Cops lied to put him in handcuffs, but a camera caught the truth!

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.


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.

[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]

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

Officer 1:               You’re more than welcome to record.

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

Officer 1:              Okay, but I’m telling you, you did. If I want to write you a ticket for that and…

Daniel Alvarez:         I didn’t stop over nothing. I stopped at the stop sign, turned left, [crosstalk 00:01:51].

Officer 1:              You have ID?

Daniel Alvarez:        Yeah. I have an ID.

Officer 1:                 Okay. Where’s your ID at?

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

Officer 1:             I’m stopping you for…

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

Officer 1:                Don’t reach for anything.

Daniel Alvarez:         You want my ID, right?

Officer 1:             But did I tell you to reach for it?

Daniel Alvarez:       You want my ID because you’re asking for it [crosstalk]. You can put your gun away.

Officer 1:               Okay. Step out of the vehicle.

Passenger:             That’s annoying.

Daniel Alvarez:        You’re stopping me because you want to see what I look like. Be a man and say what you’re stopping me for then. [crosstalk]. I didn’t break no laws.

Officer 1:                  – And everything.

[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]

Taya Graham:        Now, as you can hear, the officer claims Daniel rolled past a 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 is not just alarming, but terrifying. I’ll let Daniel explain as we watch the video.

[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]

Daniel Alvarez:       Stopped at the stop sign. Turned left.

Officer 1:              You have ID?

Daniel Alvarez:      Yeah, I have an ID.

Officer 1:                     Okay. Where’s your ID at?

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

Officer 1:                   I’m stopping you for [inaudible].

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

Officer 1:             All right, don’t reach for anything.

Daniel Alvarez:           You want my ID, right?

Officer 1:               But, did I tell you to reach for it?

Daniel Alvarez:       You want my ID because you’re asking for it [crosstalk]. You can put your gun away.

Officer 1:                Okay. Step out of the vehicle.

Passenger:          That’s annoying.

Daniel Alvarez:     You’re stopping me because you want to see what I look like? Be a man and say what you’re stopping me for then. [crosstalk]. I didn’t break no law.

Officer 1:              ID and everything.

[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]

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 saw 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 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.

[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]

Daniel Alvarez:         No, you stopped me because you seen what I looked like. Right?

Officer 1:                 All right. Don’t reach for anything.

Daniel Alvarez:        You want my ID. Right?

Officer 1:               Did I tell you?

Daniel Alvarez:     [talking over video] He asked me for my ID. And then so, when I went to get my ID, he instantly pulled his gun out. 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 running, or supposedly running a stop sign.

First, you drive by, try to throw your head up at me.

Officer 1:             Put your hands together.

Daniel Alvarez:         My hands are together.

Officer 1:                Can’t say hi now?

[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]

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.

Officer 1:               Off the phone.

Passenger:              I’m talking to his mom.

Officer 1:               Okay. Off the phone.

Passenger:              This is ridiculous.

Officer 1:               Okay here.

Passenger:          But what? Why do I have to get… [crosstalk]

Officer 1:                     I’m not stopping you recording or anything. I do. All right?

Passenger:        We didn’t even do anything. What is this for?

Officer 1:                       Because you have an attitude. Don’t reach for anything.

Passenger:                So what? I’m fucking… What are you doing?

Officer 1:                    I said don’t reach for anything.

Passenger:               Oh my God. I’m closing my fucking purse.

Officer 1:                       We’re okay. We’re okay. We’re okay. We’re okay.

Passenger:           What the fuck is on this… Oh my God. I was closing my fucking purse.

Officer 1:           I told you not to reach for anything. [crosstalk]

Passenger:               You guys are ridiculous.

Officer 1:                 What’d I say?

Passenger:                You’re over exaggerating over nothing. [crosstalk]

Officer 1:                Okay, now you’re going to go to prison for –

Daniel Alvarez:         [talking over video] And I think when he walked up and saw 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 comments. If you turn the volume up and listen real close, you can hear what they said. And then they shut the phone off.

Officer 1:                “I’m a law-abiding citizen.”

Officer 2:                 Fuck that guy.

[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]

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. Stephen, 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 him about some of the circumstances surrounding the stop itself and also the passenger. What happened to the passenger? Why was the passenger arrested? All these questions I outlined in an email that I sent to the LA County Sheriff and am 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 dozens of PIO’s. 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 sent us on a wild goose chase.

Taya Graham:         Now, we have 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 making people insecure in their cars and insecure in their person. That’s what this is about, sowing 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 saw 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 kind of just didn’t really acknowledge him because I thought, well, that’s kind of unprofessional, you know. 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 run a stop sign. And then I got a little bit irritated. So, I told him, you pulled me over because you saw what I looked 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 then 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 think he’s waiting down on the street, but I wasn’t doing anything wrong. So, I told her if he does happen to pull us over just record him so that we’re all accountable and safe.

So, as soon as we hit the corner I saw him and then she was already turning her phone on. And I think when he walked up and saw 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 comments. And 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? You on parole, guns, drugs, anything? And I told him, no, I’m just a law-abiding citizen. I ain’t doing nothing. You know? 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.

Officer 1:            “I’m a law-abiding citizen.”

Officer 2:                  Fuck that guy.

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 because 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, 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 of just how fast he went from… My true thoughts were when he drove by my house and he saw 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 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 did, 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 wouldn’t do anything about it. So, I filed the 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. They’ll give you everything that you need.

But, I just felt like 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 because 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, you win. I’m not doing anything.

Luckily, there were a bunch of people in the gas station that were watching. And so, they were kind of a little bit trying to intimidate me, but they 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 saw me, they all pulled to the side.

I saw 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. 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 like 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 were 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, OK, that’s fine. Impound it, take me to jail, and 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 the 12th field sobriety test, they said, okay, we’re taking you to jail. And then I said, okay. And then on the way to jail I told him, so what is this now? And he 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 and 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 the DMV sent me a bunch of stuff saying that my license was a restricted license. And then 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 that 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 made it… 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 a DUI. And then they sent me a letter about all three of them saying, okay, we reprimanded the sergeant. He should have acted differently. 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 that 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. Put you 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 and 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 just see you’re just Hispanic or Black and you’re on this 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 it, from a higher level, 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 unjust constraints and overbearing laws, they accumulate more freedom for themselves. It’s like the bubble of injustice that envelopes 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 than 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 pretext 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 Belays 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, his 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.

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 it 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 her 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 Police Accountability Report on Facebook or Instagram or @eyesonpolice on Twitter. And of course you can always message me directly @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.

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.