By NATHANIEL DEPAUL and M. FRANCIS MIRRO
“Have you seen ‘the video’ yet?”
UAlbany campus students are buzzing about the police take-down in the campus center last week.
Upon first watching the video, it seems that last Tuesday evening a black man was forced to the ground by five University PD officers and handcuffed.
The video was posted on the Instagram account @aitdatua, and it originally misidentified the individual as a university student. The video racked up 17 thousand views and 500 comments.
During the arrest, people were shouting things like, “it’s one kid,” and “four people to one man down.”
However, the short video does not show the context of the confrontation before the individual was on the ground and an abrupt cutoff leaves more questions than answers.
WHAT UNIVERSITY POLICE SAY
The University Police Department’s Assistant Chief of Police Aran C. Mull says that the individual dropped to the floor purposely, placing his arms across his chest and falling to the ground in an effort to resist arrest.
Mull says the man was not tacked or taken down as it may have appeared in the video.
“There was an employee who reported that they were threatened,” Mull said. “When we went to talk with the employee, they pointed out the individual, and there were some other people with him.”
While the officers were talking to the employee who called them in, the individual, who has not been officially identified, tried once again to engage with the employee, according to Mull.
“The officers began talking with him, and he gave them an entirely fictitious name and identification,” Mull said. “The officer warned him, ‘if you give us false information, you’re subject to arrest, so before I run this, is it accurate?’ He answered yes, which turned out not to be correct.”
With the information confirmed to be false, the officers went to effect the arrest in order to “stabilize the situation” according to Mull.
“At this point there were eight or so folks in this person’s party, and the officers wanted a much more even footing,” said Mull.
So they called for backup.
“Our training to officers says to use the least amount of force as possible, and if you just crowd a bunch of bodies around somebody, they can’t swing or kick,” said Mull, clarifying on the much talked about imbalance of officers to suspect. “We teach them, literally, one (officer) on each leg, one on each arm, and once you have control of the person, they can’t hurt you, and you as the officer are much less likely to hurt them.”
According to Mull, the minute the handcuffs were secured, “the two guys on the legs came off, and the two guys on the arms picked him up.”
It’s at this point that the highly shared video ends.
“What [the officers] are doing is highly consistent with policy and training, and now what we’re doing is following up on that accountability, that is one of the pillars of 21st century policing,” said Mull.
UPD’s account is, according to Mull, corroborated by cameras in the building and on the officers.
A protest was staged on Friday. It began with a group of around 40 people at University Hall and gained momentum as they marched across campus.
“This was organized by a group of five black women who came together because the recent incident opened up a larger conversation about police brutality and racial issues on campus,” an organizer said, who asked not to be named.
The protestors produced a list of demands to university officials, including more transparency around UPD’s racial bias/equal protection/de-escalation training, more opportunity for students to join police oversight committee’s on campus, and more mental health resources for marginalized students.
The organizers have also created a survey open to anyone on campus to provide their thoughts on campus police and the university’s overall administration.
WHAT’S HAPPENS NEXT?
Once the internal police department review of this incident is completed, it will be turned over to the University’s own Independent Review Committee (IRC).
The IRC, according to the University’s website, is charged with acting as an independent body to scrutinize complaints against university police officers.
Students, faculty and staff may all serve on the IRC for several year-terms, something pointed out by both UPD on their Twitter page and by the protestors.
“The IRC has always had a problem with keeping students on the committee,” Mull said. “One of the silver linings in this incident is, due to the energy around it, is that more students will come forward and serve on the IRC.”
The protest’s organizers worked with administrators and helped to organize an open forum with University officials and UPD on November 13th in the Campus Center Ballroom from 11 AM to 4 PM.
The NAACP chapter on campus is taking an active role in promoting the town hall and encouraging action, publicized in a statement released on November 7th.
The protestors want to make it clear that this specific incident is not the cornerstone of their movement.
“When you learn about the actual facts of the case, you understand that there’s more to it than what you saw (in the video), but thats was what was publicized,” the organizer said. “But, the conversation that erupted from that incident, about police brutality as a whole against the black community, was not solely based on that case.”
It is unclear at this time whether or not the body-cam footage of the officers will be released.
It is not known when students can expect a conclusion of both reviews by the IRC and the police department itself.