Nearly one and half million people watched the video of the confrontation between the off duty Boston policeman and the jay walking pedestrian. I’m one of them. My motivation was not curiosity but confirmation. I watched to verify that the unnamed 54-year-old pedestrian wrestled to the ground by the cop was, indeed, white. I figured he had to be because if he were black or Latino statistics suggest he might have been shot, not just roughed up. In this case, Stephen Harlowe – who captured the incident on his cell phone and who is also white, also verbally inserted himself into the street struggle, I believe providing extra protection for the purple shirted man. You can hear Harlowe on the video repeatedly ask the cop for a badge to prove that he is a cop. Harlowe told NECN that the officer “acted like the man had shot somebody.”

I’ve seen too many highly charged white cop/ black civilian interactions where officers acted just like that, except the cops ending up killing someone. Many white Americans might have been shocked by the choking death of Staten Island’s Eric Garner, the shooting death of Cleveland’s 12-year-old Tamir Rice gunned down in the park while playing with a toy gun, or the 16 shots blasted into Chicago’s Lacquan Mcdonald’s back as he walked away from the policemen who’d confronted him. But, for years, a lot of black Americans who reported these kinds of incidents were dismissed because the cop’s word was paramount. Cell phone video changed this.

On Stephen Harlowe’s cell phone video, the off duty cop tells the pedestrian he was under arrest though the Boston Police Department says the man was not arrested. In another incident, Brooklyn’s Glen Grays was arrested. The African-American postal worker was arrested after confronting police officers in a scene mirroring much of what happened here. Two months ago Grays was delivering mail on his regular delivery route in Crown Heights when four off duty policemen nearly sideswiped his truck. The rattled postman yelled after them. Remember these cops were out of uniform when they circled back, confronted and handcuffed Grays, all the while demanding that Grays – who was wearing his official postal uniform tell them who he was and what he was doing.  Cellphone video captured the disturbing incident showing the four grabbing Grays and shouting at him to “stop resisting.” Three of the four officers have prior alleged civil rights violations. The NYPD referred the case to internal affairs, and the Boston Police Department says the pedestrian confrontation is also part of an active internal investigation.

I’m appalled that these incidents are happening in Boston, Brooklyn, and beyond. Appalled that some police officers react to a real or perceived slight with an over the top amount of force. I wouldn’t want this to happen to anybody, but if it had to happen better it be an older white guy than an unarmed black teen. Because frankly, abuse of power exacted on a white guy goes a long way toward raising concern about the issue. Maybe now others will join the expanding group of citizens who demand to know who polices the police?