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Unpacking the footage that fuels crime-wave narratives
Welcome back! Let’s jump right in. Sometimes I have to ruminate long and hard on what to write about in this newsletter, but sometimes I get lucky, and the subject matter just strolls up to me and slaps me in the face—or taps me on the head with a weird, skinny pole.
That’s right: this edition, we’re talking about a couple pieces of eyebrow-raising “rise in crime” Twitter content from the New York City Police Department’s Detectives' Endowment Association.
Here’s Exhibit A:
I confidently declared the above footage “fake” this morning on Twitter. I’m a little less firm in that assessment now, but mostly because I don’t speak Chinese—I’ll explain later, I swear!
First thing’s first: you’ve probably never heard of the Detectives’ Endowment Association before (unless you’re a cop). It’s one of three major police unions in NYC, the other two being the New York City Police Benevolent Association and the Sergeants Benevolent Association. All of these organizations are very bad in their own way—think of each one as a different short, angry, racist guy who spits when he yells and lives in your building and is constantly threatening legal action against you because he feels like you’re cooking at him. (The building is New York City, in this metaphor. Whatever.) These three horrible guys, our irate and mewling cop unions, all pretty much want the same things—attention, impunity, power, control, subservience, adulation—but each one has a sliiiightly different strategy for getting it.
Here’s my rough assessment: The NYC PBA is the oldest organization and has the biggest membership, with over 23,000 members as of 2017. As such, the NYC PBA is able to generate news coverage for the things it actually does, like filing a steady stream of pro-cop violence lawsuits or endorsing Donald Trump in 2020. The SBA is the smallest, with 11,000 members, and the best at grabbing press attention and getting quoted, probably because its president Ed Mullins uses its Twitter account to do shit like declare “war” on Bill de Blasio and post the mayor’s daughter’s arrest records and will seemingly give quotes to anyone who asks. Meanwhile the DEA, last clocked at more than 17,000 members in 2013, seems to have found its own niche: flashy, scary, narrative-boosting, headline-making footage of the everyday dangers of policing.
That brings us back to the video above, which seems to show a police detective getting randomly (if kind of… gently) attacked by someone in broad daylight, while he writes some stuff down on a clipboard. A little play-by-play of the DEA’s footage: first, the bonk happens. Then cop falls to the ground, clutching his head, as the person who hit him practically skips backwards, keeping his eyes on the cop. He only turns and runs when he sees other cops in pursuit, slowly at first, and then quickly as a pair of them begin to give chase. The video ends with the bonked detective, kneeling, making doleful eye contact with the camera as if to say, per the DEA’s own caption: Welcome to NYC!
The whole thing looks, to be blunt, staged as fuck. Who would film a cop just writing some shit on a clipboard? Why is the assailant dressed like that? Why don’t the cops who chase him down draw their guns or react more aggressively? But a later DEA tweet actually clarified a lot of the above and took it from straight-up hoax territory to the “Fuck, I think someone may have received a casual $100 somewhere in the creation of this footage” zone.
Basically, it seems like the DEA clip was cut from Chinese language news outlet SinoVision’s original footage, likely at the DEA’s request. You can watch the full clip here. Ironically, the fuller version of the video includes a lot of context that would have made the clip that the DEA posted originally look way less fucking stupid—the most important addition being shots of a pharmacy break-in the assailed was investigating (which actually makes the presence of a camera crew plausible in the first place).
Still, if I may engage some light conspiratorial thought (because I’m just writing this on my little Substack and can’t get sued ***as far as I know***)… I’m going to speculate! I wonder if, on top of reportedly being mentally ill and almost non-verbal, the alleged assailant in this situation might have been encouraged to interact with the NYPD officer while he was in front of the camera? Maybe with the promise of some compensation, maybe without being informed of potential bad consequences? I wonder if cops on the scene had noticed the alleged assailant prior to filmed encounter and harassed him off camera? I wonder if the people behind the camera were told to start filming if, just by any wild coincidence, something *else* were to happen at this active crime scene? I just really, really, really wonder what we’re not seeing, based on what we can see here.
Ultimately, though, I have no inside knowledge of this situation—plus, to be frank, I’m missing some serious context because I don’t speak Chinese, which means I cant understand anything the SinoVision anchor says on the original footage. (Anyone reading this know Chinese? Hit me up on Twitter or via Protonmail!)
But something else that raises my hackles about this video—something besides the NYPD’s history of making up threats and posting about them on social media, and the general cop trend making up threats and posting them on social media and, I don’t know, the fact that cops lie constantly on and offline—is another video, posted by the DEA Twitter account on April 17:
Look at the caption and then watch the clip—they don’t match. At all. The approximate description of the incident and the video are both pulled from the NYPD’s official Twitter account, but the DEA’s tweet has more engagement. That might be because it makes a pretty big promise: “shocking” footage, cops “attacked with Molotov cocktails.” What actually gets caught on the body cam? A man bolts out of his car during a traffic stop and seemingly throws a cup of ice water, or maybe another clear soft drink, on his way out. The drenched officer curses and runs back towards his car, as an unaffected cop asks “What is it? What did he do?” Notably, the camera cuts before an explosives are tossed or any chemical compounds confirmed—all we actually see thrown is a single cup of liquid.
A tweet lower down the thread talks about a lit Molotov cocktail, with several others apparently discovered at the scene, but the attached photo reveals… half a bottle and a dry sock nestled between the windshield and the hood of an obscured vehicle.
Huh? Where’s the cocktail? I will let a few people who don’t tweet using their real names and/or faces sum up my opinion here:
At the end of the day, though, you and me and our fellow skeptics aren’t the loudest voices in the room, even if we’re the loudest people on Twitter.
Both alleged assailants in the footage above have been apprehended and are currently incarcerated—the man accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail is facing federal charges. Both appear to be mentally ill Black men experiencing homelessness, making them particularly vulnerable to police violence, state violence, and to the kind of accusations currently being leveled at them. And both cases have been covered repeatedly by the Daily Mail, the New York Post, TMZ, Fox News, New York Daily News, CBS New York, virtually guaranteeing they’ll be included in any future narratives about a rising, unquenchable tide of crime in New York City that only the bravest, best cops in the world are equipped to handle—whether or not the attacks are even real in the first place.
Blocked and Reported
I haven’t knocked this out in WAY too long, but here’s the latest in cops felled in the line of duty by their own insatiable need to post.
In a March 26 update on an incident ACAP first touched on back in October 2020, an investigation into San Diego PD officer Jonathan Lucas found that he posted “offensive” content when he literally mocked the memorial for a man who he killed on duty on his Instagram story. No fucking shit! What does that finding actually mean, though? Per the LA Times, “during the start of the investigation, Lucas was suspended without pay and forced to turn over his department-issued gun and badge. As of last week, Lucas was back at work, assigned to desk duties, with his police powers still revoked,” per a department spox. Wow! The system in action.
On March 29, San Jose Police Department officer Todd Cleaver retired after the department launched an investigation into transphobic Facebook posts he made about a Biden appointee.
On April 21, an anonymous officer tasked with posting to the Fall River County Police Department’s Facebook page in Fall River, Massachusetts, was reassigned after reposting a meme comparing Derek Chauvin’s behavior after his trial to George Floyd’s behavior while he was getting murdered.
As of April 26, an anonymous officer with the Bedford Police Department in Bedford, New Hampshire is “off the job” after mocking police reform efforts on TikTok and filming videos while on duty. Another one!
Questions, comments, corrections? (“You don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer” is not a correction.) Shoot me an email at email@example.com, send “business” “inquiries” to firstname.lastname@example.org, or DM me on Twitter.