A video strongly factored into the trial of two Bloomfield, New Jersey Police Officers, who were convicted of official misconduct, tampering with public records, falsifying public records and for false swearing Thursday. The officers are Orlando Trinidad (34) and Sean Courter (35). Trinidad was also convicted of assault. Each of them is now facing a minimum of five years in prison. Their sentencing is set for January 11, 2016. Their bail was revoked, and the men were taken into custody.
Marcus Jeter, pictured above, is now seeking civil redress for his wrongful treatment by the police.
According to NJ.com, the charges stemmed from the traffic stop and arrest of Marcus Jeter, a black man, on the Garden State Parkway in June of 2012. The officers are captured on a dashboard video making the arrest. The two had claimed that Jeter’s was resisting arrest and attempted to grab Courter’s gun. But once a second video surfaced, the depictions clearly contradicted the officer’s stories. Jeter can be seen clearly raising his hands and cooperating with the two police officer’s demands. One of the officers can repeatedly be heard telling Jeter “to shut the fuck up” as he was saying, “I didn’t do anything wrong”. Another officer, Albert Sutterlin, had previously pleaded guilty in October of 2013 to tampering with records and resigned or retired from the department. Jeter was arrested for resisting arrest, attempting to disarm a police officer, and related charges—those charges were dismissed once the second video (from one of the other patrol cars) was obtained.
COMMENT: This is another example of how videos help to restore justice for citizens charged with a crime. If this scene had not been captured on video, it is likely that the result for Jeter would have been far different. The case is disturbing for additional reasons. The conduct of the officers was far from professional, aside from the false accusations. The nasty and aggressive language used during the arrest and the fact that Trinidad arrived at the scene and struck the front of Jeter’s car set the stage for the violent confrontation that followed. According to reports, Trinidad was not involved in the events that prompted the stop of Jeter’s vehicle to start with, Courter and Sutterlin had responded earlier to a domestic-related call at Jeter’s house. While the initial stop seems justified, the subsequent conduct of the officers was not it seems. Citizens from across the nation have complained for years about false arrests and overly aggressive conduct on the part of cops. Although much of the attention has recently been directed towards black people and white cops, complaints from a broad spectrum of races have been registered through the years. Jurors who are often sympathetic, or biased, in favor of law enforcement, have been reluctant to believe defendants at trials allowing the unprofessional (and often, criminal) behavior of the police to go unchecked. Who are you going to believe, the uniformed cop, or the defendant? That is why prosecutors regularly have their police witnesses testify in full uniform. With the advance of videos, particularly those held by bystanders, the tide has changed. It has been said that police officers should be firefighters, and firefighters police officers—the latter being both helpful and compassionate. Without question, wholesale changes in police academies need to be made. Cops need to be less aggressive and not assume that all citizens are out there to attack or shoot them; that default disposition has run the course. Of course, there are times when the police need to be aggressive, and in many instances, they do put their lives on the line for the public, and for that, many people thank them. But the new millennium has brought with it added vigilance and fresh concerns about the interactions between the police and the citizens. Police departments are being forced to adjust to these differences, but a willingness on their part to make, or even initiate, transparent internal changes is critical—matters can only get worse. There had to be several ways in which the Jeter issue could have been defused, angry and criminal confrontation was not the wise choice. Abandonment of duty is also not acceptable; the nation cannot long afford to have certain areas go without police presence. The answer appears to start with the premise that compassionate, fair and empathetic candidates need to be sought after in police academies.