St. Louis police are under fire for allegedly turning off a dashcam while beating a man they were arresting.
Now that man, Cortez Bufford, has filed a lawsuit alleging excessive force in the April 10, 2014 incident that ended with him beaten, stunned with a Taser, and charged with resisting arrest and possession of a weapon.
In the newly surfaced footage, officers Michael Binz and Nathaniel Burkemper pull Bufford over after receiving reports of gunfire in the area. During a brief conversation, one officer said he could smell marijuana. A short time later, officers pull Bufford out of the car, kicking and beating him to the ground.
That’s when a female officer can be heard saying:
“Hold up, everybody, hold up. We’re red right now so if you guys are worried about cameras just wait.”
The video stops, but a second dashcam continues to record the incident. A passenger in the vehicle was handcuffed without incident.
Joel Schwartz, an attorney for Bufford who told ABC News that “red” is police terminology for a rolling camera, believes the officers used excessive force and were out of line for turning off the camera.
“I don’t think an officer on the scene should have the capability to stop the camera from rolling. Otherwise it defeats the entire purpose of having body cameras and or dashcams,” Schwartz said.
But the police report, coupled with a statement from an attorney representing the city and the Police Department, are telling a different story — one that absolves the officers of any wrongdoing based on Bufford’s actions.
“The officers were not acting out of line at any time during the arrest. The person involved in this altercation had a semi-automatic gun, and the officers were protecting themselves and the public. They did what had to be done to protect themselves,” Winston Calvert told CNN.
He said the use of force and the dashcam issues are separate. The officer who shut off the dashcam video was referred to an internal affairs department, Calvert said.
“The city’s Police Department has a policy on the use of dash cameras and other cameras, and the Police Department special order says the cameras should be left on until the event the concluded. When we saw that an officer had violated that policy, it was very disappointing,” he said. “The internal affairs recommended discipline for the officer, which is what happened.”
According to the police report, Bufford was seen reaching for a weapon in his pocket during the arrest. Police say a fully loaded handgun was later removed from his person.
Although turning off a dashcam is against St. Louis County Police Department policy, according to a spokeswoman for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, the officer who turned off the camera remains on the job.
Bufford is seeking $500,000 in damages.
SOURCE: CNN, St. Louis Dispatch | VIDEO SOURCE: YouTube
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