A Washington, D.C. resident who was subjected to a humiliating and forceful search of his private parts on a public street last fall has sued the officer seen probing his body in a viral video.

Officer Sean Lojacono was part of a crew of cops who jumped out of squad cars to approach M.B. Cottingham and a group of his friends as they sat on a sidewalk figuring out how to celebrate the latter man’s birthday. In the video from last September, Cottingham can be seen submitting to a search, but objecting repeatedly to Lojacono’s attempts to stuff his fingers between the man’s buttocks.

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At one point he straightens up an whips around, saying “He just stuck his finger in my crack.” Cottingham told city councilmembers that he had barely resisted the impulse to throw a punch at the officer in that moment, saying last week at a community meeting about endemic police abuse of people of color in the capital’s southeastern reaches that he only stopped because “I didn’t want to become a hashtag.”

In the video, officers swiftly move to put handcuffs on Cottingham after that twitch, and he again submits to further searching. Lojacano resumes the abrupt and forcible searching of the handcuffed man’s vulnerable parts.

“C’mon man, stop fingering me though, bro,” Cottingham says in the video. Lojacano murmurs something inaudible to him, and Cottingham responds, “No problem” and sets his feet even more widely apart. Lojacano resumes his aggressive handling of Cottingham’s genitals and buttocks through his grey sweatpants.

Officers at one point assert that the whole thing is happening because Cottingham and his friends were drinking outside — the kind of open container quality-of-life offense that Chief Peter Newsham has recently claimed his officers do not waste time on. “The Metropolitan Police Department does not subscribe to a zero-tolerance policy of policing,” the chief told City Council at a hearing last week about his officers’ conduct in neighborhoods like Cottingham’s. “Arresting people for minor offenses such as open containers of alcohol and BB guns can create a lot of animosity between a police department and a community. And our police department does not subscribe to that.”

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Cottingham’s experience illustrates the dodge baked into Newsham’s statement. He was not arrested, but he was shaken down and humiliated all thanks to a stop justified — ostensibly — by the presence of open containers of alcohol. Just because MPD doesn’t actually try to charge people with such quality-of-life misdemeanors does not mean that the long-discredited racist police philosophy known as “broken windows” is dead and buried in D.C.

The repeat violations of his person had “no other discernible reason than to humiliate and degrade Mr. Cottingham and to display the officer’s power over him,” Cottingham’s suit asserts. “The escalation of a low-level stop into a public body-cavity search was an affront to Mr. Cottingham’s dignity as well as his constitutional rights.”

Cottingham himself was blunter at last Thursday’s meeting with city leaders, held in a neighborhood called Deanwood that rests along the D.C.-Maryland border.

Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham, center, likely did not anticipate that high-profile trials of Inauguration Day marchers would draw his department's darkest day-to-day practices into the light. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Key officer in Trump protester trial slanders black neighborhood in bizarre testimony

“The officers pulled up on the street, hopped out of the car, asked us for guns. Everyone said we don’t have no guns. ‘Lift up your shirt,’ [they said]. I asked the guy, do you need me to do the hokie-pokie, turn myself around, just to show you that I don’t have any weapons,” Cottingham told the councilmen present.

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From there, Cottingham’s lawyers write in the suit, Lojacono immediately sought to punish Cottingham’s sass about the hokie-pokie. “Officer Lojacono did not begin by patting down Mr. Cottingham’s torso or legs. Instead, Officer Lojacono immediately reached between Mr. Cottingham’s legs, grabbed his scrotum, felt around with his hand, and stuck his thumb in Mr. Cottingham’s anus,” the suit says.

This is not the first time D.C. police have been accused of punitively inserting fingers into a citizen’s hindquarters. Another pending, broader lawsuit over police conduct during Inauguration Day protests in 2017 asserts that officers took some detainees to a third location in between the arrest site and the booking house so that they could conduct humiliating strip searches. One plaintiff in that case says he believes the cops “used rape as punishment” for their participation in the protest.

But where the alleged abuses of Inauguration Day had something of a special-occasion feel to them, Cottingham and scores of other black D.C. residents said last week that such humiliations and deprivations of rights are an everyday occurrence in their communities.

“They pull up all the time over there in Southeast and Southwest, ‘do you-all have guns?’ No, but you-all do,” Cottingham said.

Video of the original incident that prompted Cottingham’s suit of Officer Lojacano is difficult to watch. Yet it ends with one of the men who’d been sitting with Cottingham telling the departing officers to “have a good day.” Watch:

COTTINGHAM: He grabbing my shit. C’mon man don’t do that. I don’t have nothing. He just stuck his finger in my crack, that ain’t gonna get it, I am a man, bruh. OFFICER 1: [inaudible instruction] COTTINGHAM: No problem. [spreads legs wider, cop returns to groping]COTTINGHAM: Bruh. C’mon man, stop fingering me though, bruh?OFFICER 1: Stop. Moving. COTTINGHAM: You fingering my ass, man, what you mean? OFFICER 1: I’m outside your pants, bro, relax. COTTINGHAM: Look man that’s still my asshole, man, what you doing, man? OFFICER 1: How? I am going like this I’m– COTTINGHAM: Bruh I’ll pull my pants down, don’t sit here and finger my ass like that, like I’m not a man, man what the fuck is you doing man? OFFICER 1: Did I ever say you weren’t a man? Damn. COTTINGHAM: You treating me like it though, bruh, don’t rub the finger across my asscrack like that man, let me do that to yours, how would you feel? OFFICER 1: I’m not out here breaking the law, my man. COTTINGHAM: I feel you bro but c’mon with that right there, man, don’t demasculate me man. I’m a man, brother. OFFICER 1: You mean emasculate? COTTINGHAM: Demasculate, I know what I said. OFFICER 1: It’s emasculate. COTTINGHAM: Well, whatever. However. OFFICER 2: You know what, in lieu of not locking you up, pouring this away [OFFICER 2 pours out bottle of Hennessey]. Pour that cup over right there too. [OFFICERS take cuffs off if COTTINGHAM.] OFFICER 2: You aright? CIVILIAN [Off-screen]: We good. We good. Y’all have a good day. Thank y’all.

The Jump-Out Boys Are Back In Town

D.C. police are notorious among black residents for using a tactic called “jumpouts,” where a group of officers drive up rapidly on a group of people sitting or standing on the corner or sidewalk and rush up to demand identification, demand permission to search people’s persons for drugs or guns, and generally disrupt peaceful gatherings.

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Police have denied that “jumpouts” are a thing. But Cottingham’s experience is far from unique. The meeting where he spoke was convened in response to mass outrage in Southeast over videos from this June, in which members of the department’s free-roaming Gun Recovery Unit special squad conduct a jumpout at a barbershop. After video of that encounter went viral weeks later, officers returned to the barbershop at night and got into a massive brawl in the street with community members. Locals say one officer sprayed mace in a toddler’s face that night. (A police spokesman confirmed that pepper spray had been deployed, but said he couldn’t confirm or deny that a child had been hit with it — just that the child’s mother had declined to have police call an ambulance for her. Another man present told ThinkProgress he later called EMTs for the child himself, after police had left.)

Tensions were already elevated between police and members of the community over a string of recent police killings in Deanwood and other neighborhoods in Southeast, including the death in a collision of Jeffrey Price this spring. Price’s family members spoke at the same meeting, demanding not just one-off resolutions to particular instances of abusive or aggressive policing, but sweeping cultural change to the city’s police force.

CREDIT: DYLAN PETROHILOS/THINKPROGRESS If You Thought Stop-And-Frisk Was Bad, You Should Know About Jump-Outs

Chief Newsham, who presides over that police culture, has his roots in a much earlier era. That same Thursday, he opened his remarks to the council by reminding them that his career began as a patrol officer at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, when D.C. saw hundreds of murders each year. Later that night, multiple community leaders, including some who have lost family members to police violence, repeatedly called on the council to work toward removing Newsham from his job, saying that his disinterest in listening to community concerns and inability to acknowledge that his officers are needlessly traumatizing black people make him an untrustworthy partner in any reform effort.

“I thought we had a shot at moving forward this morning. I thought the chief was going to be there to take notes, to listen. That’s not what happened. He was totally disrespect. He was arrogant. He had no interest in listening at all,” said Jay Brown, uncle of Jeffrey Price who was killed in a police chase in April. “I’m willing to extend a hand, and build. This police chief cut that hand off. We cannot move forward with this police chief.”

Source Link:
https://thinkprogress.org/stop-fingering-me-bro-lawsuit-against-dc-cop-puts-new-face-on-systemic-abuse-of-black-residents-a5c24cf6c16b/

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