ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Albany police are telling their side of the story after a video circulating social media appeared to show violence toward an Albany officer.
Outrage ensued after a cell phone video was posted on social media. It appears to show a man punching an officer twice who is sitting in the passenger side of a patrol car. But the Albany Police Department said things aren’t always how they appear.
When the video was posted online, many wondered why the pair of officers comforted the man rather than arrested him. But on Tuesday, the police department offered an explanation on its own Facebook page.
Public information officer Steve Smith said what looked like a punch was actually a friendly gesture.
“It was a fist bump,” he explained. “At first he missed and then he tried to fist bump the officer again, and it was successful.”
Smith said the officer saw a man standing at the corner of Quail Street and First Street who was crying. They immediately recognized him from their work in the neighborhood as someone who suffers from mental illness.
“He informed the officer that the group across the street – the group with the camera – had been taunting him and making fun of him,” Smith said.
Smith said the officer told the man to ignore the group making fun of him, and the two began chatting about their favorite rides at Six Flags.
“This was just a compassionate police officer who recognized a gentleman in need,” Smith said.
Onihah Dear lives in the neighborhood. She said the man in the video, who she calls Bugsy, would never mean to hurt anyone.
“He’s not a violent type of guy,” she said. “He’s very nice. He’s quiet. He’s funny.”
And the two officers knew that about the man due to what Smith called an example of “community policing at its best.”
Smith said the video shows how important it is for police officers to build relationships with people in the community, especially those with mental illness.
The video itself garnered 23,000 views by Tuesday night.