A Florida police officer pointed a gun at a passenger and threatened to kill him after the driver was slammed to the ground and handcuffed during a “routine” Boynton Beach traffic stop last year. The incident was caught on video.
After the video resurfaced and began garnering more attention on social media recently, Boynton Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Katz took to YouTube to defend the actions of his officers.
The footage begins with an officer having a conversation with a group of men in a parked car after a stop. When the cop demands to see everybody’s ID, one of the men informs the officer that he is recording the encounter.
“Turn that phone off right now,” states the officer, to which the man responds, “No I’m not intimidated, I have rights, sir, I’m recording your ass,” before unleashing a string of profanities as the officer walks away.
The officer then walks around to the other side of the car and gives his badge number but refuses to provide his name, which according to one of the men in the car is “Danish.”
“What’s your name sir?” asks one of the men, before the cop swats the cell phone out of his hand and drags him out of the car, throwing him to the ground.
Another officer then arrives with his gun drawn before breaching the driver side door and stating, “I’ll fucking, I’ll put a round in your ass so quick.” The cop then opens the passenger door with his gun drawn and the video ends.
According to Chief Katz, the men in the car were “escalating” the situation by “recording the interaction.” The officer’s actions were justified because one of the men “reached out of his window with a black object in his hand” (a cell phone). Katz also cited a “violent home invasion robbery” that had occurred within a 2 mile radius as justification for the hostile response to the men in the car.
Although the men in the car were foul-mouthed, they could hardly be described to have been acting in an aggressive manner.
Katz asserted that the men were deemed a threat because they weren’t displaying an appropriate level of “fear” towards the officers, stating, “When I watch this video, I don’t see a car full of young men who are behaving in a manner consistent with fear of the police.”
The men had apparently done nothing to arouse suspicion in the first place.
Chief Katz’s full Youtube comments:
A message from Boynton Beach Police. Chief Katz:
I’ve seen this video before – probably about a year ago. It continues to surface despite the fact nobody has made a complaint or provided helpful information from which we could put this incident in context or take corrective action if applicable. Despite this fact, my staff and I did an exhaustive search of our records in order to try to identify this incident, which occurred on February 4, 2013. What we learned is:
• The persons within this car were within a 2 mile perimeter officers established in response to a violent home invasion robbery in which the suspects were armed with a machete (BBPD Case number 13-5715).
• The persons within the vehicle were – as you can see on the video – less than cooperative and, in some cases antagonistic toward the officers.
• The driver reached out of his window with a black object in his hand. The sergeant immediately felt threatened by this gesture and took actions to protect himself and others on the scene.
People these days seem to like to draw strong and definitive conclusions based upon clips of video and information. That’s not how this complex world works, folks. The driver and occupants of a vehicle have far more to do with the outcome of a traffic stop than does the initiating officer. Respect begets respect. Antagonism and hostility are met with defensiveness and it escalates the officers’ stress response – this never leads to a more productive and civil engagement. When I watch this video, I don’t see a car full of young men who are behaving in a manner consistent with fear of the police. These young men are escalating this incident, being uncooperative with officers who are investigating a violent crime, and recording their interaction – presumably with the hopes of catching a “gotcha” moment on the part of our personnel.
I hate to disappoint them, but no gotcha moment exists here…which is why I suspect nobody ever came forward to make a complaint about this. Rest assured, absent a complaint we still looked into this incident and found the officers’ actions to be appropriate and justifiable given the totality of the circumstances. To those who are attempting to use this video to stoke racial tension and fear – I’d encourage you to work toward a solution and engage productive behaviors. For example:
• Report what you perceive to be police misconduct – and let us know when we are doing something right as well!
• Participate in our citizen’s police academy, and learn more about why and how we do the things we do… Ignorance is a terrible catalyst to judgment.
• Make an appointment to come chat with me about the direction of the department and offer your suggestions for improved service.
If you didn’t know the information I shared with in about the broader context and circumstances of this incident and drew a conclusion, reconsider with these facts in mind. Facts are a stubborn thing.