When Police Lie, the Innocent Pay. Some Are Fighting Back.

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The connection from the Rock Hill Police Department was unequivocal astir what Travis Price did: He belligerently obstructed officers arsenic they arrested his member connected a weapon charge; helium shoved them and knocked them with his body; helium refused to travel orders.

He was charged with “hindering police,” and the congressman successful his territory successful South Carolina piled connected with a connection of his own, describing Mr. Price arsenic a “suspect” who “rolls up and starts interfering with things.”

Fifteen days later, aft Mr. Price spent astir 36 hours successful jail, the information came out. Body camera videos of the June 23 incidental showed that Mr. Price had been calmly pursuing the instructions of officers in the seconds earlier 1 officer, Jonathan Moreno, pushed him against a kerosene vessel extracurricular a state presumption and took him to the ground.

“He had done thing wrong,” Kevin Brackett, the region’s apical prosecutor, acknowledged during a quality league past month. Mr. Brackett announced that helium was charging Mr. Moreno, who was fired from the Police Department, with battle and battery. And successful a melodramatic moment, Mr. Brackett called Mr. Moreno to the podium, wherever helium apologized.

“I did marque a mistake,” helium said. “I’m present to ain it and I’m present to marque it right.”


The state  presumption    successful  Rock Hill, S.C., wherever  Mr. Price was arrested. “He had done thing  wrong,” the region’s apical  authoritative   aboriginal    said.
Credit...Cornell Watson for The New York Times

There person agelong been instances successful which the constabulary person provided mendacious accounts of arrests, but disparities betwixt officers’ descriptions and what radical spot person go much communal with the enlargement of assemblage cameras and cellphone videos and arsenic constabulary departments’ nationalist accounts gully much scrutiny.

The Minneapolis Police Department’s initial description of George Floyd’s death, successful May 2020, said helium had died aft a “medical incidental during constabulary interaction.” That relationship was challenged wrong hours arsenic a teenager’s gruesome video of his decease flooded the internet, igniting the largest protests successful a generation.

Across the United States, radical who person been the targets of mendacious constabulary statements are progressively moving to close the record, sometimes investigating their ain cases, interviewing witnesses and filing defamation lawsuits.

“There’s a wide hunt for tools to marque the constabulary much accountable,” said Lyrissa Lidsky, the dean of the University of Missouri School of Law and an adept successful defamation law. “These lawsuits are portion and parcel of the hunt for constabulary accountability tools.”

But, Ms. Lidsky said, winning lawsuits is hard successful galore cases.

“People shouldn’t deliberation that it’s casual to bring a defamation suit against the police, due to the fact that it’s hard — truly hard,” she said. Suing a city, authorities agency, constabulary serviceman oregon subordinate of Congress often comes with further challenges for plaintiffs, specified arsenic the qualified immunity doctrine that shields authorities officials successful immoderate situations.

In galore cases, citizens who are mentioned successful a constabulary department’s mendacious relationship person sued implicit different matters, specified arsenic civilian rights violations oregon negligence.


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Body camera footage from the Rock Hill Police Department showing the apprehension of Mr. Price.

Last year, the Detroit City Council approved a $75,000 outgo to the proprietor of 2 dogs that were changeable and killed by a constabulary serviceman during a cause raid.

A constabulary supervisor wrote successful a report that the serviceman had seen 1 of 2 pit bulls “charging” and “attempting to bite” the officers. The supervisor besides reported that helium examined the assemblage camera video and “found nary discrepancies” with that account.

But erstwhile the graphic assemblage camera video was released, it showed that the serviceman had changeable the dogs 1 aft the different without immoderate provocation successful a hallway of the home. A puppy could aboriginal beryllium seen walking implicit 1 of the bloody bodies.

In immoderate cases, radical person work mendacious accounts of their interactions with the constabulary and tried to acceptable the grounds straight.

In Central Florida, Chris Cordero was driving his tan Saturn done his vicinity successful Lake Wales aboriginal this twelvemonth when, helium said, helium noticed a constabulary cruiser pursuing him. Mr. Cordero, 37, grew nervous, and past the serviceman pulled him over. What could person been a regular postulation halt ended with Mr. Cordero connected the ground, successful handcuffs. He would look respective years successful prison, accused of assaulting a constabulary officer.

In his report, the officer, David Colt Black, said helium had pulled Mr. Cordero implicit due to the fact that helium was not wearing a seatbelt and had ignored a halt sign. The serviceman said Mr. Cordero got retired of his car and instantly charged astatine him.

“Cordero continued approaching maine with closed fists, yelling, ‘You can’t halt me, you don’t person the right,’” the serviceman wrote, adding: “Cordero continued to complaint towards maine with closed fists.”

He said Mr. Cordero kept resisting apprehension and seemed to beryllium reaching for a limb successful his waistband, and truthful helium utilized his elbow to present a swift onslaught to the broadside of Mr. Cordero’s head. Mr. Cordero was arrested and taken into custody.

But Mr. Cordero said helium ne'er charged the serviceman and was definite that the onslaught to his caput was unprovoked. He decided to behaviour his ain investigation.

“I had to spell door-to-door, due to the fact that they were trying to springiness maine from 4 to 7 years successful prison,” helium said. “The serviceman said I charged his conveyance and I tried to onslaught him. I cognize I didn’t. I got retired of the car and remained there.”

Mr. Cordero’s door-knocking produced speedy results. He obtained a doorbell information video from the location crossed the street. The footage was from a spot of a distance, and it was hardly wide what was happening, but it was evident that Mr. Cordero had not done what helium had been accused of.

Video successful hand, helium started making telephone calls, accusing the officers of brutality and of making racist slurs. Within a day, Officer Black submitted a supplemental study saying that helium realized, aft watching the surveillance footage, that his “perception was altered owed to the precocious accent of the incident.”

“Based upon the video, I could spot Cordero did not get arsenic adjacent to maine arsenic I primitively thought helium did,” Officer Black wrote, acknowledging that what happened did not warrant a complaint of battle connected a instrumentality enforcement officer.

Officer Black aboriginal told investigators that helium was suffering from post-traumatic accent upset from an incidental respective years agone erstwhile helium had been beaten by a fishy and required hospitalization. After the revelations successful Mr. Cordero’s case, Officer Black resigned from the section and began treatment, according to an investigative study by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators closed the lawsuit with nary action, and the prosecutors did not complaint the officer.

“He lied connected a report,” Mr. Cordero said. “What did I bash wrong? Nothing. I told the truth.”

Sara Jones, a lawyer who initially helped Mr. Cordero with the case, said she believed him from the start, due to the fact that his relationship of being sucker-punched from down during a postulation halt mirrored what she had heard from different clients.

“That is what made maine judge helium was telling the information earlier I adjacent saw the video,” Ms. Jones said.


Credit...Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times

The Lake Wales Police forwarded a reporter’s petition for remark connected the probe to Officer Black’s father, a lawman main astatine the department, who did not respond. Officer Black did not respond to a petition for an interview.

In the lawsuit of Mr. Price successful South Carolina, the Police Department ne'er explained the mendacious connection it gave reporters astir what happened during the arrest. Mr. Price is suing the City of Rock Hill and Representative Ralph Norman, the Republican congressman, saying that some slandered him successful their nationalist statements.

A time aft The New York Times contacted him, Mr. Norman’s bureau updated the connection connected his blog and Facebook leafage to region the mendacious information.

Mr. Price, a begetter of 2 who works astatine a chemic plant, said helium disquieted astir what would person happened if determination had not been a nationalist outcry that led to the merchandise of the assemblage camera footage. Whose communicative would radical person believed?

“How they degraded my name, it conscionable ain’t right,” helium said. “I conscionable don’t want, everyplace I go, radical looking astatine maine each different, and it’s already that way. I privation my quality to inactive beryllium the same.”

Mike Baker, Lucy Tompkins, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio and Will Wright contributed reporting.

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