Want some racist road rage with your policing? A video posted to YouTube this week by Uber passenger Sanjay Seth caught a New York Police Department officer flying off the hook on one of the company's non-Caucasian drivers after a traffic dispute.
According to the video's description, the incident transpired after the Uber driver gestured to an unmarked police car, telling him to use his signal as he attempted to park "without using his blinker at a green light." The situation escalated to the officer pulling up behind the Uber driver, getting out and confronting the driver, most of which is captured in the video below.
"Do you understand me? I don't know what fucking planet think you're on right now," the officer says in the video before slamming the car's door. "Pull over five fucking feet. Pull over." At times, the officer appears to mock the driver's accent.
When the driver attempts to apologize, the officer angrily continues on a xenophobic rant:
"How long have you been in this country? Almost how long? Two years? I got news for you and use this lesson, remember this in the future, don't ever do that again. The only reason you're not in handcuffs going to jail and getting summonses in the precinct is because I have things to do. That's the only reason that's not happening, because this isn't important enough for me. You're not important enough."
This kind of diatribe is uncomfortable enough to watch, but imagine how terrifying it must have been to actually experience. From the unnecessary door-slam to the baseless arrest threats, the officer certainly looks like he is using his institutional power to intimidate a civilian over a minor traffic ticket.
The reaction: Police sources told the New York Daily News that the officer in the video is Det. Patrick Cherry, a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Cherry was traveling to work in a private vehicle after visiting another detective at NYU Langone Medical Center who had recently suffered an off-duty heart attack.
Sources also said that the incident will be examined by the Civilian Complaint Review Board after the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau determined that Cherry was guilty of no offense other than being "discourteous."
However, police Commissioner William Bratton told reporters that the anger Cherry displayed was "unacceptable" and that Cherry had been re-assigned to a desk job.
Police sources were quick to point out that Cherry could have just been having a bad day. In an email to Mic, Detectives' Endowment Association President Michael Palladino wrote:
"I am not trying to minimize the significance of what occurred. I am simply pointing out that cops are just like everyone else. They have families, friends, and other things going on in their lives, too, that may affect their behavior at times. There is no disputing that we are held to a higher standard and that is why this incident is so newsworthy. Detective Cherry is a person of good character and an excellent Detective. He really should not be judged by one isolated incident.
In a statement to media, Uber called the incident a "terrible experience" and "wrong and unacceptable." Death and Taxes' Jamie Peck was more direct, writing that the incident was "racist, xenophobic and generally porcine."
Why you should care: While the NYPD should be commended for their swift disciplinary action (something rare even in extreme cases), incidents like this are are why many New Yorkers don't trust their police department.
Though Cherry seems to have crossed the line in his rant, that doesn't exonerate the department's other questionable practices like "stop and frisk," a practice that has been repeatedly shown not to work and to cause PTSD-like symptoms extensive enough that "any benefits achieved by aggressive, proactive policing tactics may be offset by serious costs to individual and community health," according to one study.
And to argue this is one bad officer who can be handled, think again. An investigation by WNYC identified multiple ways in which so-called "bad apples" remain on the force, such as failure to systematically track Civilian Complaint Review Board complaints.
Until the NYPD addresses systemic problems plaguing its police force, videos like this will probably continue to pop up, and trust in the city's police force will continue to dwindle. Hearing something like "The only reason you're not in handcuffs going to jail and getting summonses in the precinct is because I have things to do" is not what you expect from someone who's sworn to "serve and protect."