On Friday morning, a video was floating around cyberspace in which a plainclothes police officer in New Jersey was confronted by a man for what looks like a blatantly illegal search of his car. The video has garnered more than half a million views.
On Saturday the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office is under fire for the incident and the officer has been referred to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office for investigation, according to the Paterson Times.
“In an effort to assure an independent investigation of the circumstances around the search video, the sheriff referred the matter to the prosecutor’s office for a thorough and independent review,” said William Maer, spokesman for Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik, on Friday afternoon.
In the still-undated video, a man can be heard yelling at an officer on a Paterson, N.J., street, apparently after seeing him rifling through his car: “Yo. What the fuck is you doing? What is you doing in my van?” the clearly distraught man asks.
“I’ll tell you what—come here,” replies the officer as he looks guilty as hell, walking away from the inquiring man.
“I’m not going over there. I’m going to stay in the middle of the street,” he replies (smart man).
“Come over here. Come here.”
“What is you in my car for when I’m sitting down, eating with my family?” the individual asks the officer. “How did you get in my car?”
“It’s open. It’s wide open,” replies the officer.
“Still. Still. You’re not supposed to be in my van, sir,” the man is heard saying in the video.
Of course, the cop begins to make up some bogus excuse.
“We had a lot of reports of guns in this van in this neighborhood,” the officer tells the man, although the law clearly states that police cannot search vehicles without consent or a warrant, which, judging by the video, he didn’t have.
The man asks for the officer’s name and badge number. “Y’all getting caught doing things y’all ain’t supposed to be doing. Y’all fucking buggin’. I know my rights.”
The officer’s identity has not been disclosed by the sheriff’s office.
“This is incredibly troubling and disturbing,” said Ed Barocas, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. “You have an individual who appears to be a law-enforcement officer entering someone’s vehicle without permission and seemingly without any lawful authority. Not only is it improper, it’s a crime.”
Barocas continues, “If there is no authority, as there appears not to be, this [then should] be prosecuted just as you or I would be prosecuted for breaking into someone’s car,” he said.
No matter what we see with our very own eyes—on a daily basis—police officers will still be seen by many as heroes who can do no wrong. Especially when it comes to black folk.
Read more at the Paterson Times.