South Bronx native and lead organizer of New York City’s Copwatch Patrol Unit Jose LaSalle is no stranger to the NYPD. LaSalle has led the way in New York copwatching in recent years, setting up the original South Bronx Copwatch in 2011. CPU has become a prominent force in New York activist circles earning a spot as a major sponsor of the #ShutDownCityHallNYC campaign in Abolition Square. Tuesday morning, Jose LaSalle held a press conference to address his unlawful arrest and theft of his personal items last week as well as the general harassment CPU and associated activists face by the NYPD.
On August 5th, LaSalle was copwatching in the South Bronx observing NYPD PSA 7 officers perform a stop-and-frisk on two individuals. PSA 7 officers suddenly became very aggressive toward LaSalle leading to his arrest, detainment, attempted warrantless search of his cell phone, and transfer to Bronx central booking. At the local precinct, LaSalle heard multiple officers celebrating and cheering, “We got him! We got Jose LaSalle!” Unbeknownst to the officers, LaSalle recorded this audio on his phone, proof that the NYPD has seen him as Public Enemy Number One since he founded CPU. LaSalle also reportedly said the police emptied all other prisoners from his cell block leaving him alone, just moments before his lawyer and jail support team arrived.
Officers escorted LaSalle from Bronx Central Booking to an exit gate, uncuffed and released him back onto the street without a Desk Appearance Ticket or any paperwork whatsoever. LaSalle met with his jail support team and loved ones at a local Bronx diner to celebrate his freedom. Shortly after photos of Jose at Crown Donut diner were posted online, PSA 7 officers rolled up to the scene, disrupting the meal, and re-arrested Jose, making this his second detainment in a 48-hour period. Unlike his first arrest, this time officer’s confiscated LaSalle’s two cell phones suspecting that they contained evidence of the incriminating arrest celebration in the precinct. LaSalle is used to the NYPD falsely arresting him, stealing his tech, and returning it destroyed or with missing data.
Members of the Black Lives Matter organization Why Accountability filmed PSA 7 officer’s interactions in the diner:
Cop 1 on call: What’s the next move? (silence; asks to call back)
Cop 1 to Cop 2: We need his personal effects
Cop 1 to Jose: (unintelligible) All the property you picked up at the precinct?
Jose to Cop 1: No, that is already taken to my lawyer
Cop 1 to Jose: You don’t have anything with you? …The stuff that you picked up at the precinct is with your attorney?
Jose to Cop 1: Yeah, he’s gonna take care of it
Cop 1 on call: The phones… So the phones we’re gonna need (whispers into phone; hangs up)
Cop 1 to Jose: Where’s your phone?
Jose to Cop 1: My phone’s right here (points to belt)
Cop 1 to Jose: Any other phones you have?
LaSalle’s phone has built in security that alerted him that there were two unauthorized attempts to access his phone while it was in possession of PSA 7. CPU suspects that PSA 7 decided to re-arrest him to delete his phone records in an effort to cover up their obvious bias that suggests the intentional targeting of Jose and other copwatchers.
Nabil Hassein of Millions March NYC told reporters that he and his affinity group have faced similar repression. After a protest outside the house of Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson in April, Hassein was arrested with 6 others. After their release from Brooklyn central booking, it took a month for the protesters to get their phones back from the police, noticing tampering upon their return.
“It’s obvious the NYPD has interest in doing all kinds of illegal surveillance on activists,” Hassein explained. “All kinds of shady business are going on that needs to come to an end, this needs to stop.” Millions March NYC demands that PSA 7 return Jose LaSalle’s two cell phones in the condition in which they were seized, with memory cards and SIM cards intact.