Coppell, TX — Filming the police is entirely legal in every state. However, all too often, we will see police officers overstep their authority and arrest, attack, and assault innocent people for the constitutionally protected act of documenting their behavior in public. A video submitted to the Free Thought Project this week of a journalist being held at gunpoint shows just how dangerous a cop's ignorance of the law can be.
The video below is disturbing for many reasons. However, the fact that it is part of a trend that seems to be growing is perhaps the most disturbing aspect. In spite of police officers getting publicly chastised on YouTube and Facebook for attacking people for filming, they continue to do so—most of the time, with impunity.
In the video below, Patrick Roth, a journalist from News Now was filming outside of the Coppell police department. He had committed no crime and violated no ordinance when multiple police officers drew their weapons and held him at gunpoint.
"Put your hands on your head, get on your knees, and cross your feet!" demands the officer as they move in with guns drawn.
Roth continues to assert he's done nothing wrong and has no weapons and simply wants to know why he is being held at gunpoint for filming.
"You're not under arrest," says an officer. "But don't move."
The officers then attempted to search Roth—illegally—under the color of law. Roth tells them that it is not legal to search his person because he has not been accused of a crime.
However, police couldn't have cared less about the law. They reached into his pockets, pulled out his wallet, and illegally checked his ID.
"You can't do that," says Roth.
"I just did," says the officer and supervisor identified as Sgt Matthews.
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As the unlawful detainment continues, the officers attempt to justify their use of force and illegal search and seizure by claiming—falsely—that "police officers get attacked all across the country."
At one point the officer says, "you understand that across the country, officers have been sniped coming out of the PD."
Clearly, the officer lives in some other world as police officers don't get sniped coming out of their police departments. The only sniper attack on police in recent history happened in downtown Dallas in which five officers were tragically killed when Micah Johnson, an Afghan war veteran opened fire in 2016 during a protest.
Sgt. Matthews' fear of Roth is entirely unjustified, as TFTP reported, 2017 proved to be one of the safest years for police in over five decades. Still, this innocent man was assaulted with multiple deadly weapons and unlawfully searched.
It has been clearly established that all Americans have the right to record the police. 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, these cops were in the wrong.
Below is a video showing what happens when entirely innocent activity is feared by police—without reason—they can and will detain you, and possibly even kill you.
While Roth was able to escape unharmed from his journalistic endeavor Andy Grimm was not so lucky. As TFTP previously reported, while setting up his camera to cover the news, Andy Grimm—a local newspaper reporter—was shot by a Clark County Sheriff's deputy after he mistook the man's camera for a gun. This incident was recorded on the officer's body camera and there was no dispute that he negligently shot an innocent man.
For shooting an innocent man, the public and police accountability activists called for the immediate firing and prosecution of Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Shaw. However, because he is backed by the thin blue line, instead of being fired or prosecuted Shaw was given a paid vacation and is now back on the job.