Cop in Paterson, NJ caught on film breaking into someone’s car & doing illegal search. Then tries to walk away when approached about it. Wow pic.twitter.com/7yHvhyopOP
— zellie (@zellieimani) July 14, 2017
A video making its way across social media has a sheriff’s office in New Jersey struggling to provide answers after an officer was accused of an unlawful search.
In the video, an unidentified man comes across a plainclothes, man-bunned officer with the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office whose hands are busy doing something behind a tire in the back of the man’s minivan.
The man confronts the red-shirted officer, who is wearing gloves, demanding to know why the police felt it necessary to break into his van. He says:
“Yo, fuck is you doing, yo? What the fuck is you doing? What is you in my van for?…What is you in my car for when I’m sitting down eating with my family?”
The officer hurriedly walks away, ditching the gloves as the man continues to question the circumstances he was luckily able to catch on video. Undeterred by the officer’s stonewalling, the man asserts his rights, demanding the officer’s name and badge number.
At one point, the officer offers a response, saying that his office has been getting “a lot of complaints about guns”. Generally speaking, complaints about guns don’t allow police to break into people’s property without a warrant. At no point in the video does the officer supply a reason for accessing the interior of the man’s vehicle. Nor does he state that he has a warrant. A warrantless search is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
As the man continues to press the officer about how he gained access to the minivan’s trunk, the officer replies that it was unlocked.
A former police official, speaking with the Paterson Times, did mention the “plain view doctrine” in an attempt to explain. The doctrine allows police to conduct a warrantless search when contraband is apparent and in plain view. A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office said that the matter has been referred to the prosecutor’s office for a independent review.
During the video, the officer repeatedly attempts to get the man to follow him towards what appears to be a police pow-wow of sorts. The man refuses, instead opting to film the license plates of the police vehicles in the area as a uniformed officer walks out to meet the plainclothes, man-bunned culprit.
The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office is currently investigating while the Paterson Police Department has sought to make it clear that the officer does not work for them.
[image via screengrab; video courtesy Media Take Out/Twitter]