Controversy Erupts Over Arrests of Local Law Enforcement Reform Advocate
A controversy has erupted over the arrest of an activist — Jose LaSalle, the leader of the group Cop Watch Patrol, which videotapes police actions. This after Police Commissioner Bill Bratton lashed out LaSalle, saying he has no legitimate followers. NY1 Criminal Justice Reporter Dean Meminger has the story.
Jose LaSalle says officers unfairly arrested him twice in 24 hours earlier this month in the South Bronx. He says they are trying to hit him with trumped up charges. LaSalle says it is all because he and his group Cop Watch Patrol Unit are constantly videotaping police actions. And he says officers haven't returned two of his phones.
"I want to know what they are investigating that they need to keep my phones," LaSalle said.
LaSalle says he believes officers from PSA 7 in the Housing Bureau are trying to destroy recordings of cops cheering his arrest for what the cops called a felony.
"They all started clapping and saying 'Yes! We got him!' and they were congratulating officers saying 'We got LaSalle. You know who you have? We got you now LaSalle, for a felony.'"
He says he was initially documenting what he called cops stopping and frisking people in a public housing development. He says cops then arrested him and hours later let him go.
The NYPD says it charged the Cop Watch member with illegally possessing a radio that could transmit over police frequencies. LaSalle says it was only a two-way radio.
"When the desk sergeant grabbed the two way receiver radio, he was like 'Oh is this a scanner,' I said no this is a two way receiver radio where I communicate with my other Cop Watch. He said 'Oh, no this is a scanner and he said it transmits.'"
The Bronx DA declined to prosecute, but a short time later cops showed up at a diner on 161st Street and re-arrested LaSalle talking about his cell phone.
The NYPD says after discussing the case further with the District Attorney, the DA agreed to prosecute and LaSalle had to be arrested again.
Outside of Police Headquarters Tuesday, members of Cop Watch say people are often targeted for videotaping police.
"We are the ones who need to have the power and access to footage more and more," said one.
And they say they will continue to document police actions and fight the NYPD in court.