Articles Posted in dealing with police


As you’ve probably heard, a Saratoga County sheriff’s deputy has now resigned and faces charges in the Town of Halfmoon, after a viral YouTube video showed him apparently going ape on a couple of men last week. WNYT reported the resignation and the charges – official misconduct and harassment – today.

If Sergeant Shawn Glans is in fact the deputy in the video, and if he really did and said the things depicted in the video, it’s an excellent thing that he’s gone.

That’s just one small bright spot, though, in a bleak landscape. The revelations of this weekend tell us some very discouraging things.

First of all, as noted in a press release issued by the Saratoga County Sheriff over the weekend, Glans was disciplined because of “a video posted online which appeared to show an inappropriate interaction [with] a civilian during a roadside interview. ” In other words, the sheriff is saying he found out what his own deputy was up to from YouTube. Not from the deputy himself or the two other deputies who, according to WNYT, witnessed his behavior. Those other deputies haven’t resigned, as far as we know.

Furthermore, the video and the comments Glans has made since its release raise concerns about the way the Sheriff’s Department may have been doing things during the many years this man was a member. In the video, the deputy uses obscene, abusive, and threatening language in addressing two men in a parking lot. He does something to one of them out of camera shot that sounds a lot like a slap. And why? What had happened to warrant – even in the deputy’s mind – this kind of behavior? Well, it looks like one of the men politely insisted that the officer observe the constitution – in simple terms, the man refused to consent to a search of his vehicle.
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The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an interesting opinion, yesterday, that has gotten national coverage. It’s of local interest as well, since it came out of an arrest that took place in Montgomery County, New York. The case is captioned Swarz v. Insogna.

The case has garnered wider attention, we suspect, because it was sparked by behavior that most people would consider ‘naughty’. Mr. Swarz, a passenger in a car, gave Officer Insogna the finger. Officer Insogna then chased the car down and seized Mr. Swarz and the driver.

The Huffington Post covered the story with the headline “Flipping Off Police Officers Constitutional, Federal Court Affirms.” That’s not the thrust of the opinion, though. The Court did note that flipping the bird is constitutionally protected. But it did this only in passing, because that is settled law. In People v. Stephen, for instance, which was a case out of New York City, the defendant’s behavior included “clutching his [own] genital area with his hands” and making comments and suggestions to a police officer that were about as vile as they could be. Because the defendant’s actions could not be interpreted as genuine threats, however, they were constitutionally protected.

In New York, as mentioned in our last entry, possession of small amounts of marihuana can be more unlawful or less unlawful depending on your location and the amount of discretion you exercise in possessing it. In private (in your home, for instance), or even in public if it’s discretely hidden about your person, possession of a small amount of marihuana is only a violation. Openly displaying the same amount on a street corner, however, is a misdemeanor – a crime.

There has been a good deal of dissatisfaction with this discrepancy lately, largely due to a controversial policy of the New York City Police Department. Vast numbers of young African-American and Latino men have been frisked and forced to turn out their pockets on the thinnest of pretexts; they’ve then been arrested for misdemeanor possession when previously hidden marihuana came to light.

So, on June 4th, Governor Cuomo announced ‘Legislation to Bring Consistency and Fairness to the State’s Penal Law and Save Thousands of New Yorkers from Unnecessary Misdemeanor Charges’. This legislation would decriminalize the mere possession of small amounts of marihuana in situations where it’s ‘open to public view’ – in essence, putting possession in public on a par with private possession. It would still be unlawful, but it wouldn’t be criminal.

We really hadn’t planned to return to the issue this week, but yet another New Yorker has been arrested for recording police activity. It happened last Friday, July 30th. The arrestee was Phil Datz, a professional cameraman – a credentialed member of the press.

The charge, once again, was obstruction of governmental administration, a crime. According to the Long Island Press, Datz was hauled off to a police station, where mug shots were taken, and he was fingerprinted. As we’ve said before, the potential penalty is $1,000 and/or a year in jail.

The whole thing is absolutely outrageous – beyond a mere exclamation mark’s power to express.

An update: We discussed in a prior entry Emily Good, who was arrested here in New York State for recording a police officer on video during traffic stop. The charge against her was ultimately dismissed, and now Ms. Good is filing a civil suit:

With Ms. Good’s situation in mind, let’s address a couple of questions regarding citizen interaction with law enforcement:

First of all, in the case of Ms. Good, we know that the State had not given the arresting officer the power to do what he did in the circumstances depicted in the video; but how much power can a state give a police officer?

Second, separate and apart from an officer’s power (or lack of power), what were Ms. Good’s actual rights? Did she have a positive right under the Constitution to do what she was doing? What positive rights might the officer have violated when he arrested her?
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“Your superior intellect is no match for our puny weapons!” The Simpsons

Our last entry discussed the plight of Emily Good, a woman arrested in Rochester, New York, for recording a police traffic stop on video.

In an interesting twist on that basic theme, the Post-Star of Glens Falls, New York, reports the arrest of a reporter for attempting to inquire into police activities at a crime scene. It would appear that at the time of the arrest the reporter was in a public thoroughfare, asking police officers questions about a crime that had taken place hours earlier.

Lisa: …I mean, if you’re the police, who will police the police?

Homer: I dunno. Coast Guard?

The Simpsons “Homer, vigilante”

A fascinating video out of Rochester, New York, has hit You Tube, and it’s getting a lot of play, probably because the arrest of a young woman who had the nerve to videotape the police in action (over their objections) seems so at odds with the fundamental notion that ours is a “free country”.

The actual criminal charge was dismissed yesterday, as reported by Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle, which has done a great job of covering this case. However, by the time the charge was dismissed the video – and the issue – had gone ‘viral’.

Exactly why was the woman, Emily Good, arrested? According to the complaint filed by the police officer (posted by the Democrat and Chronicle,), the presence “behind them” of Ms. Good “holding something in her hand and [illegible] it in the air towards officers,” made those officers “extremely nervous and posed an officer safety issue.”

The charge was Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degree, NY Penal Law section 195.05. In pertinent part, a person is guilty of this when he or she “intentionally obstructs, impairs or perverts the administration of law or other governmental function or prevents or attempts to prevent a public servant from performing an official function, by means of intimidation, physical force or interference, or by means of any independently unlawful act.” In consenting to the dismissal of the charge, the prosecutor agreed that Ms. Good’s actions didn’t meet those criteria.

So again, exactly why was Ms. Good arrested? A number of things are apparent from the video: Ms. Good was clearly some distance from the police action. She never approached or threatened to approach the scene more closely. When questioned, she explained exactly what she was doing. Other people were standing in the vicinity (This is clear from the fact that the videotaping continues after the arrest, from approximately the same vantage, and from the other nearby voices heard on the video). The officer never ordered the others back. In short, the only apparent basis for the order to go back into her house was Ms. Good’s presence with camera rolling (the device was a video-equipped i-pod).
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