Cop caught going ballistic on Uber driver apologizes on TV

Technically Incorrect: Detective Patrick Cherry, stripped of his badge for berating an Uber driver (in a YouTube video that went viral), tries to present his side of the story. A wise move?

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Detective Patrick Cherry. Did his TV appearance garner sympathy? NBC New York screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When you've already made a filmic appearance and earned the disdain of many, is it wise to appear on TV to try to sway opinion?

For Detective Patrick Cherry of the New York Police Department's Joint Terrorism Task Force the answer was "yes."

Cherry is the detective caught in the act of berating an Uber driver by the driver's passenger, Sanjay Seth. Seth posted the video to YouTube, where more than 3 million people have enjoyed it.

Cherry made racially tinged statements, angrily slammed the driver's door and behaved in such a nasty manner that New York Police Commissioner William Bratton took away his badge and gun and declared: "No good cop should watch that video without a wince. Because all good cops know that officer just made their jobs a little bit harder."

The incident occurred after the Uber driver made what Seth called a mild gesture of frustration in reaction to Cherry allegedly parking in front of him without using his blinker.

However, appearing on NBC New York, Cherry insisted that the driver had reacted angrily. Which isn't perhaps the best way to present an apology. Cherry did say: "I apologize, I sincerely apologize." He added, though, that his intention in stopping the Uber driver was to "clarify the situation."

But surely as far as the Uber driver was concerned, Cherry was an ordinary citizen. He was in an unmarked car. What needed clarification? Cherry told NBC that there was mutual hand-waving between the two. Some might think that to be an ordinary day on the streets of New York. Cherry clearly did not.

He explained: "When I walked up, I was uptight. I wanted to know what the problem was. I felt his driving actions were discourteous and impolite and when he stopped he said, 'I'm not going to give you anything.'"

Still, countering alleged discourtesy with ranting, questioning how long the Uber driver has been in the US, mocking his accent and slamming the driver's car door might not be the ideal police-manual etiquette.

Cherry admitted: "People shouldn't be treated that way. I let my emotions get the better of me and I was angry. My intention was to be courteous and then we got into an argument. There was no intention to berate or hurt deeply the driver."

For his part, Seth took to Twitter to insist: "I question parts of Detective Cherry's interpretation of the incident in his recent apology. CCRB [New York's Civilian Complaint Review Board] needs to sort out the facts."

Seth later told me: "Detective Cherry was in an unmarked car and was not in uniform. Upon approaching the window, he did not identify himself."

He added: "The driver was not told what alleged violations occurred. However, he was threatened with arrest."

When I asked Seth if he thought Cherry should be fired, he answered: "The CCRB will continue their investigation into this incident and determine an appropriate response."

In the end, Cherry's TV appearance and apology come down to his demeanor. Do you believe that his contrition is sincere? Does he come across as a sympathetic figure? Or is he someone who abused his authority and got caught, so he's doing what he (and presumably some PR advisers) thinks is the correct procedure?

Update April 6 at 5:38 a.m. PT: Added comments from Sanjay Seth.