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YouTube video of cop berating Uber driver leads to investigation

Technically Incorrect: An Uber driver is subjected to racially tinged, angry invective from an NYPD officer, while a passenger films the whole thing.

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


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The angry officer slammed the Uber driver's door and raged. Sanjay Seth/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk for CNET

I don't know where you're coming from or where you think you're appropriate doing that, but that's not the way it works.

These words were uttered Monday by an NYPD officer to an Uber driver who has lived in the US for two years.

Some might imagine those words would be better directed at the officer himself, after a passenger in the Uber vehicle posted video of the event to YouTube.

The video suggests that the officer had been trying to park and believed the Uber driver was too close behind him.

For this, he stopped the driver and delivered a vehement, angry, racially tinged diatribe. He even slammed the driver's car door. The driver, guided by his passenger, admirably kept his cool while the passenger filmed.

The video doesn't show what transpired immediately before. The cop seemed angry that the driver had allegedly raised his hands, while the cop was parking (allegedly without using his blinker.)

The driver immediately made a complaint to NYPD. The passenger, identifying himself as Sanjay Seth, posted to YouTube: "In an unmarked car, the policeman was allegedly attempting to park without using his blinker at a green light. (His reverse lights weren't on. Likely double parked without hazards on.) The Uber driver pulled around and gestured that he should use his blinker, casually and non-offensively, and kept driving us. The policeman quickly pulls up behind us and this is what happens."

The NYPD confirmed to the New York Daily News that the berater is Detective Patrick Cherry, who is assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Perhaps that's why one of his questions he asked the driver was: "How long you been in this country?" Perhaps.

I have contacted the NYPD to ask what it might do next and will update, should I hear. The Daily News suggests the matter will now be passed to the Internal Affairs Bureau for calm consideration. CNN says that the NYPD told it the officer may face reassignment and loss of his top-secret security clearance.

An Uber spokesman offered me this statement: "The behavior in the video is wrong and unacceptable and we appreciate the NYPD investigating the incident. We are in touch with our driver-partner who was subjected to this terrible experience and will continue to provide any support he needs."

Every time a critical video of police behavior is made public, there's a temptation to believe that all police officers behave in such a manner. They don't. The police have to put up with their share of unnecessary abuse from the public too.

However, in this case police sources chose to intimate to the Daily News that Cherry had just visited a colleague in hospital who is very ill. Should this have influenced his behavior? Or was there something more elemental in this encounter?

The Uber driver is fortunate that his passenger had his cell phone, was sympathetic and filmed the action.

If that cell phone hadn't been there, or if the passenger had sat there oblivious, would anyone -- or at least anyone in authority -- have believed his story?