Across the US, people who attempt to resist the seemingly limitless power of the police often find themselves ensnared in a legal system that ostensibly exists for their protection. When a local police officer approached Paul Brophy of Weymouth, Massachusetts, and demanded to see his identification, Brophy attempted to invoke his constitutional rights. The officer then escalated the situation to an arrest, claiming Brophy attempted to reach for his weapon. Police Accountability Report examines the facts of the case, speaking to Paul Brophy himself about the incident.
Studio: Stephen Janis
Studio/Post-Production: Stephen Janis, Adam Coley
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 today, to achieve that goal, we’ll be showing you this video of an arrest by a Massachusetts cop of a man who refused to show identification. But it’s what the officer did after the man who took the video fought for his rights, and how his charges contradicted what we will see on camera that will be the subject of the show today, an example of how law enforcement can turn mundane situations into life altering trauma.
But before we get started, I want you watching to know that if you have video evidence of police misconduct or brutality, please share it with us and we might be able to investigate for you. Please reach out to us. You can email us tips privately at email@example.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 or Facebook. And if you can, please leave a like or comment to help share our work with other people who care about justice and accountability. All right, we’ve gotten that out of the way.
Now, one aspect of American policing we have covered extensively on our show is a topic that seems simple but isn’t. Namely, the seemingly limitless ability for police to ask for or even demand identification. It’s a question that usually focuses on the legal ramifications. In other words, when can a cop demand your ID? And what rights do you have if you refuse?
But there is more to this question than just criminal code or legal procedures, because the fact that there are so many scenarios when police can make the ultimatum, produce your ID or else, that it’s worth unpacking the broad implications of this power on both our lives and our rights. And no video is a better example of what I’m talking about than the fraught encounter with Weymouth Massachusetts Police I am showing you now. It happened when resident Paul Brophy and a friend were sitting in the parking lot of a convenience store in Weymouth in October in 2019. His passenger had just purchased some snacks and cigarettes when an officer approached their car. Watch.
[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]
Police Officer: So let’s talk about what I’m asking you for. You cooperate, give me your ID, we see who you are. We can send you on your way in short time. But because now you’re prolonging this situation because you’re being defiant.
Paul Brophy: No, I’m not being defiant.
Police Officer: I asked you for an ID, a simple request, and you can’t give it to me.
Paul Brophy: I said, respectfully, officer –
Police Officer: That’s not respectfully, that’s actually defiant.
Paul Brophy: Well, you’re escalating now.
Police Officer: What’s that?
Paul Brophy: You’re escalating.
Police Officer: I’m not escalating.
Paul Brophy: I mean, it’s about de-escalation.
Police Officer: Okay.
Paul Brophy: Now, can we talk to each other? You’re a public servant. I’m a public servant.
Police Officer: Then why are you being defiant? Why would you not cooperate?
Paul Brophy: I’m not being defiant.
Police Officer: Ask for an ID, offer an ID.
Paul Brophy: I’m not being defiant. I’m defending my rights that you swore to protect.
Police Officer: Asked for an ID, you offer the ID. You’ll be sent on your way shortly after.
[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]
Taya Graham: Now as you can see, it’s clear the officer is completely unable to share what’s known as reasonable articulable suspicion that Paul committed a crime. That is generally the standard for making what’s known as a custodial stop, or where you’re not free to leave until the officer says so. In fact, he seems pretty much at a loss to even articulate why he’s talking to the two men at all. And I see this ironically because it appears the officer thinks that the routine act of parking and purchasing a snack is actually nefarious. Take a look.
[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]
Police Officer: Why can’t you produce an ID?
Paul Brophy: Well, it’s about the Constitution [officer laughs]. I’m surprised you laughed at that.
Police Officer: Okay, which part of the Constitution?
Paul Brophy: The First Amendment.
Police Officer: The First Amendment?
Paul Brophy: It’s probably not the First. That’s what, the assembly and all that?
Passenger: The Fifth, it’s the Fifth.
Paul Brophy: It’s the Fifth? I’m not pleading the Fifth.
Police Officer: See, clearly, you don’t even know the Constitution.
Paul Brophy: Off my heart, no, I don’t.
Police Officer: Or your Constitutional rights, because what you’re saying is that…
Paul Brophy: You should advise me of my rights, now.
Passenger: Paul, yo.
Paul Brophy: You should be helping me.
Police Officer: I’m asking you to help me.
Paul Brophy: What is your name?
Police Officer: I’m asking you to help me.
Paul Brophy: Can I ask you, what’s your name?
Police Officer: My name’s Steven. What’s your name?
Paul Brophy: Well, can I see, are you a detective?
Police Officer: No.
Paul Brophy: Well, can I see your name tag?
Police Officer: We don’t have name tags.
Paul Brophy: Okay.
Police Officer: Are you going to operate this motor vehicle?
Paul Brophy: I had planned to leave when he said we were loitering. Yeah.
Passenger: We were just told to leave, officer.
Police Officer: If you’re going to operate this motor vehicle, I need to know if you have a valid license.
Passenger: Got a license. Yeah. Give him your ID. Get it out.
Police Officer: Let me see your ID.
Paul Brophy: That’s not my problem.
Police Officer: Then we can go right from there.
Paul Brophy: That’s not my issue. Come on now.
Police Officer: Well, clearly if you’re going to drive this motor vehicle away, I need to know if you are a valid licensed operator. That way I can find that out. How am I going to find that out? By you producing me an ID?
Paul Brophy: No, I’m sorry. I’m not going to, no.
Police Officer: You don’t produce me an ID. You don’t drive this vehicle away.
Paul Brophy: Okay. Whatever you say, officer.
Police Officer: That’s what I say.
Paul Brophy: You’re in charge.
Police Officer: That’s correct.
[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]
Taya Graham: Now it’s worth noting that Paul, at his own risk, refuses to relinquish his rights. In fact, even as the officer escalates the encounter, Paul attempts to de-escalate, all the while simply trying to protect the rights enshrined in the Constitution. Just watch.
[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]
Police Officer: So if you’re not going to produce ID.
Paul Brophy: Power and control, it’s all about power and control.
Police Officer: No, it’s not power and control.
Paul Brophy: Yes, it is. Everyone’s a criminal.
Police Officer: It’s me doing my job.
Paul Brophy: Everyone’s a criminal.
Police Officer: It’s me doing my job.
Paul Brophy: Why do you look at people like they’re criminals? Do I look like a criminal to you?
Police Officer: Have I looked at you like a criminal? I asked you for an ID.
Paul Brophy: Yeah. No, you’ve talked to me like I’m a criminal.
Police Officer: No, believe me, trust me when I tell you, I’ve talked to people like they’re criminals. I’m not talking to you like a criminal. So rest assured, I’m asking you for your ID. You want to operate this motor vehicle?
Paul Brophy: I’m respectfully refusing.
Police Officer: Okay, then I’m going to respectfully tell you that you’re going to be getting out of this motor vehicle because you’re not going to drive the motor vehicle without a license that I know that you’re a valid licensed operator.
[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]
Taya Graham: Of course, at this point, you’re probably saying, why doesn’t he just hand over his license? Why not just give the cop what he wants? Why be what the mainstream media likes to call a troublemaker? Well, let me briefly address that before I show you what happened next, because the sequence of events you’re about to see will certainly answer that question full stop.
First, what are the point of our rights if they are strictly conditional? How are the First Amendment, which guarantees our ability to move about without government intervention, and our Fourth Amendment, which protects us from unwarranted search, is meaningful at all If we need permission from a person with a gun and a badge to invoke them? Seriously, and if you don’t think how and when we can invoke rights are important, take a look at what happens next.
[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]
Paul Brophy: So you’re escalating now again, and you’re getting louder.
Police Officer: Whether I’m getting louder or not has nothing to do with it. Apparently you don’t understand that right now you not producing an ID [crosstalk] means you’re not going to be able to drive this motor vehicle.
Paul Brophy: Is standing up for my rights and I’d stand up for yours too. I’d stand up for yours too. And I did.
Police Officer: Although, be that as it may –
Paul Brophy: He was very aggressive, that guy, when he came to the window.
Police Officer: You’re ignorant. If this situation…
Paul Brophy: You trying to provoke me.
Police Officer: – When the clerk has called us.
Paul Brophy: Yes. What did the clerk say? Can I ask?
Police Officer: I have not spoken to the clerk. But what we got transmission wise over the radio.
Passenger: Yes. What was that?
Police Officer: That he was suspicious about the activity that was going on. Which means there’s a potential for a crime.
Passenger: Okay. Yes. I understand that.
Police Officer: If there’s a potential for a crime, have, are or about to commit a crime, I have every right to ask for your ID.
Passenger: If you believe or under suspicion.
Police Officer: Bingo.
Paul Brophy: Well, suspicion doesn’t give you rights.
Police Officer: It’s called reasonable suspicion. And at that point we have the right to ask for an ID.
Paul Brophy: No, you don’t.
Police Officer: And because you are under suspicion for that potential crime that may or may not be going on –
Paul Brophy: It’s a touchy area.
Police Officer: – It’s for us to investigate.
Passenger: I understand. I understand. It’s a touchy area though. It’s a gray area.
Paul Brophy: I can see the difference clearly.
Passenger: No, it’s a gray area. I know.
Police Officer: But now that we got to the point where he wants to drive this motor vehicle away, he needs to produce an ID, valid license.
Paul Brophy: You don’t if that guy down the street has a valid driver’s license.
Passenger: I have a question. Stop. Stop. Calm down.
Police Officer: That guy going up the street isn’t part of a criminal investigation.
Paul Brophy: A criminal investigation?
Passenger: No, no, no. It’s not a criminal.
Police Officer: There’s a potential criminal investigation here.
Paul Brophy: [Crosstalk] If I assert my rights, I’m not being uncooperative, officer.
Police Officer: You haven’t told me why.
Paul Brophy: You haven’t told me your name.
Police Officer: I did tell you my name.
Paul Brophy: No, I asked you for your name tag and you said…
Police Officer: We don’t have name tags. No name tag.
Paul Brophy: Badge numbers, what’s your badge number? 117?
Police Officer: There’s no number on my badge. There’s no number on this badge.
Paul Brophy: Well, you don’t have a badge number. So how do I know you’re a cop?
Police Officer: Do you see a number on the badge? Because I have a badge, and it says police right on here, and I drive a police car.
Paul Brophy: I can get one of them online.
Police Officer: I have a police car right there. Want to see it? Want to see the police? It says it right on the side of it.
Paul Brophy: Well, in this day and age, you know.
Police Officer: Do you want to see the police? It says it right in the side of the car. Come on out. I’ll show you.
Passenger: Go check it out, man.
Paul Brophy: I can see it.
Police Officer: Come on out.
Passenger: Go check, inspect the car.
Police Officer: Step out. I’ll show you it.
Paul Brophy: Okay.
Passenger: Inspect it. You convince me.
Police Officer: Come out, I’ll show you.
Paul Brophy: I’m not giving anyone permission to go into my car.
Passenger: No. You don’t have permission for that.
Paul Brophy: [Shuffling sounds] Why do you want me to step out of the car? I’m not stepping out of the car. Not a chance. Hold on. Can I close my door?
Police Officer: So you can see the police car.
Paul Brophy: Let me close my door. I don’t want to see it.
Police Officer: I’ll tell you right now, you just put your hands on me. That’s why I’m grabbing you. All right. You just put your hands on me. That’s why I’m grabbing you. Now what we have here is a different scenario. You’re being aggressive. And now I’m going to ask you out of this vehicle.
Passenger: Give him your license.
Police Officer: I’m going to ask you out of this vehicle.
Passenger: Going to let you go.
Paul Brophy: I’m not getting out of here.
Passenger: Give him your ID and we can go.
Paul Brophy: Can I get a supervisor please? Can I get a supervisor?
Police Officer: You can get 10 supervisors.
Paul Brophy: Now? Can I get a supervisor now?
Police Officer: Listen to your buddy.
Passenger: Listen, Paul. Just give him your ID. Can you let go of his arm, officer?
Police Officer: No.
Paul Brophy: Why?
Police Officer: Because I don’t feel safe right now with you reaching out.
Paul Brophy: I don’t feel safe getting out of the car.
Passenger: Oh my God.
Police Officer: I have a taser and I have a gun. You’ve reached out to me, and I feel unsafe with you doing that.
Passenger: Calm down, please. Listen to me. Look at me.
Police Officer: What I’m going to do now is I’m going to take you out of this car.
Passenger: [Crosstalk] Paul, look at me. Look at me. Listen please, guys, don’t be harsh. Be harsh with him, man.
Police Officer: If you do not step out on your own.
Paul Brophy: Okay? I’ll step out on my own.
Paul Brophy: Is that a lawful order?
Passenger: Be easy. Be easy.
Police Officer: It is a lawful order. A lawful order.
Paul Brophy: Why do you want me out of the car?
Passenger: Because they want to talk to you and show you something. All right.
Police Officer: Now you’re going to turn around. Put your hands.
Paul Brophy: No. Let me go. I’m not resisting.
Passenger: Oh man. I don’t know. I don’t know what he did, but you’re just detaining him for a minute? What are you doing?
Police Officer: Just for a minute until we get an ID out of him.
Passenger: Okay. All right. Thank you.
Police Officer: We can get the supervisor for you in a minute.
Paul Brophy: That’s all I’m asking for, a supervisor.
Police Officer: Yeah, you get one of the supers.
Paul Brophy: Oh, you’re bringing me in?
Passenger: No, they’re not bringing you in, dude. They’re just detaining you for a minute.
Paul Brophy: No, he said I’m going to see their supervisor in the station.
Passenger: No, you can call him here.
Police Officer: Actually, you know what? I’m going to charge you. ABPO. You can see him. That’s assault and battery on a police officer.
Passenger: Oh my God.
Police Officer: Assault and battery is any unwanted touching of somebody.
Paul Brophy: I did not touch you. I reached out my door.
Police Officer: I watched you reach out. You reached for me. I have a taser right here. You reached for my taser.
[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]
Taya Graham: That’s right. The officer accused Paul of assaulting him and reaching for his weapons. I’m not kidding. After asking him to get out of the vehicle, he actually summons serious charges against him: assault and battery of a cop. all because he was parked in a car outside of a convenience store at the ungodly hour of 2:00 AM.
Now, we are going to talk to Paul Brophy about what happened, why you fought for his rights and how this entire ordeal affected him. But first I’m joined by my reporting partner, Stephen Janis, who’s been looking into the case, researching the law, and seeking comments from the police. Stephen, thank you so much for joining me.
Stephen Janis: Taya, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Taya Graham: So first, what does the law in Massachusetts say about providing an ID to police when they ask?
Stephen Janis: According to the AC of Massachusetts, it’s really clear. The only time a police officer in Massachusetts can request your ID is when you’re operating a motor vehicle, which clearly was not happening at this time. But really, I think this is a Constitutional case. I think federal law governs here, and he was doing what anyone is allowed to do in this country, which is pretty much peaceably assembled without a cop going in and saying, who are you? So I think this is clearly a Constitutional case, and I think that’s the overriding concern here.
Taya Graham: You’ve reached out to both police and prosecutors. How are they justifying the charges?
Stephen Janis: Well, Taya, I reached out to Weymouth Police. I sent them a video of the arrest. They sent me back the police report, and it is extraordinary and telling. Now the entire probable cause in this case was a man going in and out of a convenience store and getting in and out of a motor vehicle. That was the whole basis for a crime investigation. But even more important, there are no notes about the police officer talking to the clerk in the store and trying to understand or discern why this was so disturbing. But really, there was no basis for a crime. There was no basis for a criminal investigation. If going in and out of a store is a crime, well, I’m a criminal. You’re a criminal. We’re all criminals. It’s pretty scary what the officer used to construe this encounter and this custodial stop.
And then the officer, I think, really embellished – Actually embellished is not even really adequate to describe it. He said that Paul went out and grabbed him by the waist. I think you see on the video, that’s not what happened. So this whole statement of probable cause, this whole police report raises a lot of questions about this entire arrest.
Taya Graham: Now, a judge did rule about the officer demanding the ID. What was the ruling? And more importantly, what are your concerns about what happened during this seemingly illegal arrest?
Stephen Janis: Well, Taya, what’s interesting to hear is the judge actually agreed. The judge ruled that the officer did not have the right to ID Paul at this point, and really said that was not a reasonable or even legal request for an ID. The only problem is the judge did not rule that actually vacated the entire charge of harming a police officer or assault and battery of a police officer. So really it didn’t amount to much. But the truth is, no matter what, Paul’s First Amendment rights were violated.
And also I think the entire charges of assault and battery are insane. Look at the video, read the police report. There is no evidence of it. For example, in the police report, the officer did not sustain any injuries. So how is that assault and battery? So anyway, I think it’s good that the judge affirmed his Constitutional rights. It’s unfortunate for Paul that the legal system didn’t work in his favor.
Taya Graham: And now I’m joined by Paul Brophy, the man who endured this police overreach, and whose life has been profoundly impacted by these charges. Paul, thank you so much for joining me.
Paul Brophy: Really appreciate the work you do. Honest to God, it’s fantastic.
Taya Graham: So this encounter happened in a parked car. How did the police approach you?
Paul Brophy: Well, it’s very simple really. I pulled in, it was a 24-hour store. I was doing two things. It was late in the morning, it was like 2:30, 3:00 from what I recall. And I pulled into the store and my passenger got out and went in, and I was sitting there texting or something, or looking at my phone. He came back out, got into my vehicle, and I reached to start it up. Obviously we were getting going, and next thing I realized that there’s two police cars. One pulled in behind me, preventing me from leaving. And the other, first of all, it was just one car. And he pulled in behind me and immediately came to the window and started asking questions. Said they got a call and can I get your ID? This and that. And my passenger gave up his ID right away.
And I’m thinking to myself, well, wait a minute. Why do I have to give my ID in this position? Because first, I hadn’t done anything wrong. I had no idea why they were there. And secondly, I wasn’t pulled over or anything. And it was then that his backup came and he kind of took over. And as you can see from the video, I think it took him about 15 seconds just to focus in on ID. So it became from then on, ID, ID, ID as opposed to, we’re investigating, we’re asking you to stay here for a few minutes and we’re going to talk to the clerk and do a proper investigation. But it turned out to be none of that. And he told me that they got a call that two people were running in and out of the store. There was nothing happening out of the ordinary, actually. So as you can see from the video then, he just started demanding ID.
Taya Graham: What do you think the suspicion of you and your passenger was? And did he ever really articulate his suspicion?
Paul Brophy: He articulated a suspicion because he said they got a call of two people walking in and out, running in and out of the store. So I told him I had no problem going into the store to talk to the clerk. I hadn’t even been in the store. My passenger went in and came back out. He did spend about five minutes in there. I recall thinking, is he coming or what’s going on? But he did just come out and then we were going to leave. So I guess his articulate suspicion was a suspicion that the store was going to be robbed, I guess. But he did say that the suspicion he had was… I can’t recall his exact words on the suspicion, but he said, we got a call, two guys coming in and out of the store in a truck outside. And that gave him enough suspicion to investigate, which meant that I was compelled to hand over my ID, and I disagreed.
Taya Graham: Now, you chose to stand on your rights. Why did you do that?
Paul Brophy: I think one of the reasons, one of the big reasons was because I had educated myself through shows like yours and First Amendment auditors, and over the past year that I just really got into it. And I could not believe the fact that how the police police here is totally contrary to the rights of the people. I think because most people just follow their demands or their requests that they continue to do it this way with disregard for people’s rights. In particular, where you live, what your social security number is, what your background is. And I figured all you had to do was run my plates anyways. It was my car, it was registered under me, it was insured, I had stickers, everything was okay on the car.
And so that was what prompted me. I’d watched a lot of the videos, and I’d seen so many policemen and government officials just walk over people’s rights. I decided to push back and just to push it and see, get an explanation from him. And really, he came up with this same old tried and trusted methods of, where did you go to law school and this type of thing. So I just answered and tried to stay calm, and I could see he was getting madder and madder. And I actually had to ask him to deescalate a little bit because I could feel his energy. He wanted to drag me out of that car. He wasn’t used to people say, challenging him, and I didn’t want to do it aggressively. I just wanted to be on my way and this not to be an issue. So it turned into a big issue, and it turned into a person losing their freedom and being put in a cell because they’re stopped at a 24-hour store on their way over to drop some money off for my daughter, is where I was going.
And I was giving the passenger a ride to that town. It’s kind of metro Boston. So I was giving my passenger a ride as far as that town, and he was on his own from there. It was very late. I couldn’t drop him to where he needed to go, and he had a bicycle. So I was helping him out, and on my way to do that – Granted it was late in the morning, but that’s nothing new for me. I mean, I’m out and about at all times. It’s not suspicious to be out and about.
Taya Graham: So the officer started to escalate the situation. From my vantage point of watching, it seemed like you were reaching to close the car door. The officer said you were reaching for him. What happened in that moment?
Paul Brophy: Exactly. That’s the crucial moment, if you will, and it’s not clear on the video what happened. But what happened was, for some reason I said, okay, I’m going to get out of the car. But he opened the door. I didn’t open the door. I went to unlatch my seatbelt. He opened the door and came around, whereas he was now between the door and me. So I said to him, well, why do you want me to get out of the car? And I reached out slowly. I know a lot of cops, and I know that you don’t make sudden movements, you don’t do anything silly. And I reached out for my door, but I reached out from my door with the arm. But as I did, he grabbed me like that and we both looked at each other and you can hear it on the video, and he goes, okay, so now everything’s changed.
You reached out for me, and I have a taser and I have a gun, and you grabbed my belt, my duty belt. And I was just stunned. I’m like, oh no, come on now. You know that’s not true, or something I said like that. Pulled me out of the car as you could see, and put me up against the side of my car and immediately cuffed me. And the other officer then said, I’m just going to charge him with assault battery of a police officer. And they ended up doing that and charging me with failure to ID.
Taya Graham: Were you surprised that the police officer escalated this to an arrest and the charges that came out?
Paul Brophy: Well, surprised is an interesting word. I think in one sense, absolutely, I was very surprised. But having educated myself and seen the level of abuse, if you will, towards members of the public, from videos and from your channel and the work you guys do, some of it is just horrendous. And to think that the very fact that you stand on your rights, which is in a perfect world, should be completely accepted, if it’s grounded in fact and law, that they would violate that. Now, call me naive. But I was thinking right from, there’s no way that they will ever get up on the stand or anything and just lie. And when I’d say that to people, they’d be like, really? So I went with the proper course of the way to do things. And sure enough, when I heard that and saw that and the reaction, the nonchalantness in a court of law, I was saddened.
I was really sad about that, and sad for the system and sad for… It’s kind of sad for myself as well. It’s like, my God, they’re not going to go this route, are they? I could go to jail potentially here. So we set a trial. I was offered a trial, and so my lawyer said I had a really good case and blah, blah, blah. And all of a sudden then I got this phone call from her and she said you need to come out to court immediately. After talking to the DA, talking to the judge, and they’re offering you a great deal. And I think you should take it right away. So, I know, I’ve been disappointed with myself ever since. But I felt a little bit, I was pushed into it. I was on my own. I didn’t have an advisor. I didn’t have somebody to go over it with.
But I went down to the court and they were there and she was in the courtroom and the judge, and they had offered me three months probation with no restrictions whatsoever. So this was at the very top and it said, abide by state and local laws and the law, abide by the law and in three months time, this will be dismissed. So I signed it, and that didn’t sit well in me at all. I let it process without talking to my lawyer. And I did say to her, well, I thought we were going to go to trial on this. You seemed very confident and you were, and she was in the text she sent me, but they want to clear cases, I guess.
Taya Graham: Just out of curiosity, did you actually have a license on you?
Paul Brophy: Yeah, I did. Yeah. I had my license on me. And I know, the first lawyer I got, I ended up having a part company with him, but the first, I was so upset, but the first appearance in court where they assigned me a lawyer, the first thing he said to me, and he was actually mad. He’s like, why didn’t he just give him your ID? And I’m like, oh God, is this who’s going to defend me? I don’t know if that’s going to work. And he walked away. He came back with paperwork and he said, there, and walked away. So anyway, it didn’t work out with him. After a while I said, I need a different lawyer. This is not, your attitude is your way of working is fine, but it’s not for me, and I prefer… So I went to the court and they said, okay. They gave me a different lawyer.
Taya Graham: So what were you charged with and how long were you in jail?
Paul Brophy: I was charged with refusing to provide ID to a police officer on demand and assault and battery on a police officer. Those were the two charges.
Taya Graham: Now you told me they didn’t want to take you to trial, which is interesting, because I think you would’ve done great on the stand. You had the truth on your side, no criminal history, well-spoken. I think you would’ve been great. So maybe they didn’t want you to face a jury. Can you update me on the case?
Paul Brophy: Yeah, sure. And thank you for saying that. I appreciate it, in regards to looking good on the stand and everything and believable. And I felt the same way, to be honest with you, because when you’re telling the truth, you don’t have to stammer or you don’t have to make up more stuff. For me just to sit there and talk from my heart and tell the truth about what happened. So what happened from when she was appointed with me, we met a few times, kind of made me feel in a way that she threw me a big favor at times because I said to her, well, at one point I said, well, whose side are you on here? Because she was leaning towards, well, why did you do this and that? And that’s fine. But she said to me, look, I do private cases, and I just take cases from the courts to be helpful in the community and stuff.
And I don’t know about that after what it went through because she needs cases, she wants charges, she needs, it’s all pretty good money for them, and it’s kind of free clients, if you will. Because of COVID, the courts were shut down here in Massachusetts for quite a while. It opened up under Zoom, so most of it was being done on video, and I’m thinking, this is 4 years later here, and what happened to my… I think my Sixth Amendment right here for a speedy trial? Then she called me to the court one day and she said, look, you need to come down here. The judge wants to hear, wants to go over this, and I’ve gotten a great deal for you. I really think you should take it. It’s totally non-restrictive probation for three months and it’ll be all dismissed and it’ll be all gone.
But as you know well, it’s never gone. It’s there. It’s prevented me from getting jobs. This is a disaster, to be charged with this. And then now I suppose I’ve in a way accepted it because I took a punishment. It’s disastrous for my life.
Taya Graham: So how has this arrest affected you? Did you lose time for work or have to pay attorney’s fees or a bond?
Paul Brophy: Oh my god, yeah. Yeah, you’re not going to find out, nobody’s going to email you back and say, well, we can’t hire you because you’ve been accused of assaulting a police officer. But I started testing the water. Here I am. I’ve got a graduate degree and I’m applying for entry level positions to see if I’m going to get any. Now, I took the graduate degree off. I just said I had a bachelor’s degree and I applied for dozens and dozens and dozens of jobs, and 90% I didn’t even hear back from them, because I think the norm now is for… You know how easy it is to look up somebody’s record. And once a person has your name and your address or whatever, which you have on your resume and all. So all I have is gig work right now. In fact, I was out of work for quite a while, long time. I know with COVID it was obvious we were out of work, but I haven’t had a steady job since this happened. And it’s unfortunate, because I did spend 20 years serving the public myself, and I always knew who I worked for, and I treated them with respect no matter what.
Taya Graham: Okay. Now, there are times when I talk about a specific law or right or even policy that directly relates to the misuses of police power. In other words, I try to drill down on one aspect of policing and the law and provide context and comprehension of the way bad policing affects our lives in ways that are often unacknowledged. But today, I’m going to speak in broader terms about what happened to Mr. Brophy and why I think an overlooked consequence of police power needs more attention. There are plenty of people who would look at the video, we just parsed and characterized it as unremarkable. I imagine there are certainly a lot of people watching the show who would just shrug their shoulders and say, yes, these charges have made life difficult for Mr. Brophy, but the cop was just doing his job. What’s the point of delving into this arrest any further?
Well, let me take this question from a different perspective. Let me explore the idea of how police power affects the way we think, act and even perceive ourselves and the freedoms we purport to cherish. Now, first of all, let’s remember that for all of those who think the cop was “just doing his job”, consider for a moment what that actually means. Imagine if the officer’s assertion that he has the right to demand an ID without probable cause is correct. If that’s true, I want you to ponder what kind of power he actually has and what it implies about our rights.
If a representative of the government can ask you to identify yourself anytime, anywhere, for any reason, we might as well just cross out the First Amendment of the Constitution that guarantees the right to peaceably assemble – And while you’re at it, cross out the Fourth because apparently you don’t have the right to secure your personal effects from unwarranted searches and seizures. This means the government can arrest someone for protesting. This means if the government doesn’t like your perspective, it can seize your property and simply do with it as it pleases.
But there is an idea that transcends the law that I think warrants discussion in this case. The psychology, so to speak, of government power that is just as potent as the aforementioned incursion on our rights, but rarely gets the attention it deserves. That’s because what the officer did to Mr. Brophy is not just about an arrest, contemptive cop or simply a grumpy officer taking out his frustrations on an innocent man. It’s not just a story of police overreach, misuse of the law or another glaring example of the overarching power of a single cop. No, I think what we’re seeing is symbolic of the broader contempt the government in general has for the people. I think it’s meant to be a performative sort of power: indiscriminate, excessive, and most of all indifferent, and that so-called performance has a message, to quote our documentary Tax Broke: we are not worthy.
What do I mean? Well, consider this recent series of stories regarding the inability of pharmacies to provide crucial drugs to people who need them. The report recounts how critical drugs to treat conditions like ADHD, anxiety, and opioid addiction are in short supply, prompting pharmacies to reject legal prescriptions. Now, this shortage is not related to the pandemic, the often shaky supply chain, or any other common manufacturing issue. It’s not even a consequence of a lack of raw materials or some sort of effort by drug companies to raise prices. No, the problem is a shining example of how the performative power of policing and economic inequality are not just linked, but actually work in tandem.
That’s because the force behind this life-threatening shortage of crucial pharmaceuticals is no less than the government itself. I am not kidding. It is a result of a DEA settlement with opioid manufacturers who flooded the country with billions of pain pills, raking in billions of profits while hundreds of thousands of people died from overdosing. The settlement with the attorney generals of 48 states and the DEA led to huge fines but no jail time for the greedy executives. It also included a provision to monitor pharmacies for the sale of drugs that aren’t even opioids – On the surface, at least – To ensure the pills don’t flood the market again.
The expansive list includes not just the aforementioned laundry list of critical drugs, but even a medication known as Suboxone, which is used, ironically, to treat opioid addiction through a process called replacement therapy. This system, put in place with little thought for who it would actually punish, is now causing pharmacies to be flagged for legally prescribed drugs, and as a result, cutting off crucial supplies needed by innocent patients.
So let’s unpack this little public policy jujitsu while I explain how it relates to the previously mentioned performative aspect of police power.
So first, greedy drug executives flood the markets like big time drug lords with opioid pills, causing overdose deaths to skyrocket and profits to balloon. The federal government ignores the crisis until it becomes too big to hide under the proverbial protect the rich rock. But then while crafting a settlement, the feds devise a plan that actually punishes average Americans, even while maybe one or two executives ended up behind bars. Included in that stupendously thoughtless plan was to limit the availability of critical drugs that are used to treat the victims of the feckless greedy drug company lords who caused the problem in the first place. I am serious. This is what our own government, which is supposed to serve the people, conjured from its how to screw things up manual – Which, incidentally, is available online for a small fee.
But back to my point at the beginning of this segment, the connection between police power and the ridiculously bungled response to the corporate sponsored addiction epidemic is part of a larger theme. Police in this case serve as a barometer, so to speak, a gauge of how the government actually views our rights and what they truly mean. The job of cops in this particular case is to perform for us the liturgy of the elites, a ritual that demonstrates to us clearly that we don’t matter. But it is more than that because this performative power with of course real consequences also convinces us that unjust policies like the ridiculous drug clampdown are, in essence, our fault. That is, we who are the ones who caused opioid pills to flood the market while companies made billions off of human misery. From the ability to arrest us anywhere at any time flows the entire psychology that the reason your local drugstore can’t obtain crucial medication to fulfill your prescription is actually you.
What that cop told us with his indiscriminate and reckless use of government power is the same message that the elites were sending when they made a mess of a healthcare system already frayed at the edges. Keep your mouth shut, comply or face the consequences of our massive indifference. And if you do push back, we will find the means through a minor arrest, conjured crime, or a straightforward retaliatory sanction to make you take the blame.
That’s why the misuse of police power is not just about bad tickets, false charges, or unwarranted harassment. That’s why a cop being able to demand your ID whenever and wherever they want is not limited to the indignity of the act itself. What it means is what it’s designed to tell us about ourselves, that even though the Constitution says differently, our rights are subject to change. What it tells us is that no matter how many times Wall Street or big banks or big pharma screw us, we only have ourselves to blame.
Which is why Paul’s decision to assert his rights is a more consequential act than it appears at first glance. That is, his insistence that he has the right to not comply with police is even more consequential than simply pushing back on an overbearing cop. It is instead an act of defiance that refutes the neoliberal blame game to punish the many to ensure profits for the few. It’s the most consequential and imperative act there is: saying no to indiscriminate power, no to more policing, and no to the invasive and never ending push to take our rights and sell them to the highest bidder.
That’s why we will continue to report on stories like these, and that’s why we will always unpack and expose the system that makes what you witness on this show possible. Hopefully, by continuing our work, we can make it impossible for cops to act this way, but it is unlikely. But even a small step towards justice is worth taking in the longer journey of making our world a better place.
I want to thank my guest, Paul, for joining us and for sharing his experience. Thank you, Paul. And of course, I have to thank intrepid reporter Stephen Janis for his writing, research, and editing on this piece. Thank you, Stephen.
Stephen Janis: Taya, Thank you for having me.
Taya Graham: And of course, I want to thank friends and mods of the show, Noli Dee and Lacie R for their support. Thank you. And a very special thanks to our Patreons. We appreciate you and I look forward to thanking each and every one of you personally in our next live stream, especially Patreon associate producers, John R and David K, and super friends, Shane Bushta, Pineapple Girl and Chris R.
And I want you watching to know that if you have video 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 and comment. You know I read your comments and that I appreciate them. And we do have a Patreon link pinned in the comments below if you feel inspired to donate accountability reports. And please consider doing so. We don’t run ads or take corporate dollars, so anything you can spare is truly appreciated. My name is Taya Graham, and I’m your host of the Police Accountability Report. Please be safe out there.
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