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Utica Police PBA seeking legal action after viral video
UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Utica Police Department PBA is consulting with their attorneys after a local weekly newspaper incorrectly identified officers involved in a February, 2011 traffic stop.
"She starts naming officers that aren't even on the scene, aren't even working that evening, right in the news for everybody to see," says UPD PBA President Dominick Nitti. "Corrects it by putting another officer who's not even on the scene there."
Accompanying the article was a one minute, 40 second-long dashcam video snippet of an officer taking a small baggie from his pocket and placing it in the car of the driver he'd just pulled over for running a stop sign. The headline read, "UPD Caught on Tape".
"Their integrity is a major tool for them out there and if they have no integrity or credibility, that ruins any other case they're going to work on in the future, cases they may have worked on in the past," says Nitti.
The video went viral, with New York City police publications addressing it, as well as the national media. But the brief snippet leaves out the other 25 or so minutes of the traffic stop, where the officer's bare hand can be seen going into the driver's pocket and pulling out small baggies.
The black community is crying, "racism" and the police PBA is crying, "defamation," and the chasm between the two threatens to grow. The newspaper, the Utica Phoenix, printed a correction and apology on Thursday, but the union president says the damage is already done.
"If she apologizes to the officers, it's still out there. These officers, some of their integrity and credibility has somewhat been diminished," says Nitti.
Publisher Cassandra Harris-Lockwood declined an on-camera interview, pointing out that the paper did post a correction and apology. The Utica Police Union is consulting with Albany-area attorneys who specialize in defamation.
"It's just irresponsible journalism on the part of the Phoenix, that's the main thing there and us as a union, we're going to protect our members so legal action will be taken against the Phoenix," says Nitti.