The Casual and Dangerous Overuse of Undercover Cops in America
The police slaying of musician Corey Jones in South Florida highlights one of the most reprehensible aspects of law enforcement in America -- the ubiquitous undercover cop.
As yourself: What was a police officer doing driving along the highway at 3 in the morning wearing blue jeans, a T-shirt and a baseball cap in the posh neighborhood of Palm Beach Gardens? He wasn’t undercover for the purpose of infiltrating a gang. He wasn’t trying to fit into some commercial or street scene where there was a lot of suspected crime going on. He was just driving around randomly on patrol in a community known for its paucity of crime. And when he stopped at the dark entrance ramp to I-95, allegedly to check on what he claims he thought was an abandoned vehicle on the side of the road (where Jones’ van had stalled out on him and he was waiting for road assistance to arrive), this cop didn’t turn on any flashing police lights, which at least would have suggested to anyone in the van that he was a almost certainly a cop.
He just walked towards the van.
Now if you were someone like Jones, a lone black musician with some valuable drums and equipment in your vehicle, and you saw someone like Officer Nauman Raja approaching you in the dark, you’d be scared -- especially if Raja had his gun drawn, as he well might have, given how he was approaching the vehicle unannounced.
The last thing you’d suspect would be that he was a police officer.
In Jones’ case, we know he had a licensed handgun. In the US that’s not illegal. In fact, many Americans say it’s a common-sense precaution. You can agree or disagree with that argument, but it was a purely legal thing for him to do.
If Officer Raja was actually on patrol hoping to “catch burglars” as claimed, he should certainly have been equipped with a car that could flash its lights alternately, if only for safety purposes. Parking on the side of a highway or on ramp late at night presents hazards simply because tired or inebriated drivers may not see the stopped vehicle and could plough into it injuring or killing both officer and driver. As well, as mentioned above, it would also allow the officer making a stop to alert the driver that he is a cop, and not a criminal. Many undercover police cars are even equipped with flashing blue lights which appear when flipped on, but which are not visible otherwise. Clearly, Raja’s vehicle either did not have those signal options, or he chose not to use them for some inexplicable reason.
We can’t know what actually transpired that led to Jones’ death, because neither Raja’s undercover van nor his body were equipped with a videocam, but the fact that Jones’ body was located 80-100 yards from his van indicates that he was trying to flee his unidentified assailant. His gun was not fired, which is important. He may never have even drawn it or removed it from his van. The only gun fired was Raja’s and it was fired six times, reportedly hitting Jones with three of those bullets in the side and the arm.