CopWatcher Arrested for Refusing to Backup (VIDEO)
In the video above Zach Wendorff is arrested after refusing to follow deputies orders to move away from the scene. I reached out to the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department and spoke to Deputy Wayne Johnson who was present at the scene (though he didn’t admit that to me on my first call). He stated that Zach was arrested for “delaying/obstructing an officer” and that he was not arrested for filming. In fact, he “encourages people to film their deputies.” When I asked why they (Gowing and himself) didn’t just let Zach record where he was, he claimed Officer Stern called for backup and they felt they needed to provide him some space.
Clearly Zach was being obnoxious and it may have worked out better for him if he had remained calm. Even Johnson suggested that during our conversation and I took that moment to reminded him that officers don’t need to escalate the matter either. That the Deputies could have been the ‘bigger men’ here by ignoring Zach while keeping the situation safe for everyone. Johnson claims that Zach’s actions were delaying Stern’s ability to ticket the skateboarder.
Which should be the main point of this interaction – a person is being ticketed for skateboarding in a tunnel – and the conversation should start there. Why in the world this is a law is beyond me? Wouldn’t a sign that says “if you cause harm to another while skateboarding in this tunnel you will be held responsible for the harm you cause” solve the ‘problem?’ It’s obvious that this law doesn’t stop people, college kids mind you, from skateboarding through the tunnel. So what’s the point? Safety? That’s what Johnson claimed to be the source of the law but I don’t see any stories about people being harmed by skateboarders in this tunnel. What I do see is a bunch of stories about cops enforcing bad laws.
While the arrest of Zach seems to be justified in the eyes of the law, I think he makes a good point when he says, “you guys are fucking criminals for locking me up for trying to help this community.” The skateboarding ordinance probably does little to keep the community safe, especially since so many seem to be defying it, but filming the police is most certainly a community benefit.
What else can we take away from this video? I think one of the most important take away is to keep your cool. It’s not in your best interest to become loud or obnoxious and it only provides justification to those with badges to use force on you. I know that can be hard at times, I know I’ve lost my cool a couple times filming the police, but if you can help it stay calm, cool and collected.
For more know your rights tips, visit CopBlock.org’s “Know Your Rights” page.
Edited video of my call with Deputy Johnson: