NYC cops harass club owner whose CCTV footage overturned drug conviction

Law enforcement LOVES surveillance cameras -- except when those cameras are used to surveil dodgy busts and get them overturned:
Last year, New York police officers were seen dancing in the streets just before arresting four men in a city nightclub on charges of selling $100 worth of cocaine. It took six months and the men's life savings, but their names were finally cleared when prosecutors took the unusual step of announcing in court that the men had committed no crime.

That's because club surveillance video shows that the undercover cops had no contact with the accused men in the two hours they were in the club.

Now, club owner Eduardo Espinoza says the police are retaliating against him.

Link (Thanks, Marilyn!)


  1. I hope these cops are disciplined and/or fired if they are in fact retaliating (why would you necessarily believe the club owner without proof?) I’ll await the lawsuit and official complaint — thrws h’s jst blwng smk nd prbbly lyng.

    Also keep in mind that this is one story — I worked a few years for State Police in TX and the video overwhelmingly confirmed police action as within the law and reasonable. That, of course, isn’t news.

    Come on folks — the reason you all (we all) can do any of the things we do is because 99.5% of the cops do their jobs with reasonable competence. I am a libertarian, I hate CCTV, but beat cops didn’t ask CCTV — bureaucrats and apparatchiks did.

    Lt th brnlss rdcl bgn….

  2. Troy, unfortunately this is not just one story. In fact, incidents of willful abuse of power by police officers are common enough to require Internal Affairs departments and civilian oversight boards for almost all police forces.

    But I wholeheartedly agree that we owe just about everything that is good in our society to the vast majority of competent, reasonable police officers who are doing their jobs (and so rarely making the news).

  3. You have to wonder in these cases – why is there no provision for the victims of this kind of malicious prosecution to just automatically get all their expenses reimbursed?

    Now they’ll only get their life savings back if they sue, which they’ll only be able to do if they can afford the legal fees, which they can’t because they just lost their life savings on legal fees.

    It just makes you sick, dunnit…

  4. Hopefully those CCTV cameras can catch the cops mid-harassment too.

    The idea of the Police is a lofty goal– but cops are humans and are often more subject to their own egos than the public good; they are more concerned with “getting a bust” than busting the truly guilty party. It makes me ponder the kinds of people that join the police department– is it people who are concerned with society’s ills, or people on a power trip who like how they look in a uniform, people with bruised egos who need the imaginary stature that comes with a badge? I’m sure it’s a mix of both, unfortunately they treat the badge as an exclusive club (witness the “thin blue line” stickers on cars next time you are out driving: “Don’t ticket ME– I’m one of YOU guys!”) Respect for the police is at an all time low, and it’s nobodies fault but theirs.

    “Imagine one gang, consisting of the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings
    That’s when you start to realize what the police is
    Government funded gang-bangin thugs; that’s what beast is.”
    –Ill Bill

  5. “the reason you all (we all) can do any of the things we do is because 99.5% of the cops do their jobs with reasonable competence.”

    Come on, 50% of the reason I stay home all the time, and never answer the door, is fear of being ticketed or arrested for a petty offense or a crime I didn’t commit. The other 50% is fear of violent or property crime. If the cops were doing their job and standing up for what’s right, I shouldn’t worry about crime, nor about the cops themselves harassing me.

    For the record I’ve never been arrested and only have gotten one speeding ticket on a two lane/one turn lane in the center road that should’ve been, and was soon after, switched from 25 zone to 35.

  6. #7: you’re limiting yourself there, then. I’m my 31 years I’ve never had an incident with a cop (that wasn’t my fault. Course ive had tickets and such).

    Don’t blame the cops for your need to hide.

    Seems you don’t live in a very safe neighborhood. If you’re that concerned about crime, it makes sense to me the cops might overreact a little time to time, as obviously you live in a crime riddled, criminal-populated area where its not even safe to walk down the street. Heh.

    Time to move? :P Just sayin’.

    Cops around here are just fine. Crime rate’s pretty low, too.

  7. #8, Talia

    Lucky you, that you live in an area where the crime rate is low and the police at least manage to keep most of the people fooled most of the time. I take it you don’t do much driving while black (or whatever the subjugated race is in your area).

    Granted, Individual’s post @7 comes off ounding like a paranoid shut-in whose problem has little to do with actual danger and much to do with the effects of 24hr television tabloid news on an anxious peronality.

  8. I’ve been pulled over by cops. For speeding.
    I’ve had cops knock on my door. to get a witness statement about an assault.

    I’ve heard about abuses of power/ excessive force, but only third hand (or through the news) and frequently when the facts come in, their reaction is fairly justified and certainly less than mine would have been (ie pepper- spraying protesters- after having bricks thrown at them for an hour)

    And as for fear of crime… statistics show that actual incidents of crime have been trending down in north america, while reporting of said crimes has been going up. Lots more dangerous in the 70’s but you didn’t hear just how dangerous it was.

    and back to the original point- CCTVs aren’t like human witnesses. you see what they see. good or bad. I just hope those guys that were arrested, then exonerated, weren’t actually drug dealers.

  9. A few years ago I was a legal observer at protests for the National Lawyer’s Guild, which for me mainly entailed shooting video of protests, including the 1999 WTO protest in Seattle. I will from experience that many police officers do not want to be videotaped (even when the same department has police with video cameras on the ground).

    A cynic might say that they dislike having video surveillance which are independently reviewed and/or are not controlled by the police.

  10. This might be important:

    An NYPD spokesman said the department would look into the matter. But sources blamed the frequent police visits on community complaints.

    Could be the police aren’t the only ones doing the harassing.

  11. @#11:

    “A cynic might say that they dislike having video surveillance which are independently reviewed and/or are not controlled by the police.”

    Well, no one likes to be the subject of surveillance. It’s just that a police officer is more likely to feel empowered to do something about it.

  12. I’ve been pulled over, forced to put my hands on the dash, searched, threatened, had a police officer attempt to coerce my boyfriend into pleading guilty by telling him he had to or else it would go badly for him, which resulted in a traffic charge being thrown out. I’ve been asked inappropriate personal questions (a cop, even if you have an ‘I love porn’ sticker on your car should never ask you what kind of porn or if you’re a whore), had cops play games where they ask you to sign the ticket and keep moving it just a little out of your way when you go to sign it. I’ve had them walk up to my car, hand hovering over their gun, just itching to pull the thing and be extremely abrasive and insult me, to try and get me to say something that could be construed as insulting, which around here is considered a form of assault.

    For the record: white, female, 5’6″, graduate student at the local university, parent with three children. Don’t get out much other than work and school.

    Boyfriend: 6’4″ (yes, tattooed) mild mannered guy in a t-shirt and jean shorts most of the time. Never says boo to anyone. One of those tall people that hunches when they walk because they don’t want to intimidate.

    Moreover, in ten years of living in Albuquerque, I’ve had to call the police six times because one of my neighbors and domestic violence. They’ve showed up three times in ten years: 45 minutes later, told me they didn’t see anything and left; an hour later despite the fact that the guy was waving a gun and dragging his screaming wife into the car; and once twenty minutes later, talked to boyfriend not girlfriend of couple, told him I called, chastised me for wasting their time and left. Three days later, when I saw the girlfriend and daughter, the daughter had a cast on her arm and the girlfriend had a black eye.

    I’m sure there are good cops out there, but I’ve never seen them. Ever. I tend to live in poor neighborhoods, as I am poor, and the cops know we aren’t going to complain. So you’ll pardon me if I habitually side with civies. Moreover, since the police enjoy certain rights and privileges in our post 911 environment, including not being questioned and the no-warrants necessary arrest, you’ll also have to pardon me for siding with the club owner. He is less able to abuse them as they are to abuse him.

  13. Reading the article, it seems a clear case of police retaliation to me. It takes a lot of courage to make such allegations after the fact.

    In Houston somewhat recently, police were ramsacking a house and arresting its tenants. The next-door neighbors saw this and shot video of it from their own property. They were noticed by the cops and they too were arrested for shooting this video! Their case was dropped, of course, but the cops continued to surveil their every move for weeks.They managed to get together donations from the community and sued the police and won their case! The police had only exacerbated the situation by surveilling these innocent civilians. (Sorry I can’t seem to find a link to this story, but it was related to me by my parents who live in Houston and always follow the news there, so I have no reason to believe it is not true. I blame the media.)

    Also recently in Houston, a municipal judge called the police about some suspicious activity in her neighborhood only to be arrested for “impersonating a judge” even though she showed them all manner of credentials. Though her case was dismissed, now she says they are retaliating against her for filing misconduct charges and have arrested her a 2nd time, alleging all manner of things done while they were arresting her sons for partying at a neighbor’s house while the parents were out of town. I don’t know whether she was simply pushed too far and acted inapropriately, or if the cops are making all of this up.

    I’m sure it is much more common that such abuses do not get reported for fear of retaliation. I personally have had very few positive experiences with Texas cops both in Austin and in Houston. At least in Houston, if they find pot on you, they are more likely just to steal your stash. In Austin, they arrest you AND steal your stash (and let you go 72 hours later withough charging you, but still having ruined your life. College professors rarely accept the excuse that you were jailed without a charge for missing finals.) I’m not saying that cops are bad per se, but often they can act like they are simply the thugs at ther top of the foodchain. The power that attracts many to these positions ensure that it is often not wielded justly.

  14. How does it take four guys to sell $100 worth of coke? That’s two 1-gram bags, at most. Are they selling it in smaller increments nowadays?

  15. Cops can be both nice and bad: Nice to normal people and bad to criminals or suspicious-looking people.

    I’ve been told by different people that they used to think cops were bad and were surprised to meet helpful cops when they reported a crime. Well, duh! Of course even most “bad cops” are sometimes civil and professional when dealing with some people.

    And then there are of course also nice cops, I’m sure.

  16. “I hope these cops are disciplined and/or fired if they are in fact retaliating”

    I hope they’re fired for lying in an attempt to attain a conviction.

    I also want to how the Boston police manage to find a new way to kill a student nearly every time a home team wins a national championship.

  17. I’d be willing to bet that Amadou Diallo would be able to give you 41 reasons not to trust the NYPD.

  18. I like how when crooked cops (that covers, what? 90% of them?) get caught, they get to keep their job. OR, this is even better. They get PAID suspension or some crap.
    We citizens pay the cops to work FOR us. They need to get it straight. If you look at us taxpayers as the employer, which we are, don’t you think we should be able to fire these scumbags when they do something like this?

  19. Back before the NYC subway got spiffed up and more people took to riding it, I learned that at two in the morning, the police officer who walks through your car on his way through the train looks wonderful. On the other hand, this is also the police force that emptied their guns into Amadou Diallo. Different officers, different circumstances. I’ll give praise and support to the good ones, and cheer on investigations of alleged misconduct. What else would you do? They’re human. They’re not always going to be right, and they sure aren’t always going to be wrong.

    Baldhead @10:

    I just hope those guys that were arrested, then exonerated, weren’t actually drug dealers.That can’t be a consideration. As I was explaining to Flaming PB just yesterday in the Christopher Hitchens thread, all those rules that sometimes let defendants walk free are there to protect us from abuses of the law. The penalty for infracting them has to be losing the case, because anything less would mean that one side could decide that incurring the lesser penalty is an acceptable price to pay for winning the overall case.

    JKafka @12, what do you mean to suggest there?

    MouthyB @14, it’s been a long time since my car was randomly stopped and searched by your local police. Back then they had a lot of latitude (public services were stretched thin), and the war on drugs was a standing excuse for anything.

    Are the police better behaved in Santa Fe and Taos? I’m guessing they are. Rich people complain more about bad service.

    Mannakiosk @17, what do you mean by normal?

  20. If I have to deal with a cop (speeding, noise complaint, things like that), and they treat me with respect, after I get the citation, I always say “I just want to thank you for your great attitude. You were never rude or threatening; you let me know that we were on the same side: a safe and orderly society. I hope you can spread your attitude to some of your colleagues.” They usually look visibly flattered, and when I get to the part about the colleagues, there’s usually a sad and knowing moment of eye contact.

    Good cops, I think, are not in the majority, and they feel it every day.

    I won’t belabor the point with all the terrible cops I’ve dealt with, but it’s most of them. I wish that when they broke the law, something actually happened to them. I think they should be held to a much higher standard with much harsher penalties, actually (when on duty, of course). We have to be able to trust them, and right now, I don’t. I always tell people here in Japan when they ask about American gun crime that I’m a lot more worried about the police shooting me than a criminal. Criminals tend to shoot other criminals. I’ve never had a criminal pull a gun on me, but I have had a cop pull a gun on me.

  21. Nothing unusual here, this goes on everyday all over the Country . Nothing will happen to these cops . If you are found to be not guilty the police dept. should be liable for all your costs and loses. The police have way way too much power, these guys were lucky most people in this situation would be a cash cow in the private prison industry now.

  22. The year is ’94 and in my trunk is raw
    In my rear view mirror is the mother fucking law
    I got two choices yall pull over the car or
    bounce on the double put the pedal to the floor
    Now I ain’t trying to see no highway chase with jake
    Plus I got a few dollars I can fight the case
    So I…pull over to the side of the road
    And I heard “Son do you know why I’m stopping you for?”
    Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hats real low
    Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don’t know
    Am I under arrest or should I guess some mo?
    “Well you was doing fifty five in a fifty four”
    “License and registration and step out of the car”
    “Are you carrying a weapon on you I know alot of you are”
    I ain’t stepping out of shit all my papers legit
    “Do you mind if I look round the car a little bit?”
    Well my glove compartment is locked so is the trunk and the back
    And I know my rights so you gon’ need a warrant for that
    “Aren’t you sharp as a tack are some type of lawyer or something?”
    “Or somebody important or something?”
    Nah I ain’t passed the bar but I know a little bit
    Enough that you won’t illegally search my shit
    “Well see how smart you are when the K-9 comes”
    I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one.


    (I love that line: “doin 55 in the 54”)

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