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Police and Law Enforcement Home  >  The Column  >  How to Make it Look Like a Cover Up


The Column

Small Articles and Rants on
 Random Topics





How to Make it
Look Like a Cover Up
Police and Law Enforcement News
Sunday, May 17, 2009
11:50 p.m.

Whether it's a small internal affairs investigation or a deadly force incident, some boss will be pulling the patrol car video.  And nothing spells funny business more than discovering that the incident was never recorded.


By now, most agencies have patrol cars equipped with either digital or analog video cameras, and most have policies governing their use.  Often, the units are required to be set to the "on" position and will go into record mode when activated manually or when the emergency lights of the vehicle are activated.

In a post-incident investigation when it is discovered that there was no recording, there will be repercussions which can be very serious.

If it is a defense attorney who makes this discovery the officer will be asked on the stand, "Were you purposely ignoring your agency's rules or were you just incompetent."   It will not matter if the officer just forgot to set the camera to the "on" position.  The defense attorney will accuse the officer of having unethical or illegal intentions with his or her client.

If it is a high profile incident, it will be very embarrassing to both the officer and the department.  Our detractors will be front and center with their two cents, and the media will do their part with wall to wall coverage and attack editorials.

Consider a recent case out of Austin, Texas where this exact scenario played out with a high profile case where deadly force was used.  The following is an editorial which appeared in the Austin American Statesman, a local paper:

It is not clear why the video and audio recording equipment in Senior Austin Police Officer Leonardo Quintana's patrol car was not activated when he attempted to arrest suspects in a parked car. It's also unclear why another camera in a backup unit also was not rolling.

An investigation will determine whether the cameras weren't working or simply weren't activated. What is clear is that officers are required to have their cameras rolling for all traffic and pedestrian stops, sobriety tests and pursuits.

Quintana's camera wasn't rolling, however, when the officer encountered Nathaniel Sanders II, 18, and two other young men in a parked car in an East Austin apartment complex. The occupants of the automobile were thought to be connected to an incident involving gunshots.

The encounter ended with Sanders dead and Sir Lawrence Smith wounded. It is a case that underscores the value of video cameras and recording equipment. Cameras can be a police officer's best friend. If the officer is following procedure and policy, the camera is there to record that. Likewise, the camera captures behavior of officers who abuse their badges. Because the cameras are incapable of bias, they are invaluable in boosting public trust in the police department.

At the moment, Chief Art Acevedo says the shooting appears lawful. Police say Quintana shot and killed Sanders, one of three black men in the parked Mercedes Benz, after Sanders went for a gun. A gun was found inside the automobile. As the chief pointed out, an officer is trained to meet lethal force with lethal force. He also noted that the investigation is not complete.

In the coming weeks, Acevedo must answer why the video and audio recorders were not engaged in Quintana's patrol car and in the vehicle of a backup officer. Those devices automatically record whenever a patrol car's emergency lights or sirens are activated. And if they were broken, that is not an excuse because officers are required to test their recorders prior to going out on shifts. With few exceptions, police policy prohibits officers from taking patrol cars with faulty, broken or malfunctioning equipment.

Acevedo must get tough on officers who fail to follow camera procedures. This city has seen too many incidents in which the simple act of turning on a camera could have prevented turmoil, distrust and division.

Tensions between police and the minority community were further inflamed when it was discovered that an officer failed to capture the 2005 shooting death of Daniel Rocha on his video camera, which was not activated. But police video in the 2006 case involving Michael Clark, who died after being stunned several times with a Taser, helped dispel claims of police brutality against a black suspect.

Acevedo wants to upgrade to digital recorders that would automatically turn on and run all the time. The police union supports that initiative, but the city does not have the $8 million to buy digital cameras. As it stands, the minimum penalty for failure to activate video recorders is a written reprimand, with the maximum being a three-day suspension. Acevedo said that most officers follow the rules. But he acknowledged there are some who don't. And those few are creating problems for the many.

That is why penalties should be enhanced. It's a matter of credibility and good policing.

Let's face it, there are generally two reasons for an incident not getting recorded: it's either the occasional mistake in properly setting up a camera for the shift or the old school hold-out whose stubbornness gets the better of his common sense.  Either way, an undesirable result is almost guaranteed.
Police and Law Enforcement News
Sunday, May 17, 2009
11:50 p.m.
















The Column

Small Articles and Rants on Random Topics





Large Turnout Requested at Sentencing for Officer's Death
Police and Law Enforcement News
Monday, January 26, 2009
12:50 p.m.

Newark Officer
Tommaso Popolizio

Tommaso Popolizio was a sergeant with the Newark Police Department. He had 12 years in the Brick City, and his brother was also a sergeant with the PD. 

After each shift, the 33-year-old officer went home to his wife.   Together, they were raising four children.  By all accounts, Tommaso had a great life.

On March 3, 2007, it all came to a violent end.

Several hours earlier, Street Animal William Rodriguez decided he needed a night out on the town.  He grabbed his trusty handgun, took some PCP, and off he went.

At about 4:00 a.m. he and Sgt. Popolizio would cross paths. 

William Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced on January 30 at 9:00 a.m.

Sgt. Popolizio and several other officers responded to a report of drag racing.  Upon arriving on the scene they spotted William Rodriguez throwing a handgun from his vehicle.

Rodriguez was promptly arrested, cuffed, and secured in the rear of a patrol car.

But William wasn't having it.  He contorted himself and was able to slip through the center partition into the front seat.  Rodriguez then fled the scene in the police cruiser.  A pursuit ensued.

Moments later, not far from the gates of the Essex County jail, Rodriguez collided with an SUV being operated by Sgt. Popolizio.  It was a violent crash causing the SUV to roll.  As Sgt. Popolizio lay mortally wounded, Rodriguez bailed out and fled.  A Port Authority cop found him a short time later.

Sgt. Popolizio was rushed to University Hospital where he died from his injuries.

William Rodriguez has since pled guilty to felony murder, eluding, and escape.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, February 11, 2009 at 1:30 p.m. 

Sgt. Popolizio's family and fellow officers are asking for a large turnout of off duty officers to show support.  Below is the address and additional information.


Date: Friday, February 11, 2009 at 1:30 a.m. 
Location: Essex County Veteran's Courthouse (Mapquest Map)
50 West Market Street
Newark, New Jersey 07102
(973) 693-5700

Judge Nelson's Courtroom
Police and Law Enforcement News
Monday, January 26, 2009
12:50 p.m.

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