I remember 5 or 6 years ago when simply pointing a camera at a police officer would prompt them to engage you. It didn’t matter what kind of stop they were on; once they realized you were recording them you had their attention. At that point you’d have a 50 – 50 chance of ending up in jail. Things have changed a little bit in this regard, as more and more police seem to be ignoring people who film them or they’ve become more accepting of it (cameras are everywhere nowadays). Now they shine lights into cameras and push folks back as tactics to close the eye of transparency the cameras bring.
This was the case for Robert Fones (on YouTube) and his friend, who stumbled across approximately 3 Minneapolis police officers who were in the act of a traffic stop. Fones and friend were drawn to the stop when they claimed to have heard police say, “Shut up, bitch. Go back to your own city.” According to the description posted on YouTube:
ROBERT FONES’S VIDEO:
Last night me and a friend walked up on two squad cars pulling over a young Muslim couple. As we approached we heard one of the officers, a woman, yell at the woman suspect to, “Shut up, bitch. Go back to your own city.” We immediately started filming with our phones, at which point they told us they were holding the couple as shooting suspects and that we should be thanking them.
After conferring for a moment, they turned their flashlights and squad car lights onto us to block our ability to film. At one point the female officer asked “oh, this is because we’re white, right?” to which I responded that so was one of the people filming. As we continued to film, it became apparent that the couple had done nothing wrong and were told to go home, at which point the woman burst into angry tears, claiming she had been disrespected and done nothing wrong. The female officer called her a bitch again and everyone began to depart. The officers refused to give me a badge number or name before driving off, telling me to find better things to do. All of this is on film.
I contacted the police with one of the two squad car numbers and the disinterested, aloof dispatcher informed me that an email would be sent to the Sergeant at some point. In other words, nothing was going to happen.
I’ve been harassed by police at my employment for Facebook posts in the past, and pulled over multiple times for having “a resemblance to a carjacking suspect” which usually just means running my license for priors and letting me go if nothing comes up.
I don’t know what to do with the video, I don’t know what to do with the fact that my complaint probably won’t reach anyone who cares or could call the officers out. I don’t know what the next step is or even if there is one. But I do know that having a faceless, unchecked set of bullies with the support of taxpayer money wandering the streets calling innocent citizens bitches and refusing to identify themselves is about as lawless as you can get. Turns out only one group of people in that situation had guns and they weren’t the ones that subjected their names or identification to scrutiny.
Luckily for Fones, a member of Minnesota CopBlock, Amanda, saw his video and knew exactly what to do. She submitted it via the CopBlock.org submission tab, where I found it, and where dozens of others also submit ideas each day. Thanks to the CopBlock Network we have a dedicated contributor, Kate, for site submissions, but other Contributors look through them as well. This allows us the ability to help folks, like Fones here, share their stories with as many people as possible. All you have to do is bring the basics to the table (a story, video, or idea about police) and let us take care of the rest.
The officers in this video seemed to be fired up from the start. Almost immediately upon realizing they were being recorded the officers focused their flashlights on the duo. The police were on the defensive big time, attempting to justify their treatment of the woman whom they had pulled over. This prompted the officers to shine not only their flashlights onto the pair but their side lamps as well.
Of course none of this really worked to deter the couple from filming the stop to its conclusion. It seems the police realized this and decided to end their harassment of the woman they had pulled over. You can hear her in the video voicing her displeasure for the actions of the officers as well. In fact, if it weren’t for Fones and his friend with their cameras I think that woman might have gone to jail, while Fones probably would have been roughed up or harassed even more than he was.
Lastly, I would like to note a few tips for anyone reading this. I would never, ever, ever voluntarily offer the police the right to search my property. Even those of you who are saying, “What’s the big deal if you have nothing illegal on you?” The deal is that everything is illegal! No joke, there are so many laws or ridiculous ordinances that what you think is a harmless gesture of, “I’ve got nothing to hide,” turns into a ticket or night in jail. Try to ask questions and answer police questions with questions. You want to refrain from making absolute statements like, “Yes, we live here.” Instead ask, “Does it matter where I live?” And don’t forget your fail-safe – asking, “Am I being detained or am I free to go?” If you’re free to go, simply walk away.
Remember these because they might just save you a ticket, night in jail or even your life one day.
FIVE MUST DO’S DURING POLICE ENCOUNTERS: