Mesa, CA — 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 shared with the Free Thought Project this week shows just how dangerous a cop’s ignorance of the law can be.
In the video below, an entirely innocent man, doing nothing other than practicing his first amendment right to film in public, was assaulted with a deadly weapon. Because a police officer feared for his life over a camera, he chose to pull his weapon and threaten an innocent man’s life.
The man filming was simply walking down the street with a camera when he came upon the officer identified as officer Everett with the Mesa College Police Department. As was his constitutional right to do so, the man filming stopped on the public sidewalk and video recorded the officer in his official duties.
“What are you filming for?” asks the cop, clearly acknowledging that the man was holding a camera and not some other object that he was going to use to cause him harm. However, when the man filming exercised his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, the officer escalated the situation and began to claim he feared for his life.
As illustrated by his original question, the officer knew that this man was holding a camera. However, after the man attempted to assert his rights, the officer then claimed he did not know what the object was being pointed at him.
As the man kept filming, the officer then put his hand on his pistol, causing the man to have a legitimate reason to fear for his own life.
“Do not unholster your weapon!” he screams at the officer. But the officer did not listen.
Seconds later, the officer unholsters his pistol and points it at the innocent man. The man filming becomes heavily distressed and subsequently begins yelling—a move that could’ve likely gotten him killed.
As officer Everett holds the man at gunpoint for filming, backup arrives as the man demands to see a sergeant—but, not before the other officer grabs his pistol as well.
When the sergeant arrives, logic prevails and he gives the man back his camera. However, having just been assaulted with a deadly weapon by a public servant for doing nothing wrong set the man filming off and he demanded the officer be fired.
The law to which the man keeps referring, “pc148 g,” is the California penal code which explicitly permits the filming of police and explicitly bars the officer from acting in such a manner.
The fact that a person takes a photograph or makes an audio or video recording of a public officer or peace officer, while the officer is in a public place or the person taking the photograph or making the recording is in a place he or she has the right to be, does not constitute, in and of itself, a violation of subdivision (a), nor does it constitute reasonable suspicion to detain the person or probable cause to arrest the person.
Sgt. Saludares then tires to explain to the man that he perceived the camera to be a threat, not knowing it was a camera. However, as officer Everett states in the first line of the video, we clearly know that this is not true.
Below is a video highlighting what happens when police fail to remember the law and innocent citizens suffer the price.
As TFTP has reported, 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.
As the ACLU points out,
Taking photographs and video of things that are plainly visible in public spaces is a constitutional right—and that includes transportation facilities, the outside of federal buildings, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties.
Unfortunately, law enforcement officers have been known to ask people to stop taking photographs of public places. Those who fail to comply have sometimes been harassed, detained, and arrested. Other people have ended up in FBI databases for taking innocuous photographs of public places.
The right of citizens to record the police is a critical check and balance. It creates an independent record of what took place in a particular incident, one that is free from accusations of bias, lying, or faulty memory. It is no accident that some of the most high-profile cases of police misconduct have involved video and audio records.
When police refuse to have their public service documented and this refusal morphs into assault with a deadly weapon, something has gone seriously wrong. No one should ever face persecution for their freedom of expression—especially in the land of the free.