Free speech

Allentown, PA — Pennsylvania cop watchers, with the Oath Accountability Project and RealJGonzo Media, decided to turn the tables on police and do to police what officers of the law do daily to citizens. “Scott” as he is known, got just the reaction he was searching for when he and his friend were practicing their free speech and recording on the public sidewalk outside the Allentown Police Department on the corner of Hamilton and 10th.

Scott approached an officer and politely asked him if he would ticket another fellow officer if he was breaking the law. The contention the cop watchers made was that several of the police officers’ personal vehicles were displaying Fraternal Order of Police stickers on their own personal license plates, a clear violation of PA law according to Scott. The officer even noted that stickers placed directly on the license plate of a vehicle are illegal.

After a few questions, and catching an officer drive down the street without his headlights on, Lieutenant Hill approached the duo, and demanded they leave immediately. Rather irate, Hill said he would in no way stand idly by as the two First Amendment activists recorded officers coming and going in their own personal vehicles.

I’m telling you. I’m telling you. I’m Telling You. Leave now. Leave. Leave. No. You’re gonna go up there and wait for your ride. You’re not standing here Outside this garage…If you’re caught down here again, you’re going to be arrested…If he stands outside that garage filming our officers coming and leaving, he Will be arrested. I’m not going to have our officers’ personal safety with you filming out here!

While it’s understandable that officers would not want criminals to use their license plate information to ascertain the location of their home address, filming on public sidewalks is constitutionally protected free speech and Lt. Hill had no legal basis for his threats.

After Lt. Hill separated the two cop watchers, Scott was confronted by two more officers who refused to identify themselves. The two attempted to intimidate Scott, apparently, but his calm demeanor was enough to disarm the two and engage them in casual conversation, all the while Lt. Hill can be heard berating the other cop watcher.

Scott took control of the situation and quickly told the officers he’s aware that it is common practice for Allentown police officers to use license plate scanners to instantly gain all the personal data of anyone whose license plate is recorded by one of the scanners. Scott fired back:

I understand what you guys want but you guys ride around all day with your license plate readers on top of your cars taking pictures of everybody’s personal cars, so I don’t see the difference.

Scott tried to get an apology for being accosted by Lt. Hill for “charging” the cop watchers while they were exercising their rights to film in public. He did, in fact, get an apology from one of the officers who simply asked in return for the cop watchers not to film them coming and going in their personal vehicles.

The stickers on the license plate is definitely illegal…it’s a special privilege thing. I don’t agree with it.

Scott said the practice of allowing officers to place stickers on their license plates is a “clear sign” that officers grant each other special privileges that the general public cannot enjoy, violations for which they would be pulled over, detained, and ticketed.

Below is an example of how not to engage citizens if you are a police officer who swore an oath to the Constitution. Instead of coming out and blowing his fuse off the bat, Lt. Hill could’ve found common ground with the cop watchers and asked them to perhaps blur the plates, or, out of courtesy, not show the officers’ faces.

However, as the video below shows, Lt. Hill was the opposite of cordial, thus deserving his new title of YouTube Famous.

Video Credit: RealJGonzo Media & Oath Accountability Project

Jack Burns is an educator, journalist, investigative reporter, and advocate of natural medicine