Transcript

Taya Graham: Hello, my name is Taya Graham and welcome to The Police Accountability Report. As I always make clear, this show has a single purpose: Holding the politically powerful institution of policing accountable. And to do so, we don’t just focus on the bad behavior of individual cops. Instead, we examine the system that makes bad policing possible. And to do so today, we’re going to focus on the arrest of a viewer who sent us this video that is so disturbing, we felt like we had to devote an entire show to it.

But before we get started, I want you watching to note, that if you have evidence of police misconduct, please email it to us privately at PAR@therealnews.com, and we might be able to investigate for you. And of course you can always message me directly @TayasBaltimore on Facebook or Twitter. And please like share and comment on our videos. It really does help us and you know, I read your comments. And if you can, hit our Patreon donate link pinned in the comments below because we do have some special goodies for our Patreon family.

Okay. Now, that’s out of the way. Now, as you know, on this show, we encourage people to share their stories of police misconduct. The idea, is that if we do thorough and detailed reporting on stories for them, then perhaps we can hold some bad cops accountable in the process. That’s why when we received this video, we paid attention and decided to focus our efforts on it. As you can see here, it’s a video of a car stop of a Los Angeles resident, Daniel Alvarez, in January of 2020. He had just pulled out of his own driveway, when a Los Angeles sheriff pulled him over and began questioning him. Let’s listen and watch.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

Daniel Alvarez: No, you didn’t. What are you stopping me for?

Police: You’re more than welcome to record. But I-

Daniel Alvarez: You’ve seen me at my house, get in the car, and then you turned around and chased me down. I didn’t break any laws.

Police: Okay, but I’m telling you, you did. If I want to write you a ticket for that, the court can settle it.

Daniel Alvarez: I didn’t stop over nothing. I stopped at the stop sign.

Police: Do you have ID?

Daniel Alvarez: Turned left. Huh?

Police: Do you have ID?

Daniel Alvarez: Yeah, I have an ID.

Police: Okay, where’s your ID?

Daniel Alvarez: For what? What are you stopping me for?

Police: I’m stopping you for-

Daniel Alvarez: No, you’re stopping me cause you’ve seen what I look like.

Police: All right, don’t reach for anything.

Daniel Alvarez: You want my ID, right?

Police: Did I tell you to reach for it? I asked you if you had your ID.

Daniel Alvarez: You want my ID. That’s what you’re asking for, right?

Police: So, now you don’t have any ID?

Daniel Alvarez: You can put your gun away.

Police: Okay, step out of the vehicle.

Speaker: That’s annoying.

Daniel Alvarez: You’re stopping me cause you want to see what I look like. Be a man and say what you’re stopping me for, then.

Police: I already did. It’s [crosstalk 00:02:14]…

Daniel Alvarez: I didn’t break no law.

Police: And everything. All right.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

Taya Graham: Now, as you can hear, the officer claims Daniel rolled past the line that preceded a stop sign. Okay. Not that he ran the stop sign, mind you, but simply that he didn’t stop far enough ahead of the sign. Then, as Daniel reaches for his wallet at the request of the officer, something occurs off camera that’s not just alarming, but terrifying. I’ll let Daniel explain, as we watch the video.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

Daniel Alvarez: Stopped at the stop sign-

Police: Do you have ID?

Daniel Alvarez: Turned left. Huh?

Police: Do you have ID?

Daniel Alvarez: Yeah, I have an ID.

Police: Okay, where’s your ID?

Daniel Alvarez: For what? What are you stopping me for?

Police: I’m stopping you for-

Daniel Alvarez: No, you’re stopping me cause you’ve seen what I look like.

Police: All right, don’t reach for anything.

Daniel Alvarez: You want my ID, right?

Police: Did I tell you to reach for it? I asked you if you had your ID.

Daniel Alvarez: You want my ID. That’s what you’re asking for, right?

Police: So, now you don’t have any ID?

Daniel Alvarez: You can put your gun away.

Police: Okay, step out of the vehicle.

Speaker: That’s annoying.

Daniel Alvarez: You’re stopping me cause you want to see what I look like. Be a man and say what you’re stopping me for, then.

Police: I already did. It’s [crosstalk 00:03:08]…

Daniel Alvarez: I didn’t break no law.

Police: And everything. All right.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

Taya Graham: Now, besides the fact that the officer clearly did not have probable cause to stop Daniel, the officer placed him in handcuffs. The officer then escorts him to the side of the vehicle, where if you listen closely, he makes remarks that clearly prove that Daniel is profiled. Let’s listen, and as we do, we’ll let Daniel tell us the rest.

Daniel Alvarez: He drove by my house and he seen me taking some stuff out of my car. I was getting ready to go eat, and he kind of pulled up and started throwing his head up and his hands up at me. And I just didn’t really acknowledge him because I thought, well, that’s kind of unprofessional. And I kind of shook my head and kept doing what I was doing. And then about 10 minutes later, I left and he was waiting for me at the corner.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

Police: You for-

Daniel Alvarez: No, you’re stopping me cause you’ve seen what I look like.

Police: All right, don’t reach for anything.

Daniel Alvarez: You want my ID, right?

Police: But did I t-

Daniel Alvarez: He asked me for my ID, and so when I went to get my ID, he instantly pulled this gun out and he was a little bit out of view and he pointed it right at my face. So, I was like, oh, okay, wait a minute. I just thought it was a little bit overkill for supposedly running a stop sign.

Daniel Alvarez: First you drive by and try to throw your head up at me.

Police: Put your hands together.

Daniel Alvarez: My hands are together.

Police: So, I can’t say hi now?

[END VIDEO CLIP]

Taya Graham: But the police are not done yet. As you can see in this video, as they are busy, trying to conjure up a reason to arrest Daniel, they decide then to detain and charge his passenger. Let’s watch, and as we do, let Daniel tell us what happened and why.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

Police: Off the phone.

Speaker: I’m talking to his mom.

Police: Okay, off the phone.

Speaker: This is ridiculous.

Police: Okay, here.

Speaker: What? Why do I have to get… No, you have no reason to get my phone.

Police: I’m not stopping your recording or anything. I do, all right?

Speaker: We didn’t even do anything.

Police: All right, step out of the vehicle.

Speaker: What is this for?

Police: Cause you’re [inaudible 00:04:55]. Don’t reach for anything.

Speaker: So what? I’m fucking… Stop! What the fuck are you doing?

Police: I said, don’t reach for anything.

Speaker: Oh my god, I’m closing my fucking purse!

Police: We’re okay, we’re okay, we’re okay, we’re okay.

Speaker: What the fuck is all this?

Police: She tried to reach for something in her purse.

Speaker: Oh my god, I was closing my fucking purse!

Police: I told you not to reach for anything.

Speaker: You guys are ridiculous.

Police: What’d I do?

Speaker: You’re over-exaggerating over nothing.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

Daniel Alvarez: And I think when he walked up and seen her recording, right away, it irritated him. Cause he was like, “Oh, you can record,” but he really was irritated that she was recording. And then they ended up yanking her out of the car and slamming her on the ground and saying that she was… I forget the word that they use, but that she was basically obstructing his stop. But they didn’t know that when they took her out of the car, that the phone was still filming, and so they made a couple comments. If you turn the volume up and listen real close, you can hear what they said, and then they shut the phone off.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

Other police: These were law abiding citizens.

Police: Fuck that guy.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

Taya Graham: Now, before we talk to Daniel, not just about this encounter and what happened afterwards, I’m joined by my reporting partner, Stephen Janis, who has been following up on the story. Steven, thank you so much for joining me.

Stephen Janis: Taya, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Taya Graham: So, Stephen first, what questions did you have for the sheriff?

Stephen Janis: Well, I asked a series of questions. Number one, use of force. The officer drew his weapon. That’s a use of force. Did he file a report? And does that jive with the policies? I also talked about probable cause. Is it okay for him to profile people or to just stop people randomly for the way they look? And then I also asked them about some of the circumstances surrounding the stop itself and also the passenger. What happened to the pastor? Why was the passenger arrested? All these questions, I outlined in the email that I sent to the LA County Sheriff and I was awaiting an answer.

Taya Graham: So they sent you on kind of a wild goose chase. Can you tell us about that?

Stephen Janis: Yeah, well I sent this to the PIO, which let me say right now, the Sheriff’s department in LA has like dozens of PIOs, look at their website. I sent it to the PIO for a response from the Sheriff’s department, they sent us to the Watch Captain of the Lancaster department where this sheriff actually works, who could not answer our questions, was completely flummoxed. So instead of all these people that they’re paying millions of dollars to answer a question from the press, they send us on a wild goose chase.

Taya Graham: Now, we’ve talked about the theory that police fabricate order, but as you’ve also noticed in cases like this, it appears police fabricate disorder. Can you talk about how this applies in this case?

Stephen Janis: I think when you look at these kinds of cases, it’s purely about causing chaos in people’s lives. There’s no obvious law enforcement objective or goal. You’re not preventing crime, you’re trying to make people insecure in their place, you’re probably make people insecure in their cars and insecure in their person. That’s what this is about. Sewing disorder. That’s it.

Taya Graham: And now, to discuss what happened after his encounter with the cops and how their continued harassment has affected his life, I’m joined by Daniel Alvarez. Daniel, thank you so much for joining us.

Daniel Alvarez: Absolutely, thank you for having me.

Taya Graham: So first, tell us how this began. When did the officer approach you?

Daniel Alvarez: He drove by my house and he’d seen me taking some stuff out of my car. I was getting ready to go eat, and he pulled up and started throwing his head up and his hands up at me. And I kind of just didn’t really acknowledge him because I thought, well, that’s kind of unprofessional. And I kind of shook my head and kept doing what I was doing. And then about 10 minutes later, I left and he was waiting for me at the corner.

Taya Graham: So what did the officer say that made you question the legality of this stop?

Daniel Alvarez: I asked him what he stopped me for, and he said I ran a stop sign. But on that street, there is no stop sign. That’s why I laughed and said, there’s no way that I could have ran a stop sign. And then I got a little bit irritated, so I told him, you pulled me over because you’ve seen what I look like when you drove by my house and threw your head up at me. And he said, “Yeah, I just said hi.” But he asked me for my ID, and so when I went to get my ID, he instantly pulled his gun out, and he was a little bit out of view, and he pointed it right at my face. That’s why I was like, oh, okay, wait a minute. I just thought it was a little bit overkill for supposedly running a stop sign.

Taya Graham: Do you feel like you were being profiled?

Daniel Alvarez: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Taya Graham: So what happened to the woman sitting next to you?

Daniel Alvarez: So it was actually her birthday and we were going to eat. And I had told her in the car, I said, I think he’s waiting down the street. But I wasn’t doing anything wrong, so I told her if he does happen to pull us over, just record them so that we’re all accountable and safe. So as soon as we hit the corner, I see him and then she was already turning her phone on. And I think when he walked up and seen her recording, right away, it irritated him because he was like, “Oh, you can record.” But he really was irritated that she was recording. And then they ended up yanking her out of the car and slamming her on the ground and saying that she was… I forget the word that they used, but that she was basically obstructing his stop.

But they didn’t know that when they took her out of the car, that the phone was still filming, and so they made a couple of comments. If you turn the volume up and listen real close, you can hear what they said. And then they shut the phone off. I think he was mocking me because when he took me out of the car, he said, “Are you on probation? Are you on parole, guns, drugs, anything?” And I told him, no, I’m just, just a law abiding citizen. I ain’t doing nothing. And he was mocking me to the other cop, “Ah, this fucking law abiding citizen.” And then, I think they realized that the phone was on and they shut the phone off.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

Other police: These were law abiding citizens.

Police: Fuck that guy.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

Daniel Alvarez: They told me that they wouldn’t take me to jail if I gave him access to her phone and let them delete the video. And then they brought the Sergeant, and the Sergeant started filming me. And then he said, “I’m going to film you for whatever investigation,” I said, that’s fine. And then he said, “Will you let us get into her phone and erase the video? We’ll let you go.” And I told him, I don’t have the password to her phone. I don’t have any access to her phone, it’s not my phone. And she wasn’t going to give it to them cause she was already mad that they were taking her to jail. So first at the substation, everything they were telling her, “Give us the password to your phone, we’ll let you go.” But we just kept saying, we didn’t know it.

Taya Graham: Have You filed a complaint against the officer, and what have you found out about him?

Daniel Alvarez: So I did file a complaint because my true thoughts from when he drove by my house and he seen me, he stopped and I perceived him as a gang member, the way he stopped. The way he was throwing his head up, throwing his hands up. And I thought, well, that’s usually what gang members usually do to each other. So I shook my head and I think that really made him mad when I shook my head. But I was like, this is really unprofessional for a cop, but I just shook my head and I was like, I’m going to go about my business. But I think that is what really made him mad, that I didn’t engage in any of his…

So I went to the commissioner and I filed a report to the commissioner because I didn’t feel like if I went to the Sheriff’s station, they won’t do anything about it. So I filed a complaint with the commissioner and I gave him the video. And then the lieutenant contacted me and asked me if he could basically see the video and I told him, yeah, you could see it, the commissioner has it. Don’t contact me, contact the commissioner, he’ll give you everything that you need.

But I just felt how fast he went from me, supposedly running a stop sign that didn’t exist, to him pulling a gun on me and then taking me out of the car, searching my car. I know that he knew cause he even said afterwards, when they let me go, he said, “I was 100% sure that you had a gun or dope in the car.” And I asked him why, and he said, “Because of the way that you look,” and I told him, you’re crazy. So I know what he was doing. He knew what he was doing too, but I don’t live like that. So he didn’t find what he thought he was going to find.

Taya Graham: Are you concerned about retaliation from this officer and have you continued to be harassed in any way by police?

Daniel Alvarez: Probably within three days, they started going by my house a lot. And then I was pulled over three days later. And then the cop said, “Well, I’ll take you to jail for assault on an officer.” And I was like, I haven’t even moved out of my car. And I knew then, okay, now they’re really harassing me. So I just said, okay, whatever you guys want to do. I’m not doing anything. Luckily, there was a bunch of people in the gas station that were watching. And so they were a little bit, trying to intimidate me, but they were kind of knew that a lot of people were watching.

And then about a month later, I was at my mom’s work and they know my car, so they seen me, they all pulled to the side. I seen them lined up and I thought, that’s weird. There’s a lot of them. What are they doing? And I told my mom, okay, I love you. I’m going to go home, I’ll see you later. And I left her work. And as soon as I left her work, a bunch of them pulled in behind me, they pulled me over. So my mom had seen, so she came out there and started filming and then she called my sister and then they said, “We know that you’re drunk.” And I was like, I’m not, I don’t even drink or nothing. So I did 10 field sobriety tests for them probably for about an hour and a half. And then I kept passing every single one.

Finally, I said, I want your guys’ lieutenant here because at the first stop, there was about 12 of them that showed up. And then at this stop, there were all the same guys except for the cop that initiated it. And I told them, you guys are only doing this because I made a complaint on your partner. And they were like, “We don’t care, we’re taking you to jail, we’re going to impound your car. We’re going to do this every single time we see you,” so I said, okay, that’s fine. Impound it, take me to jail. I’ll bail myself out because I’m not doing anything wrong. So my sister and my mom tried to sneakily film them. And then basically after like 12 field sobriety tests, they said, “Okay, we’re taking you to jail,” and then I said, okay. And then on the way to jail, I told them, so what is this now? And they said, “We’re just going to take you to jail, charge you with a DUI.”

And I told him, no way, I want my blood taken. You need to take my blood because now you’re just trying to take me to jail, saying that I’m under the influence. So then they started talking and I said, I want my blood taken. So then finally I made a big enough deal about it, that they took me to the hospital, had my blood taken and then took me to jail. And I asked the Sergeant and the cop that arrested me, I said, do you guys think that I’m under the influence? And they said, no, we don’t think you’re under the influence but you pissed somebody off. And I said, so then what kind of sergeant are you if you’re going along with it? And he was like, “Well, you’re going to jail.” And I was like, oh, okay, as long as we’re both aware of why you’re doing it.

I got a DUI, but I wasn’t under the influence of anything. I don’t drink, do any drugs, so I had to wait about, maybe three months before the… Because you know, the DMV sent me a bunch of stuff saying that my license was a restricted license, and that I had to wait for the court. The DA sent me a letter saying, we’ve got your blood results back. It was negative. So we’re not pursuing any charges. So I had to show that letter to the DMV, and then I made a complaint about all of them, that they were all there in the first stop. They were all there in the second stop. And that I told the commissioner what they said in the third stop about not caring, that they knew, they didn’t care, that I had made somebody mad so I was going to jail for DUI. And then they sent me a letter about all three of them saying, “Okay, we reprimanded the sergeant. He should have acted different.” But then again, what is a reprimand?

Taya Graham: What would you like to see change in the criminal justice system?

Daniel Alvarez: I feel like they shouldn’t be able to drive down the street and look and see if you’re Black or Brown, turn around and stop you. Search your car, basically you have no rights to anything, treat you any way you want. Puts in the back of their car for an hour in super tight handcuffs. And when they figure out you’re doing nothing, okay, now you can go when we’re done with you, but yet they really had no reason to stop you. I believe there should be accountability from higher up on how they’re allowed to pull you over. If you’re walking down the street and they’re driving and they see you’re Hispanic or Black, and you’re on the street, so I’m going to stop you and search you and hold you for an hour. There was never any crime committed. Nobody ever said you were doing something wrong, we just want to know what you’re doing, so we’re going to harass you. So I think from a higher level, it could be changed.

Taya Graham: I think Daniel’s predicament evokes a metaphor that might provide some worthwhile context. It’s something less tangible than questioning an arrest or tactics, or even the behavior of an individual officer. What I’m talking about, here, is that police don’t just limit our rights like in Daniel’s case. In a certain sense, they hoard our freedom. In other words, by constricting our own rights to be free from the unjust constraints and overbearing laws, they accumulate more freedom for themselves. It’s like the bubble of injustice that envelops us, liberating them from all the hardships we face living in this winner-take-all capitalism-infused lottery called The American Dream.

Let’s remember as our past investigations have revealed, lifetime police pensions are far more generous in social security and are bankrupting American cities. Police for example, are usually given lifetime health benefits. And in our own city of Baltimore, perks like take home cars with free gas so they can commute to and from work, are the rule rather than the exception.

And then there is the constant stream of propaganda and constant adulation from Hollywood that depicts policing as an epic battle between good and bad, and right and wrong. In those tales, the cops are always rendered as complex and nuanced beings. Meanwhile, criminals and the rest of us are simplistic, unworthy or just plain evil.

I think the best way to understand what I’m talking about is to think about the psychology of the arrest. We just saw how police can use even the flimsiest pre-text to literally consume our most valuable resource, our freedom. It shows how a cop with the full backing of the government and the media set off a chain of events that conspired to turn a casual drive on a date, into forced conscription into the social vacuum of eternal criminality.

What do I mean? Well, consider a book Stephen wrote almost a decade ago when he was covering the Baltimore version of this idea. Back in the aughts, the city arrested over 100,000 people a year, under the auspices of a policy called zero tolerance. It was an idea that even the pettiest of infractions like spitting on a sidewalk, or drinking a beer on your front porch warranted jail time. Stephen had written tons of stories about it, but because the people most affected were either poor or Black, the problem was basically ignored.

We talked a great deal about the way he could convey just how horrible this wielding of police power was for the people subject to it. Eventually he decided to write a book that used a metaphor to explain not just the concept of incarcerating everyone, but how it affected the community’s perception of itself through the psychology of ubiquitous and arbitrary power. The result is a book called, This Dream Called Death. In it, Stephen explores a fictional city called Balaise, and the efforts of city leaders to crack down on the citizenry. In this alternate universe, though, there are no police and control is not focused solely on bodies. Instead, a devious mayor decides that power lies in policing people’s minds, but not just their thoughts or emotions. No, this crackdown focused on people’s dreams, literally their unconscious thoughts.

It’s a surreal, fictional take on policing, but I think it’s instructive because besides the actual emotional fear and the lost sense of agency that comes with the rest like Daniel’s, there is a psychological effect that gets less attention, but is just as important. By arbitrarily constraining Daniel’s ability to move freely, is sense of self is also altered. It’s like the capacity of his individuality is drained away through psychological restraint. A sense that what you can and cannot do, is limited by an arbitrary force that ultimately conspires to impose fabricated limitations, not just on your body, but your mind as well.

These are the unseen consequences of, for lack of a better term, fabricated arrests, a method that does deep and lasting harm to an individual that is simply ignored. I mean, think about it, when someone is falsely detained or illegally incarcerated, does anyone recommend or advocate for counseling or for trauma therapy? Is there any law or bill or proposal from the carceral state that calls for recognition of these atrocities and the healing that only comes with truth. Well, there isn’t. And I think that’s purposeful. I think that any recognition of the deep psychological harm caused by illegal arrest and arbitrary detainment would claw back the ugly psychological imperative of our law enforcement industrial complex. I think even the slightest acknowledgement of how traumatic unfettered police powers can be, would expose why our criminal injustice system seems, at times, more suited to make false arrests than solving crimes.

The purpose of the psychological terror imposed by arbitrary law enforcement is to make it look matter-of-fact, to construe it as the normal order of things, to conjure it as commonplace. That is the underlying terror of it, that is considered normal to put someone in a cage without cause, justification or anything other than the arbitrary preferences of a single man with a badge. That is why on this show, we will continue to report on and investigate cases like Daniel’s. And that’s why we will not lose sight of the fact that law enforcement, which denies our humanity, is nothing more than State sponsored cruelty.

I would like to thank Daniel Alvarez for coming forward and sharing his experience. Thank you, Daniel. And of course I have to thank intrepid journalist, Stephen Janis, for his writing, research, reporting and editing on this piece.

Stephen Janis: Taya, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Taya Graham: And I want to thank friend of the show, Noli Dee, for support. Thanks Noli Dee. And I want you watching to know that if you have evidence of police misconduct or brutality, please share it with us and we might be able to investigate. Please reach out to us. You can email us tips privately, at PAR@therealnews.com and share your evidence of police misconduct. You can also message us at @PoliceAccountabilityReport on Facebook or Instagram, or at @EyesOnPolice on Twitter. And of course you can always message me directly at @TayasBaltimore on Twitter and Facebook. And please like, share, and comment. You know I read your YouTube comments and appreciate them, and I try to answer your questions whenever I can. My name is Taya Graham, and I’m your host of the Police Accountability Report. Please, be safe out there.

A birthday date goes awry when a Los Angeles resident and his passenger are profiled during a traffic stop resulting in the cuffing of the driver and arrest of his passenger. PAR investigates the legality of the traffic stop and the violation of the passenger’s right to film the police.

Taya Graham

Host & Producer
Taya Graham is an award-winning investigative reporter who has covered U.S. politics, local government, and the criminal justice system. She is the host of TRNN's "Police Accountability Report," and producer and co-creator of the award-winning podcast "Truth and Reconciliation" on Baltimore's NPR affiliate WYPR. She has written extensively for a variety of publications including the Afro American Newspaper, the oldest black-owned publication in the country, and was a frequent contributor to Morgan State Radio at a historic HBCU. She has also produced two documentaries, including the feature-length film "The Friendliest Town." Although her reporting focuses on the criminal justice system and government accountability, she has provided on the ground coverage of presidential primaries and elections as well as local and state campaigns.

 
taya@therealnews.com
 
@tayasbaltimore

Stephen Janis

Host & Producer

Stephen Janis is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work has been acclaimed both in print and on television. As the Senior Investigative Reporter for the now defunct Baltimore Examiner, he won two Maryland DC Delaware Press Association Awards for his work on the number of unsolved murders in Baltimore and the killings of prostitutes. His in-depth work on the city's zero-tolerance policing policies garnered an NAACP President's Award. As an Investigative Producer for WBFF/Fox 45, he has won three successive Capital Emmys: two for Best Investigative Series and one for Outstanding Historical/Cultural Piece.

He is the author of three books on the philosophy of policing: Why Do We Kill? The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore; You Can't Stop Murder: Truths About Policing in Baltimore and Beyond; and The Book of Cop: A Testament to Policing That Works. He has also written two novels, This Dream Called Death and Orange: The Diary of an Urban Surrealist. He teaches journalism at Towson University.