Drug Law

Does Video Show NY Cops Planting Drugs in Car?

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

A newspaper in upstate New York has posted video that it claims shows police officers planting a bag of drugs in a suspect's car. But the police department says in this case, what you see is not exactly what you get.

The Utica Phoenix, a weekly, alternative newspaper in the city of Utica, said it recently obtained dashboard video of two officers arresting a couple last February. The video is 30 minutes long, but the newspaper only posted 1:40 of it.

The paper describes what it thinks its sees on the video:

This same officer... returns to the passenger side of the car and is clearly seen reaching for and then removing a pouched plastic bag from his back pocket, its contents are not clear. It seems he then drops the bag, bends down to retrieve it, then returns with it to the interior of the car.

After a few seconds, this officer then exits the car again, this time with a another plastic bag, fuller and larger, that he holds out as evidence as he walks to the driver side of the car.

Utica police say what the video clip the newspaper released does not show, but is on the complete version, is the officer reaching into one of the suspect's pockets and coming out with the baggie.

"He's going into the car with it and that's what he's doing, it's cold out and he's basically separating the drugs from both defendants," Utica Police Chief Mark Williams told WKTV.

But the publisher of the Utica Phoenix, who is also a community activist, questions the "separating of drugs."

"Did they follow procedures? If you take something from a suspect, do you put in back in your own pocket?" asked Cassandra Harris-Lockwood. "You've got a crime scene, don't you protect your crime scene? What do you mean, you stick it in your pocket? That doesn't sound like proper police procedure to me. Stick it in your pocket? I don't think so."

But they did follow proper procedure. WKTV writes:

UPD Spokesperson Sgt. Steve Hauck says, yes, you put it in your pocket. Sgt. Hauck says the first rule for police is keep your hands free in case you have to defend yourself. He says the officers didn't violate protocol or procedure by storing evidence during an outdoor traffic stop in freezing cold temperatures in their pockets for a few seconds.

Chief Williams said this matter was fully investigated last year and no wrongdoing was found.

"Obviously it's a personal opinion someone has, maybe an agenda. All I can tell you is this; if I have an officer that I feel is planting drugs, he's not going to have a job with the Utica Police Department. It's not in my bests interests to keep someone like that around," Williams said.