Culture

Dominican Cops Are Arresting LGBTQ So They Can Ask For Bribes

Last Sunday, squads of heavily armed Dominican National Police officers conducted a sweep of at least 4 public plazas in Santo Domingo. During their sweep of Plaza Duarte, a popular LGBQT cruising spot in the city’s historic colonial quarter, officers detained over 20 individuals. Alina Estrella witnessed the roundup and recorded the above video, which shows  scores of men in the back of a truck being led away by a convoy of police vehicles. The video has gone viral on Dominican social media.

One of the individuals detained, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisal, said that he was sitting in the park holding his partner’s hand when police officers rounded them up.

“Some men immediately bribed the police officers, so they were let go,” the witness said. “My partner and I didn’t have much money on us, so we were paraded around the city on the back of the truck and then taken to the police station.”

Both those detained and the human rights lawyers who organized to release them insist that, once in lockup, the men were denied the right to make phone calls, were charged with no crime, and were only let go that evening if they paid a bribe, or called in a favor.

“The police officers did this without the permission of the prosecutors, you can tell because the moment the city prosecutors office woke up on Monday morning, everyone got released,” said Guillermo Peña, director of Dominican human rights observatory, COIN. Peña was present at the police station.

Yimbret Telemín, and LGBTQ activist who was also at the jail, points to a larger pattern of police repression and arbitrary extra-legal detention.

“The National Police are a predatory organization,” Telemîn claims. “They get paid nothing in wages, so they do these arbitrary sweeps as a way of making a quick buck. You get out of jail quickly if you pay, or if you know somebody. This is not the first dragnet that has targeted members of our community.”

Spokesmen for the Dominican National Police Force have so far declined to comment.

Dominican cops are indeed paid miserable wages. Privates make the equivalent of 125 dollars a month, and this correspondent has personally been solicited for bribes by several officials on multiple occasions. The practice, known as a picoteo, or hen-pecking, is meant to supplement the officer’s meager wages, but often ends up targeting members of marginalized communities.

Our anonymous witness said he suffered no physical abuse and was released later that evening after a 500 peso bribe (approximately 11 dollars). But the injustice of the situation isn’t lost on him.

“How is it possible that I get detained just for sitting on a bench with my partner?” he fumed.

Ring Camera Captures The Moment A Sacramento Police Officer Detained Two Men In Their Own Neighborhood

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Ring Camera Captures The Moment A Sacramento Police Officer Detained Two Men In Their Own Neighborhood

sacsheriff / Instagram

It seems there was some confusion when it came to two neighbors in Sacramento, California being detained over the weekend by a deputy officer. It all started when Ed Dowdy locked his keys and cell phone in his car. He would then contact his neighbor, Omar, to use his phone so he could call for a locksmith. While the two waited outside for the locksmith, security video surveillance shows the two chatting it up outside their gated community homes. 

That’s when a deputy officer showed to their property and things got interesting. The officer originally showed up to the home after an alarm was set off by Omar’s daughter earlier that morning. Upon showing up at the scene the first thing that the officer asked the men a question that surprised them. 

“‘Any of you guys on probation or parole?’” Dowdy told FOX40 when recalling the event. 

Both men didn’t know how to respond to the officer’s question and were caught off guard by the assumption of being criminals. Omar says the officer’s question was out of line and felt they were being marginalized. Dowdy is black and Omar is Latino.  

Two men were detained by the deputy officer after having trouble identifying them. According to the officer, that was enough probable reason to detain them despite the men living in the neighborhood.

“We were just having a conversation right here,” Omar told FOX40. “That kind of surprised me. It kind of shocked us like, why would he even ask that? Like do we look like criminals or something? And to me, I feel like he made up in his mind who we were at that moment.”

According to the DailyMail, Dowdy is an Army veteran and Omar is the owner of a local cleaning business in the Sacramento area.  When Omar attempted to go into his house and retrieve his driver’s license, the officer wouldn’t let him retrieve it. 

“I told him, ‘I’ve got my ID in the house. My wife and kids are inside. Do you want me to go get it? I can go get it,’” Omar told FOX40. “He said, ‘No, I’ll write it down.’ And I even spelled out my name, my last name, gave him my date of birth. He went to go check.”

When the officer came back to the two men he told them that he couldn’t find Omar in his computer system. That was enough to convince the officer to detain them both. 

Luckily for the men, there was Ring video security footage rolling the entire time. 

Credit: KTXL

“You’re out here, outside of a home where an alarm went off, right? You guys are just standing out here and your name isn’t very good,” the deputy officer was heard saying in the security camera footage. “Well, I have reasonable suspicion to believe that a crime is being committed, right? So, I can detain people.”

“We asked for the supervisor,” Omar recalled. “He’s like, ‘I don’t got to call him. I’m not going to waste his time.'”

Dowdy says that the officer acted “belligerent” and searched him “without my consent.” He was detained as well just for being right there at the scene. 

“And he said, ‘No, you don’t go nowhere either because I got to detain you.’ I said, ‘For what? For having a conversation out here?’” Dowdy said. “I don’t feel like we should be yelled at or put in handcuffs or frisked or searched.”

Omar’s wife eventually came out of the house and showed the officer her husband’s ID. They were both released after a fellow sergeant showed up to check on the false alarm call.

Credit: KTXL

Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Tess Deterding reviewed the security surveillance video and released the following statement:

“From a general review of the video, it does not appear there is any violation of policy or law. However, the video is insufficient in terms of drawing a conclusion. If these individuals feel the situation was not handled appropriately by Sheriff’s Office personnel, we encourage them to contact us so we may gather more information.”

Both of the two neighbors told FOX40 that they felt mistreated by the incident and cooperated with the officer’s requests. “There are so many different ways it could’ve been handled,” Omar said. 

It’s unknown at this time if the two men will indeed follow up on the incident. 

READ: Some Middle School Girls Staged a Protest With Tampon-Shaped Cookies After Their Principal Said They’d “abuse the privilege” of Period Products

Couple Livestream High-Speed Chase After Trying To Smuggle Group Of Undocumented Men

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Couple Livestream High-Speed Chase After Trying To Smuggle Group Of Undocumented Men

CAMERA PHOBIA / YouTube

There are organizations throughout the country that serve the undocumented community. In fact, there are some organizations based around the border that are there specifically to help undocumented people as they make their way across the tough terrain. Those groups such as No More Deaths assist by making the journey not as painful or draining by leaving food and water. They certainly don’t drive them across the border. That kind of job is typically done by coyotes — people who get paid to smuggle undocumented people across the border. All of these people are in danger of getting arrested and have been arrested for doing this kind of work. This latest story, however, is unlike anything we have ever seen. 

Last week, in Laredo, Texas, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrested two people after they led police on a high-speed chase while they were transporting a group of undocumented men — and they documented the whole thing via Facebook Live.

Credit: CAMERA PHOBIA / YouTube

Alejandro Vela, 22, and Karyme Espinoza, 19, from Texas, captured their high-speed chase on Facebook Live as they drove trying to evade police while driving with a group of undocumented men in the back of their 2010 Mercedes Benz. 

Vela was driving the car and Espinoza was recording on Facebook Live. She didn’t look stressed about the situation and actually didn’t seem bothered at all that the police were chasing them. In fact, she seemed to be happy about it.

Credit: CAMERA PHOBIA / YouTube

“Hey, I’m live on Facebook,” Espinoza said jokingly. “I need you to do me a favor without telling anybody,” she said. “Immigration is on my ass because I have ten guys with me.” She added “we are currently going 160 (mph),” she said. The male is then heard talking to someone on the phone. He tells them if they can open the gate and then close it behind them so they “lose them.” 

According to the New York Post, when the CBP eventually caught up with them the driver and passenger fled by foot again. They were caught in the end and arrested. 

Credit: @aintnobarbie / Twitter

The News & Observer report that Vela (the driver) was charged with “evading arrest, unlawful transport of a person and reckless driving.” The female (the passenger) “was charged with unlawful transport of a person and evading arrest on foot.”

 “This is one of the first times I do see one of the persons actually engaged in the crime actually live-streaming it,”  Texas Department of Public Safety’s Sergeant Eric Estrada said in an interview with KGNS News. “We would never think that someone would want to incriminate themselves by live-streaming the crime they are actually committing.”

Here’s the entire 10-minute video, but you may need a barf bag because you will get dizzy.

This almost looks as if it could be the plot of the movie. But we can’t help but feel bad for the undocumented people in their car. Crossing the border illegally is always a risk, but entrusting people who are willfully behaving erratically. 

This week as well, another couple was arrested for smuggling undocumented people in San Diego. That couple also led the CBP in a high-speed chase.

Credit: Unsplash

In this case, the 30-year-old driver and his 34-year-old female front passenger attempted to smuggle a large group of undocumented people and also had some in the trunk. 

According to the CBP, they suspected the couple had undocumented people in their car after they saw several people going into their car and then headed westbound towards Chula Vista. 

The CBP report that “agents turned on their emergency lights and siren to initiate a vehicle stop. The driver refused to stop and fled at a high rate of speed into a neighborhood near Proctor Valley Road.”

CBP verified they were going extremely fast. “Before agents could approach the vehicle, the driver sped off to State Highway 125, at times going in excess of 100 miles per hour,” they reported. “He continued northbound, exited, then drove westbound on Jamacha Road. The driver continued to drive erratically and, at one point, tried to run an agent’s vehicle off the road. The chase came to an end at Darby Street in Spring Valley, when the driver crashed into a parked car.”

“This is another example of the dangerous acts human smugglers perform every day for financial gain and how they show no regard for the lives of those involved,” Chief Patrol Agent Douglas E. Harrison said in a press release. “Fortunately, this chase came to a safe conclusion and ended with the driver and co-principal in custody.”

READ: A City Claims A Family Can’t Sue Over A Wrongful Death Because Undocumented People Don’t Have Rights Under Constitution