A Double-Edged Camera: Jimmy Justice and the NYPD

Jimmy Justice‘s approach to justice is an intimate one: just a man and his camera, roaming the streets in search of cops parked illegally — and once he discovers them, confronting them. “I’m using a video camera as a weapon,” he says. “I believe a video does not lie.”

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Keith B. Richburg interviewed the self-appointed vigilante while connecting him to other recent instances of citizen-documented police misconduct, such as this video of a Critical Mass bicyclist being assaulted by the NYPD

When I watched the Critical Mass clip more than once, it seemed fairly obvious that the officer in question wasn’t paying enough attention to the onslaught of bikes coming towards him, and reacted instinctively when he and the bicyclist nearly collided. I’ve been hit by bicyclists while on foot: it’s scary and it hurts. But many people disagree, including the NYPD — Officer Patrick Pogan has been stripped of his badge and put on desk duty pending a review of the incident. Meanwhile, Christopher Long, the assaulted bicyclist, was also charged with assault and resisting arrest. And according to Pogan’s statement, while resisting arrest Long made statements like, “You are pawns in the game, I’m gonna have your job.” The facts here, as always, are tangled and complicated, and a grainy YouTube video does not hold all the answers.

I’m very much in favor of citizen journalism, but it’s important to remember what it isn’t — specifically, a replacement for properly fact-checked journalism. By holding cops to the standards of the law, Jimmy Justice may be providing a valuable service to the community. But Jimmy is mistaken on one point: While a camera can indeed be a weapon, it can also lie.