EDITORIAL: Report on controversial Schenectady arrest has lessons for police, suspects, public

Erica Miller and Peter Barber/Staff PhotographersYugeshwar Gaindarpersaud is pictured in left photo; Officer Brian Pommer is  pictured in 2018 in right photo. 

Erica Miller and Peter Barber/Staff Photographers

Yugeshwar Gaindarpersaud is pictured in left photo; Officer Brian Pommer is  pictured in 2018 in right photo. 

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

Thoroughness. Fairness. Perspective. Candor.

Those are four words one doesn’t often associate with government reports — especially those related to police interactions with the public.

But the report issued Wednesday by Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney’s office on the controversial arrest of Yugeshwar Gaindarpersaud by Schenectady police officer Brian Pommer earlier this year came as close as you’re going to come to those ideals — offering a blunt but rational and just assessment of the incident.

The report, which you can read about in reporter Pete DeMola’s article today, cited the law in determining that Officer Pommer did not commit a crime in his attempt to subdue Gaindarpersaud after Gaindarpersaud ran from the officer while being placed under arrest for allegedly slashing some tires.

In a videotape of the arrest that was made public shortly after the incident, Pommer can be seen at one point placing his knee on Gaindarpersaud’s head and neck – reminding some of the arrest of George Floyd that led to Floyd’s death.

The tape also showed Gaindarpersaud roughly resisting the officer’s attempts to place him in handcuffs.

The DA’s report, while clearing the officer of any crimes, had some strong critique of his actions.

It offered specific suggestions of what the officer could have done to diffuse the incident, including being clearer to Gaindarpersaud about his intentions in detaining him, and by investigating the citizen’s complaint further before taking action to arrest him.

The report also was fair to Gaindarpersaud, who might have been justified in claiming innocence, but who also had no right, the DA wrote, to resist arrest and ignore the officer’s commands.

As the report says, simply declaring one’s innocence is no justification for failing to obey a police officer. Crimes are tried in the courts, not during arrests.

In the end, the resisting arrest charge against Gaindarpersaud will be dropped if he stays out of trouble for six months, a fair disposition considering police couldn’t prove he committed the crime for which he was being arrested.

Whether one agrees with all of the report’s conclusions or not (assume many will not), police, criminal suspects and the public can take lessons from it.

Police can use some of the recommendations and observations from the report in training and in advising officers how to handle such incidents in the future.

Those suspected of crimes should consider obeying an officer’s orders, or risk further escalating a situation and bringing more trouble upon themselves.

And members of the public, including those of us in the media, should wait to hear the whole story before drawing conclusions.

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