ColorLines today carried a local news report from Schenectady County in New York of a local police department using undercover agents to purposely plant crack-cocaine in the shop of an African American business owner, with the intention of hauling him off to prison for up to seven years for a crime he did not even commit. According to the local news affiliate responsible for the clip below:
“Undercover informants are a common police technique used to bring charges against suspects not inclined to deal directly with cops. But all too often the undercover agent is a shady character facing his own charges. That makes them motivated to give police what they want whether the suspect has done something wrong or not.”
The so-called “suspect” in this case was Donald Andrews Jr., who owns and runs his own smoke shop in town known as the “Dabb City Smoke Shop.” I use the term “suspect” quite lightly, for if the police department really did in fact “suspect” Andrews of dealing in illegal substances, they wouldn’t have found it necessary to plant evidence on him in the first place. Regardless, police apparently concluded that this shop-owner and his shop were “suspicious” enough for them to bombard the place with undercover informants on more than one occasion. Fortunately, Mr. Andrews was apparently business-savvy enough to install a number of security cameras, 7 in all, and had them positioned to record every angle inside the shop. The visual evidence gathered on the cameras tells quite a shocking story, one far different than the one police would’ve had you believe. It shows an unidentified white undercover police agent (who’d already visited the shop several weeks earlier) clearly removing a tiny bag of crack-cocaine from his pocket and placing it directly on the store counter as Donald Andrews Jr. had has back turned away from him. It was shortly after this when police raided the store, with advance knowledge of where the crack had been planted, and arrested the innocent store owner.
Since the arrest, Donald Andrews has been released from police custody thanks to the footage captured by his store’s numerous security surveillance cameras. The footage bore witness to the dirty tricks of the police, and had the effect of galvanizing support from outraged members of the community, including members of the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC). He is also preparing to file a wrongful-arrest lawsuit against the Schenectady police department. Meanwhile, the local sheriff’s office, while admitting that “proper procedures were not followed”, nevertheless refused to admit to its part in having an an innocent man framed and arrested. As for the undercover agent seen planting the drugs in the video, he is nowhere to be found. Had it not been for the surveillance video, the amount of crack planted on the store’s counter would have been enough, under federal sentencing guidelines, to have Andrews incarcerated for a mandatory minimum of 4 years, and that doesn’t even take into account the 2-7 year minimal sentence for possession of the same amount under New York State’s legal guidelines.
Dabb City Smoke Shop is “home to all your smoking needs!” And while I’m not much of a smoker myself, that doesn’t preclude me from shamelessly promoting this man’s business precisely because he was the target of bitter police repression. So without further ado, here is a link to the store’s website. Perhaps something can be crafted to fit your needs!