Frankfort, KY — Freedom of speech, in the land of the free, is not guaranteed. Despite the wording of the First Amendment, claiming that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech," there are countless laws across the country designed to do exactly that. However, even when there aren't archaic anti-speech laws on the books, police will all too often deprive people of their freedom — for practicing their freedom and expressing themselves.
Flipping the bird has also been ruled to be free speech many times over. In fact, in a 14-page opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit addressed the specific action of flipping off cops when it ruled that the “ancient gesture of insult is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity.”
However, we've seen citizens pepper-sprayed, assaulted, and arrested for this act of free speech. And, as the video below shows, police could not care less about protecting your free speech if it's something they don't like.
It has been clearly established that all Americans have the right to record the police as well as flip them off. For an officer of the law to remain willingly ignorant of this precedent is at best, dereliction of duty, and at worst, unlawful deprivation of rights. Either way, this officer was in the wrong.
The video, submitted to us by the person who took it, who TFTP will refer to as Steve, shows what happens when police officers feel they are being disrespected. Steve runs the YouTube channel I Says News Network. He says he named it that because "the government is all about 'do as I Says, not as I do.'"
As the video begins, Steve is being pulled over by an officer, who he identifies as Kentucky State Trooper M. Dennis.
Trooper Dennis had no probable cause to pull over Steve. However, because he was ignorant of the law, he incorrectly thought that it was illegal to disrespect police officers. He was also clearly ignorant of the First Amendment which guarantees the right of a citizen to film cops in public.
"Turn it off!" Dennis says, issuing an unlawful order to Steve.
"What am I being stopped for?" asks Steve.
"Turn it off!" Dennis says again. "I didn't give you my consent," Dennis asserts again—incorrectly.
For the first 30 seconds of the stop, the trooper is more interested in Steve legally filming him than he is with articulating the reason for the stop.
"Am I being detained," Steve asks finally getting the cop's attention away from trying to stifle his first amendment rights.
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"Yes you are," replies the trooper.
"For what?" asks Steve.
"Because of your disrespect," replies Dennis.
"You can pull someone over for being disrespectful?" asks Steve.
"Yes, I can," replies the Trooper.
"What KRS is that?" Steve asks, referring to the Kentucky Revised Statutes.
"It's called respect of the law!" asserts the trooper. "Disrespect," he says.
TFTP searched through the Kentucky Revised Statutes and we found no such law. However, as the trooper walked away, he told Steve that he could be charged with "Menacing" for the disrespect and subsequent filming. We looked up that law within KRS as well and Steve comes nowhere close to breaking it.
"A person is guilty of menacing when he intentionally places another person in
reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury," states KRS 508.050. At no time was trooper Dennis ever facing imminent physical injury.
According to Steve, this video happened in January 2016. When he called the Kentucky State Trooper's office to report trooper M. Dennis, a major in the office told him that Dennis did nothing wrong because his officers have earned respect. Steve was then subsequently summoned to court over the incident. However, the trooper never showed up and now, after he's been cleared, Steve has released the video.
The Kentucky State Trooper's office would do well to reexamine their definition of 'respect.' According to Webster's dictionary, respect is defined as "a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements."
Respect is earned and given voluntarily. When it is demanded through the barrel of a gun, this respect becomes tyranny.