Texas Deputy Displays Ignorance Of Laws He's 'Enforcing' While Trying To Shut Down A Citizen's Recording

from the the-grabbing-hands-grab-all-they-can... dept

Want to record the police while they’re on the job? Go ahead, the Supreme Court has (again) upheld your First Amendment right to do so, provided you aren’t on the wrong side of way too many exceptions. This is your right, no matter what the officer 90 feet away is yelling about “interference.” That’s just plain ignorance on the part of that officer.

But be careful doing it in Texas, where apparently the news hasn’t trickled down to members of the Gray County Sheriff’s Department. Anonymous blogger Ex-Cop Law Student details everything this peace officer gets wrong in his lengthy quest to shut down a citizen’s recording efforts.

At 3:00 into the video, the traffic stop has concluded and Andrew starts to walk away, when he is confronted by Deputy Stokes of the Gray County Sheriff’s Office. Stokes, who has since become employed by the Pampa Police Department, immediately attempted to seize the photography equipment as evidence. Stokes refuses to get a supervisor on request, tells Andrew to stop talking, and threatens to arrest Andrew when Andrew points out that he has a First Amendment right to speak. When that happened, Stokes said that “I think I’ll make up stuff” and attempted to grab the camera from Andrew (at 3:50).

“Seized as evidence.” This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Stokes wants to grab a camera (and actually gets ahold of it twice) but can’t think of a good reason. So he falls back on this one. “Evidence” of what exactly, though? The concluded traffic stop? Stokes’ own ignorance of the legal right to record law enforcement officers? The charges he’s going to attempt to bring against the photographer? It would appear to be the latter, especially with Stokes’ assertion that he’s willing to “make up stuff.”

But the obnoxious, abusive stupidity doesn’t end there.

At about 4:20, the demand for ID begins by Stokes and he really shows his ignorance. First, as has been noted numerous times before, in Texas, under the Failure to Identify statute, one has to be under arrest to be obligated to provide their name, residence address, and date of birth to an officer. Otherwise, the statute merely makes it an offense to provide fictitious information.

“Failure to identify” is a Texas law enforcement specialty. Where other departments are forced to rely on nebulous charges like “interference,” “disorderly conduct,” wiretapping law violations or straight-faced discussions of law-enforcement-centric urban legend “the cellphone was a gun,” Texas officers deploy “failure to identify” when shutting down camera-wielding citizens. But the law doesn’t work the way they think it does.

After making this “error,” Stokes compounds it by claiming — in direct opposition to a great many court decisions (as well as common sense) — that it’s illegal to record police officers. This, too, fails to stick. The citizen knows the law better than Stokes does and other officers begin to realize Stokes is taking this interaction in a dangerous direction and convince him to walk away.

While I would not expect police officers to know every nuance of the many laws they enforce, I would at least expect them to remain current on the ones that are routinely abused. If they don’t know the details, the problem lies with those responsible for training them. There’s no excuse (other than simply being a bad cop) for an officer to make this many errors in the course of one interaction. Any law enforcement agency should be up-to-date on court decisions and (especially) lawsuits that target oft-disputed areas like citizens with cameras. At this point, an officer needs to be wilfully ignorant to remain this out of touch with the reality of the situation.

Stokes tried intimidation and his own, very personal version of legal statutes to get his way. He even tried a little physical force. But the cameraman stood up to him and he was ultimately forced to back off. But that’s only one of the several dozen interactions between police and people exercising their First Amendment rights. The person doing the recording stayed out of jail and was never charged with anything, somewhat of a rarity in situations where laws are improperly forced into service by someone with more power than knowledge.

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Comments on “Texas Deputy Displays Ignorance Of Laws He's 'Enforcing' While Trying To Shut Down A Citizen's Recording”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Do not pass GO, do not collect your next paycheck, go straight to the unemployment office

“I think I’ll make up stuff”

That on it’s own should have been an immediate ‘YOU ARE FIRED!’ moment as soon as it became known, if not grounds for charges of fabricating evidence. If a cop is flat out admitting that he’ll just make up charges, on camera no less, they’ve proven that they aren’t someone who deserves to hold any position of authority, and certainly not one that has such enormous power over others.

Instead what happened? He just got transferred to another department elsewhere. Oh yeah, the police are so very dedicated to holding their own accountable when they overstep and/or abuse their authority… /s

AC says:

Re: Do not pass GO, do not collect your next paycheck, go straight to the unemployment office

“I think I’ll make up stuff”

He said this more than once, but this isn’t what I heard him say.
Each time, I heard it as “You think I make up stuff?”

This seems to fit his ignorance better and is far less damning than the quoted interpretation.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Do not pass GO, do not collect your next paycheck, go straight to the unemployment office

Listened to it a couple of times myself, I’m pretty sure it’s ‘I think I make up stuff’, and given the context, where the person recording asks what crime the ‘officer’ is threatening to arrest him for, the ‘officer’ pauses, and then gives the ‘I think I make up stuff’ line before grabbing for the camera, yeah, that comes across pretty clearly as ‘I’ll arrest you and worry about what to charge you with later if you don’t shut up, stop recording, and hand over the camera’.

PigmyPuncher says:

Re: Do not pass GO, do not collect your next paycheck, go straight to the unemployment office

He just got transferred to another department elsewhere. – not exactly how it works. In Texas, all law enforcement is not part of the same employer and one can just move/transfer around. You can’t even transfer between similar entities (Sheriff Office to Sheriff Office). He would have had to apply, gone through the interview/hiring process and be accepted by Pampa PD.

Couple of other fables the common person should understand. Officers are at no time required to get their supervisor upon request. Seriously, this isn’t a call center, and the supervisor isn’t typically sitting on his/her thumbs waiting on the opportunity to go out and meet folks.. The supervisor on duty may be covering an area, over an hour away, or on a call themselves. The supervisor is there for questions, and admin issues that the officer may have. If you have an issue with an officers conduct, start with a formal complaint and escalate from there. Cities cannot afford to have Officers that assault citizens, it gets very expensive and even bad administrations understand budget issues….

That said – he should file a complaint with both departments to ensure this officers conduct becomes the center of attention by both agencies, and if that doesn’t work, get an attorney to see what options are available. I’d love to see this officers TCLEOSE cert be revoked if he acted outside the agencies protocols.

Personally, I love in dash video cameras and private citizens videos – if your acting within the scope of your training, they usually prove useful during trial, and can help exonerate the officer if accused of something they didn’t do.. YMMV 🙂

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Do not pass GO, do not collect your next paycheck, go straight to the unemployment office

Cities cannot afford to have Officers that assault citizens, it gets very expensive and even bad administrations understand budget issues….

In New Jersey (don’t know about anywhere else) those lawsuits are paid for by insurance, not out of budgets, so they don’t really care.

White guy says:

Re: "lucky he's a white guy"

Tell tat to Kelly Thomas, or any one of hundreds of thosands of white men killed, licked up, or otherwise destroyed by institutional violence every year.

Because you are a racist, and use the terminology of racial discord and division, you probably aren’t intellectually gifted with the ability to realze that the white guys are fighting these types of camera wars for rights you are leveraging with your racist stupidity.

Or your a boot licking cop troll, doing what has kept you in business since the inception of the klan-dividing and klankering.

Anonymous Coward says:

The idiot behind the camera should know better. How is it that morons with video cameras are ignorant to the fact that the mere presence of their video camera is going to draw them into a confrontational situation. These camera wielding morons should realize that once a police officer orders you to disperse, you are required by law to disperse. Standing on a public sidewalk, where you are providing a distraction to the police officers, is not dispersing, since they have to keep an eye on “you”, whom they don’t know who you are or what you’re doing there.

Camera morons are juts looking for a way to get police officers on tape and to embarrass them on youtube and eventually, the federal courts and the Supreme Court is going to start reversing its stand and finding for these police officers.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ah good old ‘blaming the victim’…

Yeah, keep dreaming, multiple ruling have found that the public does in fact have a right to record the police, they don’t have to leave as soon as some poor little cop tells them to, unless they’re causing a real disturbance, and standing there with a phone/camera is anything but.

As for the ‘mere presence’ of a video camera ‘drawing them into a confrontational situation’, maybe if these children pretending to be police weren’t so insecure, so adverse to having any evidence of their actions other than just their word, those ‘confrontational situations’ wouldn’t exist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Except that it’s already been ruled that people holding video cameras are not considered confrontational. Also, the person doing the recording was accosted by the police officer when he was leaving; he wasn’t being asked to disperse. Why hold the public responsible when police decide to act irresponsibly and say things like “I think I’ll make up stuff”? Are you proposing that the entirety of law enforcement be staffed by morons?

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There are orders a police officer cannot lawfully give. There are orders that may be lawful if given for some reasons that become unlawful when given for others.

Any order to stop properly exercising a constitutional right in a peaceful way is unlawful. Any order to disperse intended to stop someone from lawfully exercising their rights is unlawful.

You are not only not required to obey an unlawful order, you have a duty as a citizen to disobey it.

Why do you feel greater hostility for a good citizen exercising a right than you do for an oathbreaker who is breaking the law? What does that say about you as a person?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The bitch wearing clothes should know better. How is it that bitches wearing clothes are ignorant to the fact that the mere presence of their clothes is going to draw them into a rape situation. These clothes wearing bitches should realize that once a rapist sees you, you are just asking for it, fact! Standing on a public sidewalk, where you are providing a temptation to the rapist, is just gagging for it, since they have no choice but to rape ?you? whom they don’t know who you are or what you’re doing there.

Clothes wearing bitches are juts looking for a way to get raped so they can get noticed and eventually, the federal courts and the Supreme Court is going to start reversing its stand and finding for these rapists.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Baiters

Now onto the serious response – I hope he is a baiter.

I would like everyone that has the opportunity to bait a law enforcement officer into acting inappropriately while on camera. This will weed out officers that may act inappropriately in situations that could be extremely dangerous for both the citizens they should be protecting, other officers, and the officers themselves.

It would be my expectation that good police officers would be ok with being recorded and would welcome bad officers being recorded because it will be likely to clean out the bad officers and eventually restore the reputations of the good ones.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Baiters

“you DO have to show ID when asked for”

No, you do not. You are neither required to carry ID, nor are you required to produce it on demand.

If you are a suspect and the police cannot determine your identity, they can detain you until a positive identification can be made. That doesn’t mean you’ve broken the law, and you aren’t being arrested (although you might be held in a jail cell during your “detention”). In the end, it’s probably better to produce ID, but you don’t HAVE to.

Eli the Bearded says:

How much training do the cops get?

In California, you need a LOT more training to be a barber than a cop.


“1. How many hours are needed to qualify to take the State Board examinations?
Cosmetologist = 1600 hours, Barber = 1500 hours, Esthetician = 600 hours, Electrologist = 600 hours, Manicurist = 400 hours.”


“This full-time, 888-hour intensive course satisfies the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) minimum training requirements for California entry-level peace officers.”

Makes sense, right? Barbers can totally ruin your life with a careless grooming.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re: How much training do the cops get?

To be fair, if the barber screws up while giving you an old-fashioned shave with a straight razor it could kill you…

Hmm, ok, let’s list what a police officer could do to you…

1) Beat you up and then arrest YOU for ‘resisting arrest’;
2) Get you thrown in jail on trumped up charges. Sure, you might not get convicted, but while spending 18 months on remand you could get murdered, raped, assaulted, and/or pick up one of the many contagious diseases in jail, hep C, HIV, and so on;
3) Jump-up on the bonnet of your stationery, trapped and fully surrounded vehicle and empty a full clip of ammo into the unarmed (with no witnesses having seen any weapons) occupants shooting them dead, AFTER 30 OTHER cops had already fired in excess of 100 rounds into the vehicle;
4) get you put on the no-fly list with no evidence;
5) arrest you and escort you to hospital where you are subjected to x-rays, forced rectal exams, and a fully-anesthetised, non-consensual colonoscopy;
6) Shot and killed as collateral damage when the police shoot at the offender;
7) Get pulled over at gunpoint by a swarm of armed police because an ANPR system mis-read a number plate for a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT type of vehicle (make, model, colour, style all different).

Need I go on?

How many people die from “death by barber” as opposed to “death by cop”? And here I’m just thinking of unarmed/unjustified shootings, innocent bystanders, and so on, not the classic “shootout with armed criminal” scenario.

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