Harlem Cop Watcher Gets Targeted by PoliceSeptember 12th, 2012
Joseph Hayden, known as Jazz by his friends, serves as a kind of neighborhood watch in Harlem. But he’s not watching for cat burglars. He’s patrolling the streets with his video camera documenting police activities. This of course makes him a target of retribution from the police.
Jazz, 71, says he was unfairly arrested after he posted this video of a police search on his website, All Things Harlem. In the video he questions officers as they search a car and frisk two Harlem residents. He advises the driver not to consent to a search and tells him:
“This is what Harlem has turned into, an open-air prison.”
An officer asked Jazz, “You done selling drugs yet or what?” to which he fired back “You done abusing your authority?” Months later the same officers pulled him over on his way home from Church and said, “Hey, we know you.” Officers eventually told him that a taillight was out on his Jeep, which he disputes. He was removed from the vehicle and arrested because of a wooden club in the back seat, and a knife in the center console.
He reportedly told the police:
“I’m on your side to make sure there is courtesy, professionalism and respect. Isn’t that what you advertise on the side of your car?”
He was arrested on charges of weapons possession after a routine traffic stop the he called “bogus.” He said, “Our work galvanized them to push back, which resulted in my arrest.” Lone wolf cop watching can be very dangerous. As we’ve seen again and again, the “public servants” just don’t seem to like “public scrutiny” and the presence of a camera often makes them even more hostile. But Jazz’s community has his back. There is an online petition with over 2,000 names, a letter-writing campaign to district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., and recently a rally held on Jazz’s behalf outside Vance’s office.
Jazz’s supporters characterize him as a leader in the community who sparked a growing movement of cop watchers in their neighborhood. Of course the police call them “professional agitators.” One of the prominent Harlem residents in this effort is Christina Gonzalez, 25, who said “Even if my card is full or my camera is dead I want officers to know they’re being watched.”
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