Cafe, Upper West Side. Pretty crowded intersection, sitting inside along one of the windows. Several of us, at the tables, looking out, not much going on. Coffee, fruit, conversation, returning e-mails, checking Facebook. All of a sudden, a police car with lights on pulls up to the corner. That was followed by another squad car, then one of those vans, the ones we used to call Paddy Wagons, before we knew what that meant.
Two, three, four officers go into the building across the street…then two, three, four officers come back, with a man between them. His hands are cuffed behind his back. (On some news broadcasts, that person is referred as the “perp.” For “perpetrator.” That’s not only assuming the person being carried and cuffed is automatically guilty, it’s also cop-speak, and not something any normal person would say in any normal conversation. So, aspiring broadcasters, don’t use that word. Ever.)
As the police officers turned the guy around, and checked his backpack, and asked him questions….each person in the cafe watched….then one by one, reached for a phone. And started rolling video. Right then, those windows turned that arrest into a TV screen. And those phones turned that arrest into an account of how that man was treated and how those officers acted. We knew it. And they knew it. And that’s the way it should be. That guy maybe did something really awful and deserved to be arrested by six NYPD officers in all. But we were there, with our phones, just to be sure.