Good afternoon folks. I just reviewed another (yes another) YouTube video on a First Amendment Audit which I could say was a failure. The department (which I will not name) will likely be sued and pay a bit for the arrest of a single camera man, who was taking video and pictures of the outside and lobby of the police agency. When confronted, the auditor was cordial, making small talk and even telling the officer that he was simply taking pictures for a story on police. Cool! Or at least one would think.
The officer pressed the issue, feeling it was “suspicious” and began to ask for ID. The auditor, as they usually do, advised properly (in California) that they were not required to identify themselves, as they didn’t commit a crime. The auditor even threw out the proper penal codes and case laws covering this. I am not a detective and never have been, but I’d call that a “clue.” Here is where a crafty officer would Google or Bing or Yahoo or (insert favorite search engine here) these codes and educate themselves. Problem solved.
What occurs is that the officer leaves (almost) and the auditor walks on, only to be followed by the officer. This plays out like the sun rise and fall, in almost every video. Frustrating. Eventually a sergeant shows up and “detains” the auditor. Now we have a situation. The auditor gives so many warnings that what they are going to do is wrong but they ignore the warnings. I really cannot stand watching my fellow officers look baffled when asked simple questions by the auditor. Eventually the arrest is made for “148PC – resisting and delaying and investigation.” The kicker is this; how do you resist or delay an investigation into conduct which is not criminal in itself? Even refusing to identify one self is not covered by this. I find it ironic that PC148(G) protects individuals rights to film police and federal buildings, and CANNOT be grounds for suspicious behavior – in itself. Amazing.
So what needs to happen is that we, police officers, need to adjust our view and our approach to serving the public. It doesn’t always have to be a hostile encounter where we are right all the time. It’s ok to be wrong and be corrected. My wife tells me this all the time (I kid – of course). You’d be surprised how professional you come off as a police officer if you listen to logic, adjusting when wrong, and move on. It’s saved me tons of grief in my career.