An internal investigation is still underway at the UNM Police Department after a controversial video was uploaded to Snapchat on Aug. 25 showing a UNM Police officer punch a woman while he and another officer take her into custody.
The incident took place around 12:40 p.m. near the Duck Pond at UNM’s Welcome Back Day event on the first Friday of Fall semester classes.
The Snapchat video displayed a UNM geotag and was posted to the UNM campus Snapchat story, allowing any student near or on campus to witness the altercation through their mobile device. The video was taken off social media within hours of the incident, and the identity of whoever took and uploaded the video is still unknown.
KRQE was the first to broadcast the video before it was removed from SnapChat, it starts at 00:17.
UNM Police released a statement that same day describing the progression of events.
According to the statement, UNM officers were dispatched after receiving multiple calls describing a woman acting aggressively toward workers at a voter registration area. It went on to say the woman refused to leave and began to act aggressively, prompting two officers to take her to the ground and arrest her.
UNM Police initially told KRQE News 13 that the officer in the video claims he did not punch the woman, however, the circulated video showed an obvious altercation between the woman and officer, whose identities have still not been revealed to the media.
UNM PD would not respond to New Mexico News Port requests for comment, but The Daily Lobo spoke with Lieutenant Trace Peck, public information officer for UNMPD, who said the officer under investigation has been “taken off the streets” and assigned to administrative duties within the department.
The officer, and witnesses, claimed the woman spit in his face on two occasions. While the video clearly shows the officer punching the woman, the spitting is not visible.
“I was honestly a little disturbed at the unnecessary use of the force,” said Rahul Verma, senior undergraduate at the University of New Mexico, who was present at the incident but did not witness the officer’s actions until watching the Snapchat video. “From my understanding, she instigated it by spitting in [the officer’s] face, but the use of force was excessive.”
This is not the first on-campus disturbance involving Snapchat. In May, an obscene video was uploaded to the UNM Snapchat story allegedly showing a man exposing himself while sitting in a library. It was never confirmed whether the incident took place inside Zimmerman library.
“I think that [Snapchat] keeps students aware and updated on incidents, whether good or bad,” said Verma. “There is no good reason to hide major events like this from students.”
Verma says that while Snapchat may be construed as a negative outlet, its overall effect depends on the events taking place. “In an emergency situation, [Snapchat] can keep people updated on location or containment. It can be an effective way to keep students informed.”
On any regular day, the UNM Snapchat story displays pictures and videos of students’ activities on campus. Any student with a Snapchat account and within close proximity to campus can upload content to the UNM Snapchat story.
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