The NYPD has had its share of violent and embarrassing incidents recently, despite increased attention to law enforcement overreach in the wake of Michael Brown's shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. In this past week alone, three videos have surfaced with startling examples of police brutality appearing on tape thanks to onlookers and security cameras.
Take a look:
1. 17-year-old Marcel Hamer
In a video from early June that surfaced Wednesday, you can see an NYPD officer strike 17-year-old Marcel Hamer, allegedly because he thought the cigarette Hamer was smoking might be marijuana. "Mister, it was just a cigarette, sir," Hamer says in the video. "It was just a cigarette."
After the blow, you can see Hamer go limp while onlookers shout at the officers. "You knocked him out!" one yelled. "He knocked Marcel out!" Hamer woke up after paramedics arrived, according to The Brooklyn Paper. The officer who hit him has been suspended, while the other on the scene has lost his gun and badge. The NYPD is investigating the incident, and Hamer's family has lawyered up, alleging he suffers from long-term injuries like memory loss, dizziness and headaches stemming from the hit.
2. 35-year-old Lamard Joye
This video from Sept. 16, which emerged around the same time as Hamer's, shows an officer allegedly robbing a man before pepper spraying him. The victim, 35-year-old Lamard Joye, is pushed against the fence as the officer pulls more than $1,000 in cash from his pocket. When he argues with the officer to give him back his money, the officer sprays him.
Joye's sister, who goes up and asks repeatedly for the officer's name, gets the same treatment. The money has apparently not been returned, and the Brooklyn district attorney's office and NYPD say they're investigating the incident. Joye, a construction worker, was celebrating his birthday and had taken a lot of cash out to celebrate with his wife, according to his lawyer, Robert Marinelli.
"I believe that this officer made an assumption that any money Mr. Joye possessed was obtained illegally and therefore he would not report the theft," Marinelli told Gothamist. "This assumption was wrong. Mr. Joye is a hardworking taxpayer. An incident like this would never occur in a more affluent section of the city."
3. 16-year-old Kahreem Tribble
In a third video from August that was first reported by DNAinfo New York earlier this week, security cameras show a pair of NYPD officers hitting 16-year-old Kahreem Tribble, both with fists and with a gun. Tribble was arrested for possessing marijuana, but clearly has his hands up as the second officer comes in and pistol-whips him.
The two officers are the subject of a criminal investigation. "Clearly, [NYPD] Commissioner [Bill] Bratton has seen the video and reacted very aggressively in the sense of saying there have to be consequences when anything is done the wrong way," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in response, per DNAinfo. "I see these videos as another piece of information that we need to use to improve the relationship between police and community and in many cases to heal the relationship between police and community."
Other steps: De Blasio campaigned on an anti-police brutality platform and has taken other steps to try and engender more trust in the NYPD.
The biggest has been the end of stop and frisk, a policy that was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge last year. While former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was prepared to appeal the ruling, de Blasio agreed with it. As a result, weekly police stops have been down 90% according to the New York Times.
But as these videos show, racial profiling and police brutality run deeper than any single policy. As the videos continue to be commonplace, it becomes harder and harder to trust law enforcement. Sure, they may say they're going after criminals, but what happens when they turn their pepper spray, batons and even guns on unarmed, defenseless people? Chaos.