Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Enyedi releases dashcam footage

Alana Penny

A week after a two-minute video of a SUNY Plattsburgh student being pulled over by University Police went around on Instagram, President Alexander Enyedi shared the full dashcam footage and police report. The dashcam footage is an hour and 14 minutes. 

It began with the University Police car driving down Broad Street. They turned onto Rugar Street and drove by a red Hyundai Elantra, driving with it’s headlights off. UP turned around in the pull out in front of Harrington Hall and followed the Elantra with their flashing lights on. The student pulled over in the McDonough parking lot. 

The officer knocked on the window, and the student rolled it down. The officer introduced herself and explained she stopped her because she doesn’t have her headlights on. The student responded that her lights were on. 

The officer explained that when she passed the student on Rugar she didn’t have her headlights or taillights on.

“It’s not a big deal, I just want to make sure they work,” the officer said.  

The student assures the officer the lights do work. 

“OK, you probably just had them on ‘off’ instead of ‘auto,’” the officer said. “It happens a lot, and it’s hard to tell in the city because there’s so many street lights.”  

From the camera angle of the video, the front of the car is not visible, but the officer notified the student only her running lights, the strip of lights below or around headlights, were on. 

The officer went back to her car to run the student’s driver’s license, asking her to stay in the car. Another officer arrived on the scene, and the first officer updated him, telling him the student didn’t have her lights on, but argued that she did. 

The second officer asked if she’s going to write the student up to which she replied, “no, it’s not worth it. Hopefully, this will be the one interaction with police she has that maybe will change her decision about cops.”

After running the student’s plates, she found the Elantra’s registration was suspended due to the insurance policy not being in effect. They also later determined the inspection certificate belonged to a different vehicle. 

The officers acknowledged insurance companies and the DMV can have clerical issues, but they had to go off the information they have. 

The officers explained the situation to the student and a family member the student is speaking with on the phone. The officers allowed the student and her passenger to gather their belongings from the car before they went to the station. They asked for the car key, because the car needed to be towed, and it would be easier and prevent damage to the car, if they can start the car. The student refused to give them the keys. 

The first officer offered to give the student a ride over to the University Police station. 

“I just want to get things done and over with so you can enjoy the rest of your night,” she said to the student.  

The student asked to not go yet, until she finished her phone call. The officer said she can talk on the phone in the car, and explained they do not want to have to cuff her to transport her to the station. 

After about 20 minutes of asking the student to get into the car, the student continued to say she needed to wait for her friend to give her her phone, but she would come after that. They told her that her friend could come to the station to get it. 

She gave them the car key, but didn’t go with them to the police car. This is when the officers held her against the Elantra, restrained her arms and led her to the police car. This is also when the student’s friend began recording the video that went around on social media. They transported her to the station. She was charged with driving with sub standard lights, a suspended registration, a false inspection certificate and resisting arrest.     

The president said he released the video in response to students, faculty and staff requests. 

“Although the video is part of the public record, I wanted to be as transparent as possible and to allow the community to draw its own conclusions based on what they saw,” Enyedi said. 

He said he received positive feedback for releasing the video because there was a campus-wide desire to see the entire traffic stop and better understand all that happened that night. 

Mac-Olivier Lalanne, a senior political science major, believed it was the right choice for the president to release the dashcam footage. However, he thought the administration could have released it earlier, rather than waiting until so many students requested it at events, like the Black Table Talk. 

“For most students, they just want that transparency from the president and the police department,” Lelanne said. 

When he initially saw the two-minute video, he thought it was disturbing, bizarre and controversial. 

“It didn’t have a lot of context for why the girl was under arrest and why it was handled that way,” Lelanne said. “That is why students wanted to see the dashcam: to see the full interaction.”    

Lelanne said the dashcam footage kind of changed his view of the traffic stop. 

“[The dashcam] showed University Police were going through their procedure, going through the computer looking for the license plate and all that, but it was a little bit off around the ending,” he said.

Enyedi shared plans to launch SUNY Plattsburgh’s Campus, Community and Safety Advisory Committee, yesterday. 

“Together, they will evaluate policies, plans and procedures related to campus safety; make recommendations; facilitate communication across campus; and develop a mutual understanding of roles and expectations,” Enyedi said in his email.

The committee is set to be formed by Nov. 18 and hold their first meeting by Nov. 29. 

“This collaborative partnership involving students, faculty, university police and others on campus, will work to understand and respond to the needs and experiences of our diverse community and make recommendations to strengthen our relationships and practices,” Enyedi said. 

The committee is set to consist of UP officers and at least six additional members. One third of the members will be students. They will seek nominations from Student Association, Black Onyx, Fuerza, the Plattsburgh Association of Black Journalists (PABJ), the Student Diversity Council and other groups. One third of the members will be faculty, at least half of the members will identify as female and one third of the members will be selected by the president. 

“I see that they are at least trying their best to answer students’ questions and everything but I feel like more should be done,” Lalanne said.

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