Someone's got some explaining to do.
A New Jersey Sheriff's Office finds itself under investigation this week after a plainclothes police officer was caught rummaging through a black man's car for no apparent reason, according to the Paterson Times.
The date of the incident is unknown, though the man's video of his encounter with the officer was posted on Facebook Friday and has since gone viral and sparked major outrage.
“In an effort to assure an independent investigation of the circumstances around the search video, the Sheriff referred the matter to the Prosecutor’s office for a thorough and independent review,” said William Maer, spokesman for Passaic County sheriff Richard Berdnik.
In his video, the man can be heard yelling at the officer as the latter closes the trunk of his van.
“Yo. What is you doing? What is you in my van for?" the man asks.
The officer replies, "I’ll tell you what, come here,” as he walks away from the man and his vehicle.
The man repeatedly refuses to follow the officer and continues to grill him for the seemingly illegal search: "What is you in my car for when I’m sitting down, eating with my family?" he asks.
The officer tries to justify his actions, telling the man that his trunk was "wide open" and that "we had a lot of reports of guns in this van in this neighborhood."
While law enforcement officers are not allowed to search vehicles without a warrant or the owner's consent, the Times pointed out that they *can* conduct searches on vehicles if they see contraband inside it (per the plain view doctrine).
Maer did not confirm whether or not the cop in the video had a warrant to search the man's van.
Ed Barocas, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union's New Jersey chapter, called the incident "incredibly troubling and disturbing" after viewing the video.
“You have an individual who appears to be a law enforcement officer entering someone’s vehicle without permission and seemingly without any lawful authority," Barocas said. "Not only is it improper, it’s a crime.”
People on Twitter have chimed in, too, and many are flat-out furious:
The officer in the video has not been identified by the sheriff's office.
You can read more about the incident and subsequent backlash over at the Paterson Times.