When Your So-called “Rights” Begin to Endanger Mine?

Posted: February 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

Police officers stand on guard during the G20 summit in Toronto

I read an article entitled,” Houston Chief Worried Over Residents Filming Officers” that really got me boiling. You can find the article here at http://policelink.monster.com/news/articles/150906-houston-chief-worried-over-residents-filming-officers. I urge you to read this article before reading my response so we can have an educated debate over its meaning and implications.

I have no problem with someone having their rights. In fact, our country is founded upon our right to live free and do as we please until we trample on the rights of others. If I wanted to, I could play my music in my home as loud as I want until the cops come and tell me to be quiet. Even then, if I do not turn it down in my state all you would get is a civil infraction or ticket for disturbing the peace. There are tons of examples like these. However, if I am on duty and your right to film me is so important that you can stick a camera in my face on a traffic stop or at a domestic then I have a problem.  I understand the need for law enforcement to have a certain level of transparency. I understand there is a small group of rogue cops out there that give the rest of us a good cops a bad name. You find bad apples in every profession. To prove my point look at the men of the cloth and the Catholic Church. Case in point.

What really gets me is that the fact of a viral video gets out and only certain contents of it are posted. No one can ask themselves “what happened prior to this?”  “What actions or dangers did this person just place the peaceful public in?”  “What is the condition of the victim of this heartless persons crime?”  These questions seem to never be asked by mainstream media or news outlets. The only people asking for explanations are the people involved in the event. By all means, if someone just raped or killed another person and we as cops hunt you and track you and get you in our grasp it does not always call for a violent response. However, force will be used against you one step above proportionate(according to law) levels to place you into custody. As cops we don’t mind fighting. We fight people everyday. Just ask yourself how many people do you know that would like to go to jail? None. And half of them resist going every time we deal with them. We prefer not to fight you but will if necessary.

I can promise you this, 99% of most cops worth their salt would have a hard time letting someone walk in touching distance to them on a traffic stop or high priority call with a camera in their face distracting them. This brings up serious officer safety issues and issues with all who are on scene, witnesses, suspects and victims alike. We do not know who you are. We do not know your intentions. We do not trust you until we run you through NCIC and run locals on you and confirm your identity. We work often by ourselves and have to take everything as a threat first until it is proved differently. If we don’t do this with ferocity, we lose our lives.

We deal with the worst of the society. There are people who scheme and plan our demise. They would love nothing more than seeing us hurt, maimed or dead. This is the reality that we live in. We have to or we shall surely die. We are not paranoid. We are aware of the evil out there and deal with it head on. If we are not aware and keep officer safety at our forefront at all times we are no good to the public. A dead cop is not a good cop. Ask the many recruits who got hired at your local agency and got fired or was “washed out” in FTO for failing to use good officer safety techniques.

PRESSCalifornia Highway Patrol officers took cover behind a cruiser door.

Although, if you film me from across the street I have no problem. If you happen to be filming and the suspect resists arrest and hits me or does anything like that and you catch it on your iPhone then prepare to have that phone seized and used as evidence. There are consequences to all that you do in public.

It may be your right to film me in public, but it is not your right to come to work place and interfere with serving the public and protecting its citizens. Justice will be served, but not with your mug all in my way. If you impede me from effectively performing an investigation and solving a crime, then you sir or ma’am, shall prepare yourself to be arrested for obstruction of justice or other applicable laws.

As you may be able to tell, this is a sensitive subject. It should be. The public needs to understand this. Understand we don’t come to your job and film you making mistakes and questioning you on camera why you are doing one thing or another. Let me go to the mayor’s office and try that. It would not fly. No one wants that scrutiny on their jobs. But we as cops deal with everyday. We are not what the media and certain communities say we are. We have accountability. We have anal retentive supervisors all around us everyday. Every work place has them. But not like in law enforcement. We have people complain on us for no reason. I have been the victim of frivolous citizen complaints before. I had to prove my actions even when wrongly accused. I had no way to avoid them. Even when the investigation was over and the case was closed and I was later exonerated, it still was placed in my personal file. Now is that fair? I have 3 of these in my file and none me guilty of the charges against me.

I tell you all this because many good cops are in the same boat. This is the stuff the public does not understand. I had no recourse available to me to get those files destroyed. They are there forever. What is fair about that? I know I ran off a cliff with this post. But it steams me to see my fellow brothers in arms railroaded in the media. What recourse do we have? Majority of us cannot even afford an attorney in these situations. We aren’t in this business for the money. It is for the satisfaction of preserving the peace in our community and putting bad guys where they belong. Because we do this day in and day out, you sleep peacefully in your beds at night. Your kids play at the park without threat or harm. Order is kept and the evil is kept at bay. We are the shepherds and you are the sheep. We lie and watch for the wolves that sneak among the fold. We are naturally peaceful like you. But we have the killer instinct to rid the evil of the day as well so the rest may live peaceful and prosperous. We serve and protect you so you can live your own American Dream as you please.

  1. Mad Jack says:

    “We are the shepherds and yo are the sheep.”

    What should you, a shepherd, do with another shepherd that starts killing sheep?

    I’m being rhetorical here. In the Chad Holley case, the Mayor and the Chief handled the entire situation badly. The media, always eager for another crucifixion, accurately predicted what was going to happen and assisted by throwing gasoline on the fire. If the police department wants a better image, it can get one easily enough – all you have to do is record a few events during your regular patrol. After that comes the real challenge, which is getting that information to the public and making it appear credible enough for the general public to believe it.

    While it’s true that complaints stay in your file forever, so do commendations. Most people don’t know how to write a commendation or where to send it. Just letting them know how to do this would be a big help.

  2. Well, to answer you there is a problem. We treat them as every bit a criminal in that case. Each case is different, so you cant treat one the same way each time.

    I like your suggestion of recording patrol. But it has to be done delicately. For we cannot predict how any given call for service will go. I appreciate COPS on FOX Network. I think this is positive for law enforcement.

    As far as commondations go, you are right. A citizen seems to know the process to complain back and forth, But the process to compliment someone is not usually what people are wililng to do. Complaining is easier. It is human nature.

  3. bay area native says:

    “If the police department wants a better image, it can get one easily enough – all you have to do is record a few events during your regular patrol.”

    I’m reminded of the Oscar Grant/Johannes Meserle trial (tragic situation turned into a volatile circus). You saw many people make up their minds about that incident immediately after it occured, even when though there was little evidence about what happened. It’s going to take a lot more than a COPS episode each week to cure that with some people, and it could end up being a fruitless effort.

    I think there’s something much deeper to anti-police sentiment than how police departments handle themselves. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something brewing inside of people, and they just happen to take it out on the police because it’s easy and because the media sides with them. It’s easy to curse out a cop after he gives you a ticket, even if it was your fault you were driving poorly. Maybe it’s just people being people… those are my two cents, anyways.

  4. bay area native says:

    when i say it’s easy to complain about the cops I mean it’s acceptable whine about police in our culture (at least where i live) and people don’t question it.

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