When the video first appeared, it was more fuel for the fire of bad cops. Bad, bad, bad, because we know bad cops happen and, well, they aren’t always our favorite people. So we’re disinclined to consider the possibility that maybe the bad cop isn’t so bad. Mix in Dunkin’ Donuts and, well, it’s too perfect.
See what a bad cop Daniel Chu is? An official-ly person said so, and we want it to be so, and so we believe. Dan Halloran, a Republican and Libertarian, was city councilman from Queens, and a former New York City police officer. He’s also a heathen, but nobody’s perfect. Who could be a better source?
But the video was from 2010. Cut to May, 2013, and the Daily News reports:
The former traffic agent who City Councilman Dan Halloran accused of speeding through stop signs on a Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Coolatta run has won $20,000 in his defamation suit against the city.
Daniel Chu claimed the stress of the public humiliation left him with Bell’s palsy disease.
“My guess is the city settled because Halloran now has no credibility,” said Michael Berkley, Chu’s lawyer.
In court papers, Chu alleged Halloran orchestrated a retaliation campaign after he ticketed the Republican’s chief of staff in 2010.
Didn’t see that coming? It might have something to do with Dan Halloran’s arrest in April, 2013 by the FBI for prosecution in the Southern District of New York for bribery.
Halloran was indicted on charges he and Smith plotted to pay off two city Republican Party officials to get Smith, a Democrat, a spot on the Republican party mayoral primary. Halloran was also accused of accepting bribes in exchange for steering up to $80,000 in council discretionary funds to what turned out to be an undercover FBI company.
While one player, former Bronx Republican Chairman Joseph Savino, cut a deal with the government and pleaded guilty to bribery, conspiracy and wire fraud, Halloran awaits trial, which means that he is presumed innocent and, coincidentally, remains in his post as a city councilman, though he did not run for re-election and his term of office ends this month.
So what becomes of all those who, at the time Halloran was applauded for exposing the conduct of NYPD traffic cop Chu, who now has $20 grand more than he started with, and Halloran the hero who faces trial? Well, they can be forgiven their leap of faith, believing something that was certainly plausible because we’ve seen it too many times already to dismiss it.
And yet, the message can’t be ignored. Not by those who see only another bad cop video or those who are inclined toward the opposite.
It’s one thing to see a video of a person doing wrong, whether a citizen robbing a bank or a cop beating a helpless suspect. Despite the standard “we have to investigate,” and don’t believe your eyes, pap offered by police union leaders who will say anything to explain that only videos of perps can be trusted, while videos of officers doing wrong never tell the whole story, the video shows what it shows. Could there be more? Sure. But rarely does more change what is seen. It may explain things somewhat, but it doesn’t excuse them.
Yet, the tendency to embrace the stories of police misconduct leads us to applaud the Hallorans without giving much thought to Traffic Cop Chu perhaps being the victim of a guy with access to television cameras trying his damndest to get out of some embarrassing tickets. Or maybe Halloran told the truth, but also happens to be involved in some bad political bribery stuff, and the city settled with Chu because of the taint on Halloran.
Or maybe Halloran is innocent of the federal charges of bribery and Chu is a bad cop, exactly as Halloran said.
The point is that we don’t know. There is no way that anyone watching this mess from the outside can ascertain who is telling the truth and who is wrong. After all, an allegation of a coffee run coupled with a random picture of Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t prove anything. Nor does an allegation of political bribery, which no doubt weighs a lot more heavily on Dan Halloran’s mind these days than Daniel Chu’s coolatta.
Granted, what happened to Halloran subsequent to his condemnation of Chu is an outlier, and certainly not what one would have expected. But it serves to remind all of us, myself very much included, that stories don’t always pan out the way one expects, or the way one hopes.
Reading a great many stories of police abuse and misconduct, whether on my own or the ones people send me, I often find something smells bad about them. Whether the lack of critical detail or the hint that maybe the story is biased and leaves out the other side which changes the equation, I often pass on writing about things that others think I should write about. It’s not that I have any special spidey sense that lets me distinguish truth from fiction, but that I strive to remain as skeptical as possible so as not to let my personal bias impair the accuracy of what I have to say.
That Daniel Chu got a $20,000 payday for Bell’s Palsy, of all things, still emits an unpleasant odor under the circumstances. That Halloran is awaiting trial in the Southern District of New York does too. I’m glad I wasn’t sucked into this mess by the Dunkin’ Donuts piece. It would have been too easy, and it would have been wrong.