Boston, MA — In just the last year, cops across the country have been caught on cellphone videos behaving in unscrupulous ways. From shooting unarmed citizens in the back as they attempt to run over a brake light being out, to beating children, the cellphone has proven to be a game changer in the police accountability movement.
It is no wonder that police unions have attempted to prevent your ability to film the police; it can be detrimental to public relations, and it should be. Trust in the police should never be blind, and the revolution taking place with cellphones is giving vision to those who could formerly not see.
After watching Michael Slager shoot Walter Scott multiple times in the back and then plant his taser on the corpse, many people in this country were shaken from the stupor of blind trust in the police.
Despite the fact that filming in public is your right to free speech, we see video after video of police officers tearing phones from the hands of cop watchers and arresting them. Nearly every time, these camera shy cops become “YouTube famous.”
Next up on the list of camera shy cops is Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans. Evans is “irritated” by those who want to hold their law enforcement officials accountable by filming them, so he wants legislation that would push them back.
In an interview with the Boston Herald, Evans said officers are “very much aware that everyone has eyes and ears on us all the time. But when you’re just out there for the very reason of, you know, trying to get a gotcha moment, that’s irritating to us.”
The person who filmed police unloading their pistols into the back of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, as he ran away, could have very well been attempting a “gotcha moment.” However, the world now knows that the police are entirely capable of killing unarmed people with their hands up.
Evans wants legislations mandating a minimum distance between cop watchers and the cops. However, this is a slippery slope. Not only would forcing people to stand back a certain distance create a window for abuse by officers, but it could effectively render the video useless.
There are plenty of laws already on the books for interfering with official police duties as well as obstruction of justice. In case after case, obstruction charges are used to arrest people who’ve done nothing wrong. This abuse would vastly increase with an “official filming distance.”
When Texas Representative Jason Villalba attempted to “push back” the cop watchers in his state, the people lashed out and refused to be bullied.
In another strange move, Evans said that he not only wants to hinder the ability of those who film cops, but he wants to make it illegal to film instead of jumping in to help an officer.
Evans pointed out a recent case on Summer Street in which a man struggled with an officer in an attempt to rationalize his point.
“During the altercation, as officers struggled to subdue the suspect, they noted that they were being videotaped by the large crowd that had gathered,” officers wrote in their report. “In need of help, officers asked members of the crowd and a security guard for help. No help was offered.”
Evans wants to make it illegal for those onlookers to keep filming and instead, force them to jump in.
“I’d also like to see some legislation that if a cop is on the ground struggling with someone, like he was the other night and everybody is videotaping, someone should be held accountable for not stepping up and helping them,” he said.
It’s worrisome enough that police play judge, jury, and executioner on the streets of the U.S. every day but imagine the hellish reality of wanna-be cops jumping in on every police struggle they see. As is the case so many times, police are caught enacting violence against completely innocent people. Evans would like to see the citizens jump in to beat those innocent folks as well.
Do not misconstrue the above statement as a call to apathy, obviously there is a time and a place to help those in need. However, a mandate for it is most assuredly not the answer.
Naturally, the police feel different about being filmed, as is evident in the article comments on the Police One website. To comment on Police One.com, one must be a “verified law enforcement professional,” so we know without a doubt that the following statement was from a cop. According to username DPSCanton:
All video realated to a crime or arrest is evidence correct? Start seizing the cell phones with a warrant, that will make the photographers think twice!
Those who would attempt to stifle their own public accountability have no business working for the public. Shining sunlight on a situation is the only disinfectant.
Only a government that lives like cockroaches in the darkness would pass a law criminalizing the act of turning on the light.
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