Pittsburgh, PA - A Pittsburgh city police officer is under investigation after a video was released which showed him mocking and yelling at innocent bystanders while officers were responding to a report of a fight.
According to reports, the fight began around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, along Wood Street. Police had the street blocked off to traffic as they tried to break up the skirmish. The fight resulted in two arrests and, as caught on video, several tense moments with nearby onlookers.
When a journalist for the PGH City Paper witnessed the events that were transpiring, he began to record on his cellphone. As his footage begins, several officers can be seen arresting apparent suspects and attempting to disperse the individuals involved in the fight. One officer aggressively whips out his baton and yells into a crowd of onlookers, "Everybody back off" and proceeds to advance towards them poised to strike.
After a few brief moments of additional tension, officers seemingly have the crowd dispersed, and traffic begins to flow on the street again. When a small group of officers begins to cross the street towards the journalist who was filming, one officer breaks away from the group. As he aggressively approaches the innocent man, armed with only a camera, he crudely remarks, "Get it all on tape big boy," despite the fact that the journalist was filming from a safe distance and had not even so much as spoken a word during the incident.
As the journalist and the onlookers behind him comply with his orders, the enraged officer turns around and begins to walk away. In a testament to his demeanor while interacting with the public, the officer decides to take out his aggression on a nearby light post by striking it with his baton.
After viewing this video, the Pittsburgh Citizens Police Review Board (CPRB) opened an inquiry into the officer's conduct. CPRB Executive Director Beth Pittinger said,
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“He certainly appeared hostile in his approach and not demonstrating professional control of himself when he engaged that recorder.”
When police officials were reached for comment, Chief Cameron McLay responded,
“As a result of complaints received, there will be an investigation into the conduct of Police Bureau members.”
This journalist's experience is hardly an isolated incident. As The Free Thought Project previously reported, earlier this year, officers threatened an innocent pregnant woman and her fiance at gunpoint for filming a man's arrest.
The more police try to intimidate people for filming, the more important documenting police interactions becomes as evidenced by the case of Cameron Ford, who filmed Atlanta police officer Sherrick Morrison attempting to illegally arrest a man. Due to Ford's recording of the incident, officer Morrison was forced to let the man go.
It is estimated that 182.6 million Americans will own a smartphone in 2015, and with an increasing number of brutality cases being substantiated by videos, filming the police has become the most powerful tool we can use to ensure police officers are held accountable.
Johnny Liberty is a researcher and investigative journalist. You can follow him on twitter @LibertyUnltd