News & Politics

Police Officer Caught on Video Saying Man 'Didn't Do Anything' Before Arresting Him

Body camera and cellphone footage continue to show us that a culture of lying and misconduct is rampant in the profession of policing.

Officer Jamal Davis says he isn't comfortable bringing charges against a man but was pressured into doing so by another officer.
Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun (screenshot)

When it comes to police misconduct, we are often told that it’s just “a few bad apples” and that the profession of policing is still an honest and trustworthy one. Yet, it’s getting harder to believe that with so many instances of police brutality and misconduct repeatedly being caught on camera. From abusing unarmed, handcuffed suspects, to making up arrest charges, to actually murdering innocent people, there are many reasons for us to feel unsafe around police and to question how they are doing their jobs. One recent incident occurred in Maryland after body camera footage showed one officer telling another officer that a man “didn’t do anything” only to arrest him later anyway. As written by The Baltimore Sun:

The Annapolis Police Department opened internal investigations after an officer pepper sprayed a man following a fight in downtown Annapolis and then arrested him despite telling another officer he “didn’t do anything.” [...]

[Officer Jamal Davis] says several times he does not plan to charge [Ryan Greenstreet], but others officers off-screen question his decision. Police eventually charged Greenstreet with interfering with an arrest and [Michael Richardson, who was involved in the fight] with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Everything about this is suspicious. The video shows Davis clearly saying that Greenstreet didn’t do anything but walk toward a fight that Davis and another officer were trying to break up. Walking in the direction of a fight is not a crime. In fact, nowadays plenty of people do so and whip out their cellphones too so they can capture these altercations on film. But somehow, Davis makes the assumption that Greenstreet is not just a witness, but instead that he wants in on the action. So he pepper sprays him—along with anyone else who happened to be around.

Davis describes seeing Greenstreet approach the fight “like he was trying to jump in the mix.”

In another conversation, Davis says Greenstreet was “kind of like walking over to see what’s going on” and that he used pepper spray to “back everybody up.”

This is our first clue that something here isn’t legitimate. Or that Davis is just really scared of certain people who are gathered in a crowd. Either way, it doesn’t make for good or trustworthy policing. Once things have simmered down and Richardson (the actual person involved in the fight) is arrested, Davis tells another officer that Greenstreet isn’t in trouble because he hasn’t done anything wrong. But apparently, not doing anything wrong isn’t good enough for the other officer. He wants Greenstreet charged for something. And he basically keeps digging until they can come up with a reason to arrest him. As The Sun explains:

In other footage, Davis says that he’s “not really comfortable charging him (Greenstreet)” and maintains that Greenstreet is innocent when another officer asks. [...]

Later, Davis and the other officers agree on a hindrance charge, despite Davis’ initial reluctance.

On Tuesday, in a district court, the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped the charges against Greenstreet. Why? Because as Davis said the first time he was asked, he didn’t do anything. And there was video to prove it. While there is an investigation underway about the discrepancy between the video footage and Davis’s written statement charging Greenstreet, there is more to be concerned about than just this case. Body camera and cellphone footage continue to show us that there is a culture of lying and misconduct that is rampant in the profession of policing—and it’s not limited to one city or town in America. It’s a problem that police can admit that someone is innocent but still charge folks for crimes anyway. This time it was caught on film. But what about the next time? Ryan Greenstreet could have ended up with a criminal record. He already had to spend time in court and lawyers fees. If this kind of misconduct and abuse isn’t stopped, it could be so much worse for the next person. 


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Kelly Macias is a staff writer at Daily Kos focusing on racial justice, social justice and gender issues.