing would happen to him. (Even if he were stealing for himself, he would simply turn it in if someone complained. If not, magic, it’s his!)
As for the journalism, I wasn’t looking for investigative journalism, just simple journalism: like reporting things based on witnesses rather than just being another outlet for social media.
But you are absolutely right about the causes of the dismal state of corporate “news.”
Thanks for linking to that great story on civil forfeiture. The distinction between what is legal, and what is practiced, was exactly my point in the previous comment. From the article:
Your point on “simple journalism” is well taken. Although, in defense of Chris Hayes, his story was actually about the evolving effects of citizen cellphones on interactions with police – and not specifically on the NYPD thieving cop. Admittedly, the burden for researching the facts on that particular incident would fall on my shoulders, and that is why I included the supplemental articles under “Further reading.”