St. Paul, MN -- On May 18, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office conducted a large-scale revenue collection operation masked as concern for public safety.
A post on their Facebook page explains how the revenue collection initiative will be heavily enforced during the last two weeks in May. They describe how in a single four-hour event, 27 officers were able to conduct 227 traffic stops.
In four hours this event resulted in: 227 traffic stops, 159 seatbelt citations issued, 7 child restraint citations, 6 people arrested and brought to jail, 29 drivers cited for Driving After Revocation or Suspension, 49 "other" citations, and 1 DWI arrest.
In the 'will they ever learn' group - one driver was cited two times for No Seatbelt Use within 30 minutes by two separate officers.
Increased enforcement efforts are going on statewide through the rest of the month. Buckle up!
The resultant revenue generated in that four-hour period is well over $10,000.00.
One would think that the officers who enforce seat belt laws would be hyper-aware of these laws and always buckle up. One would be wrong.
After seeing this wholesale hypocrisy on seatbelt laws, police accountability activist, Andrew Henderson grabbed his camera and went to document officers without their seatbelts on. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.
Henderson explains on a Facebook post what went on that day.
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As I have seen many officers drive without seat belts, I found this to be a double standard and an unethical means of revenue generation.
On Friday, May 22nd, I decided to stand on a street corner outside of the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center with a camera to document officer seat belt use.
Henderson was able to catch multiple officers without their seatbelts on. They were completely open about it and made no attempts to buckle up as they were being filmed.
While some of the officers were cordial, he was eventually confronted by St. Paul Police officer A. Abla-Reyes who was anything but. Henderson was unlawfully detained by Abla-Reyes for alleged suspicious activity. He was bullied and harassed for several minutes before being threatened with arrest if he didn't stop practicing his First Amendment right.
This is the behavior that creates a divide between the police and the public. It's bad enough that we can be kidnapped, caged, and killed for supposed crimes with no victim. However, when we see the enforcers of these laws for victimless crimes disobeying the very laws we could be killed over, it is infuriating.
Below is the video of this hypocrisy.
The Free Thought Project asked Henderson his thoughts on this incident. Here's what he had to say:
I think the fact that I have routinely documented police misconduct inside and outside the Saint Paul police department speaks for itself.
There are hundreds of cameras watching the citizens throughout Saint Paul controlled by the SPPD, but for some reason if you watch them engaged in their duties, they seem to think you are a terrorist or have negative intentions.
The public sidewalk is not private property. The officer was most definitely in the wrong, but as it was a Friday on a holiday weekend, I didn't want to spend three-days in jail. Otherwise I would have stood my ground and continued to film on that corner.
Police officers need to realize that people are going to film them due to the historical documentation of misconduct, and police departments need to put policies in place to protect those doing so. As the trust of the internal affairs process falls, I can see more activists, citizen journalists, and members of the public conducting their own investigations such as this.