By JOLEEN FERRIS
The Utica Phoenix, a local weekly newspaper has posted on its website what appears to be an incriminating video, one minute and 40 seconds in length, featuring Utica Police Officers placing baggies, possibly filled with drugs, in the vehicle of a person they pulled over for running a stop sign.
The 1:40 portion of the video being shown on social media sites on the internet shows a Utica Police officer taking a baggie from his pocket and putting it, apparently, on the seat of the vehicle he’d just pulled over. Earlier in the video, in a portion not shown on all the social media sites, the officer’s empty hand can be seen going in the driver’s jacket pocket, pulling out a baggie. Utica Police Chief Mark Williams says the matter was thoroughly investigated.
“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,” says Chief Williams.
Utica Phoenix Publisher and community activist Cassandra Harris-Lockwood put that 1:40 long snippet of video on the paper’s website. It got so many hits-around 64 thousand in less than 24 hours-that it crashed the site. Lockwood has questions about the behavior of Utica Police during the traffic stop.
“Did they follow procedures? If you take something from a suspect, do you put in back in your own pocket?”,,,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,” says Lockwood.
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 a outdoor traffic stop in freezing cold temperatures in their pockets for a few seconds.
Chief Williams questions why the officers would plant evidence knowing they were being recorded on video.
“It’s his car. He’s the one that’s turned that camera on. He should be fully aware that the camera is likely going to catch anything that’s going on in front of him,” says Williams.
The chief says he would be the last one defending officers who would plant drugs.
“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,” says Williams.
Officials with the local NAACP chapter brought the video to the attention of police, who were already aware of it. The police chief says he’s reached out to Venice Ervin of the NAACP regarding the outcome of the internal investigation and is waiting to hear back from him. Utica Police say they met with the FBI about the case this morning and were asked to keep them updated on the investigation and official outcome.