The Thin Blue Lie? Video Clears Brooklyn Man Of Attempting To Run Over Officer . . . But What About The Officer?

John Hockenjos, 55, is a New York man accused of trying to run over a Brooklyn officer with his car. The officer claimed that Hockenjos tried to run him over — a claim strikingly familiar to past cases that we have discussed. However, on this occasion, the citizen had this night-vision surveillance tape that showed that the officer lied. The felony charges have now been dropped, but there remains the question of the officer. Citizens are routinely charged criminally for making false claims to police. However, officers are rarely fired, let alone charged, in such cases.

The officer was responding to a call from a neighbor who has a dispute with Hockenjos over a two-foot spread of grass along the driveway. The officer claimed that Hockenjos, 55, entered his driveway at a high rate of speed and that he had to jump out of the way to save his own life. However, the tape shows Hockenjos moving slowly up the driveway stopping well short of the police officer. There is no meaningful movement by the officer and certainly not any jump for his life.

Hockenjos has a clean record, but (based on the officer’s account) spent three days in jail on the felony charge. Notably, however, they did not drop the disorderly conduct charge against his 51-year-old wife, Irena.

The contrast to how these cases are handled is striking. Citizens are charged with false claims while officers appear effectively immune from such charges. This includes New York cases, such as the recent case against a WABC meteorologist. The rare cases that do see charges generally involve civil rights allegations, as here.

The New York criminal code contains the following:

Falsely reporting an incident in the first degree (N.Y. PENAL LAW § 240.60) –No less than 3, nor more than 7 years’ imprisonment; No more than $5,000 fine.

Falsely reporting an incident in the second degree (N.Y. PENAL LAW § 240.55) — No less than 3, nor more than 4 years’ imprisonment; No more than $5,000 fine.

Falsely reporting an incident in the third degree (N.Y. PENAL LAW § 240.50)– No more than 1 year imprisonment; No more than $1,000 fine

“Reporting” is likely to be viewed as an act of a citizen and police officers can claim a generous level of discretion. Yet, this is a case where the officer clearly knew he was lying and bringing a baseless charge.

We have seen a number of cases where citizens are charged with assault for the slightest contact with officers even an air kiss. Previously, we saw how a hug was charged as a felony. We have also seen an officer claim battery when a bubble touched him. Then there is the officer who charged battery when a suspect released gas in his presence. These all pale in comparison to being hit by a flying pillow, of course.

In the absence of a video, such charges generally are difficult for citizens to rebut — another example of why citizens should be able to videotape officers in public.

Source: NY Daily News as first seen on ABA Journal

56 thoughts on “The Thin Blue Lie? Video Clears Brooklyn Man Of Attempting To Run Over Officer . . . But What About The Officer?

  1. Speaking as a former cop, to whom much has been given much is expected. The odds of this cop being caught are so slim, and so much trust has been given to him to be honest, that the punishment must consider those two things. The penalties that apply to normal citizens are too lenient for this case by a factor of four.

  2. SIAS,

    Norm Stamper puts the problem in perspective, IMO.

    “There are many compassionate, decent, competent police officers who do a terrific job day in and day out. There are others who are, quote, ‘bad apples.’ What both of them have in common is that they ‘occupy,’ as it were, a system, a structure that itself is rotten. And I am talking about the paramilitary bureaucracy.” (refer to interview and excerpt below)

    Michaelb, Thanks for bringing up Stamper.

    Here’s a recent interview with Amy Goodman:

    “Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper on Paramilitary Policing From WTO to Occupy Wall Street”

    http://www.democracynow.org/2011/11/17/paramilitary_policing_of_occupy_wall_street

    Excerpt:

    “Norm Stamper, the former police chief of Seattle, who recently wrote an article for The Nation magazine titled “Paramilitary Policing from Seattle to Occupy Wall Street.” “Trust me, the police do not want to be put in this position. And cities really need to ask themselves, is there another way to handle this kind of conflict?” Wexler says.

    Stamper notes, “There are many compassionate, decent, competent police officers who do a terrific job day in and day out. There are others who are, quote, ‘bad apples.’ What both of them have in common is that they ‘occupy,’ as it were, a system, a structure that itself is rotten. And I am talking about the paramilitary bureaucracy.”

  3. People have every right to be skeptical of their government and its agents. It’s healthy for democracy. However, I believe it is worth bearing in mind a few points:

    The first is that law enforcement is the frontline of people’s interaction with their government. Community policing helps to broaden cooperation with individuals and a sense of trust between people and the state. There are bad police officers. There are bad people. Bad parts don’t make a bad whole. Law enforcement as a whole is a valuable tool for government and citizen interfacing.

    There is no vast law enforcement or government conspiracy to tighten the noose on the rights of citizens. Government agents do not sit around and discuss how much they can’t wait to illegally search someone’s house or wiretap the hell out of them. All of the ones I’ve worked with from different agencies are bright individuals with the upmost respect for the Constitution and its provisions.

    Many law enforcement scandals, at least on the federal level, are the result of corner cutting, and not the result of blatant disregard for the law. For example, the FBI ADIC in DC cheating to get out of taking the test on the Attorney General’s investigation guidance or the national security letters being sent in a haphazard fashion. YES, these are totally unacceptable and lead to unconstitutional results. NO, the law enforcement officers were not doing it for this unconstitutional result. They simply saw a shortcut and took it. They were not consciously trying to break the law. The cost is too high for these types of mistakes, but I can’t say I’ve never taken a shortcut. I just don’t infringe on the rights of citizens when I do it so WashPo doesn’t cover it.

    Law enforcement officers constantly see the worst side of society. Every call they take may be a dangerous situation. They need to assess information very quickly. When you see the worst in people, I believe you tend to assume the worst in people. I can’t imagine it doesn’t influence the decisions they make on some level. What looks like an obviously harmless situation to you or I may look very different through the lens of a law enforcement officer who knows the results of a routine traffic shop could be a bullet through the head, and someone approaching you for a hug could have a knife.

    Finally, you should be allowed to record law enforcement officers doing their job. Lies like this one should not be tolerated. Law enforcement officers should be held to a high standard. Just please remember what they do for a living. It’s very difficult.

    • Norm Stamper ( Seattle Police Chief ) noted in his book “Breaking Rank” he would tolerate mistakes in his officers. He would work with officers that needed guidance and training. He would not tolerate lying.

  4. Blouise,

    Tainting a jury pool by common sense, was that it?

    Where can I sign up to get tainted?
    ===============================

    gbk,

    All I say is hijack away.

    And again your self-alleged little knowledge of law.

    A general question: What do the kids learn in high school today.
    Isn’t that when we supposed to be made aware competent citizens??

    • OS,

      Until it’s appealed to the Sct….it’s just secondary authority….. If and when it goes through the appeals process it good authority but not the best….. I do hope the States Attorney does appeal it so the damn law will be permanently over ruled….. And the potential defendants had some protection….until then it’s a case by case basis….

  5. gbk,

    Yeah, that was more of a pleasantly entertaining meander than a hijack. Plus, it was tangentially related to the topic. If you want to see some real serious hijacking, just check out any one of the number of threads Bdaman has boosted for something that is completely and utterly off topic by flooding the thread with a bunch of copy pasted propaganda hokum. Now that is a hijack. He’s so bad about hijacking threads, I’m surprised he hasn’t demanded the blog be flown to Cuba yet.

  6. I never served on a jury. I have been summoned, but then dismissed as soon as my name appears on the jury pool list. I have an acquaintance who did. The questionnaire asked her about her employment. She just put down that she was a state employee. She was indeed…..with a PhD in forensic science and a JD to boot. Neither lawyer asked her what she did for the state. She would have answered truthfully that she was an Assistant District Attorney. Nobody picked up on it and she served on the jury.

    She lectures now, and always tells that story. The moral of the account is her advice she gives to attorneys: Always ask what the prospective juror does for a living!

  7. Well, the NYPD officer who took down and arrested the bicyclist and lied on the report was convicted of filing a criminal complaint with false statements, a felony. He got no time, of course. At least he’s not a cop anymore.

  8. Blouise,

    “you had just tainted her whole jury pool with common sense. She needed to discredit you.”

    It seemed this way to me. Actually, after my last statement to the prosecutor there was quite a bit of stiffled laughter in the court — even from the bailiffs.

    ————————————————————————-

    Don’t mean to hijack this thread, just wanted to share a personal experience.

  9. Most of the comments above point to what I think will come sooner rather than later; namely, the end of juries – first in criminal cases, then in all civil cases. And yes, I know that in more and more situations, it is already reality in many non-criminal cases.

  10. Going back to the original story I suspect that the charges against the wife were kept so that they might be able to control the man better since his wife may end up suffering for any legal actions he might take.

    A story I remember reading about from back in 2003 was about a three county drug bust of a man who grew marijuana.
    The LEO’s worked out a deal with the man not to charge him or his girlfriend (the newspaper reported that since his name was being tarnished publicy that it was enough ) if he forfieted something like $75,000 that he had.The LEO’s were fighting over which county was going to get the money.

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