Once again, dash cam evidence has brought police brutality to light. But this time, the victims are fellow officers.
In October, four Black parole officers from New York State filed a lawsuit against members of the Ramapo Police Department (as well as Rockland County, the village of Suffern, and the Suffern Police Department) after a horrific encounter that occurred last April in Airmont, New York.
The victims, officers Mario Alexandre, Sheila Penister, Annette Thomas-Prince and Samuel Washington, believe they were racially profiled. During a traffic stop, Officer Alexandre exited the vehicle with his hands in the air. But he was still shoved onto the car by one of the officers who pulled them over, he claims. All four parole officers identified themselves to the local police who stopped them, and they were all wearing bulletproof vests and badges of identification. But, as the video shows, they were still held at gunpoint for at least six minutes.
Although the parole officers were in an unmarked car, a sign on the dashboard read “State of New York Executive Department Division of Parole.” And according to the lawsuit, the Ramapo PD ran the car’s license plate.
Officer Penister says the incident has left her traumatized. She now suffers from anxiety when she sees other uniformed officers despite being an officer herself.
“It’s still the anxiety I have, that I’ve never had before. I mean, an officer with anxiety, when they see another officer” Penister told CNN.
Bonita Zelman, the attorney representing the four officers, says they have all been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, Dennis Lynch, the Ramapo Town Assistant Attorney, believes the officers did nothing wrong “under the circumstances.” He also insists that the parole officers were “free to proceed on their way” as soon as they identified themselves.
But, “under the circumstances,” it is understandable why the officers did not see it this way.
According to the officers in question, they were responding to a 911 call that described people wearing bulletproof vests. They also stressed that the parole officers did not alert the police department they would be in town. While the law does not require such a call to be made, the department argued that they still could have made a courtesy call.
Lynch claims the whole situation is a misunderstanding. “It’s easy to second guess the split second decisions of police officers on the scene,” he said. “Not being cautious enough at times can result in a Brian Moore situation.
Brian Moore, a white member of the NYPD, was fatally shot last week when he and his partner were questioning a man in Queens.
The Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner tragedies have made it hard enough for Black men in America to trust police officers. And according to Damon Jones, the New York representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, this incident only exacerbates this fear.
“If these guys aren’t safe, imagine what a young black man feels about interacting with the police,” Jones said. “They have no chance.”