Arkansas Congressman Who Helped Protect Citizens' Right To Record Police Arrested For Recording Police

from the seems-reasonable dept

While the recording of police activities has been covered here for years, I think we're starting to see what is at least a slight ratcheting down of the drama over the issue. Once almost universally rejected by law enforcement groups, the freedom to record police as they go about their public duty has become more recognized rather than less. That doesn't mean the issue is settled, though, as shown in a recent example in which Arkansas police arrested a state Congressman who had helped push through a state law protecting the rights of citizens to film police.

Officer Jeff Thompson of the Little Rock Police Department arrested Arkansas state Representative John Walker for recording their treatment of a black man who had been put in handcuffs during a traffic stop. Officer Thompson told Rep Walker he had to stop recording or face arrest. Rep Walker said, "Arrest me." Officer Thompson did. Police later dropped charges against Rep Walker, but are continuing with the prosecution of his colleague, civil rights lawyer Omavi Shukur.

Shakur, officers say, had done more than merely be present with a recording device, having at one point supposedly stepped in the way of the officers as they performed their duty. Police reports and statements alike, however, suggest that Rep. Walker merely stood by and filmed the police traffic stop and refused to leave when so ordered. The arresting officer indicates that Walker was told that he would be arrested for simply refusing to leave the area, at which point Walker said "Arrest me."

In other reporting, some of the police that were on site at the time of arrest discuss Walker being purposefully provocative, with one even indicating that Walker likely wanted to be arrested.

Film in another patrol car, taking the driver to jail, has audio of an older officer telling a younger black female officer who'd made the stop about Walker: "His main purpose was to be arrested." Walker, he said, had been "a thorn in the side of the police department" since he joined the force.

Even if we accept this at face value, there seems little value in law enforcement obliging Walker, giving him fuel for his cause and plastering his name all over the news. Particularly when the arrest comes about for his doing something that not only isn't illegal, but is something that Walker personally fought to legalize. Would it be so hard to just let Walker film away and go about your public duty?


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Oct 2016 @ 2:08am

    The self-control of a child on display for all to see

    Assuming that he did in fact plan on being arrested, I'd say the police were stupid enough to oblige him, demonstrating that they have the self control of toddlers. I can't think of a more effective way to highlight that law or no law the police in that area/state continue to think that they can just order people to stop recording and expect to be obeyed, so if he was out to make a statement highlighting this fact he did so quite effectively.

    Walker, he said, had been "a thorn in the side of the police department" since he joined the force.

    As for this? That complaint right there is a badge of pride, and I certainly hope he sees it that way as well. Being a thorn in the side of police like that is most certainly something to be proud of, and a good indicator that he's doing the right things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Oct 2016 @ 4:44am

    "Police later dropped charges against Rep Walker, but are continuing with the prosecution of his colleague, civil rights lawyer Omavi Shukur."

    Well the one with enough juice to cause them serious problems got cut free by a higher up, who now has to try and explain why the officers went from saying he had a right to film to calling him a race baiter who wanted to be arrested to cause the police trouble.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 3 Oct 2016 @ 7:20am

      Re:

      Both the arrest with subsequently dropped charges, and the other prosecution are simply malicious ways of inflicting "extra judicial" punishment. Street justice. Justice outside of the court system.

      The police can detain or arrest you merely as a form of punishment. Seize your guilty property as a form of punishment. Just to satisfy the cop.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    peter, 3 Oct 2016 @ 4:50am

    Plan on being arrested?

    How do you 'plan' on being arrested by going about your lawful business?

    I can see how you can accept that being unlawfully arrested in that situation is a distinct possibility , but that predisposes that you think the police mindset is such that they will happily arrest you for 'not' breaking the law.......and they obliged!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2016 @ 6:51am

      Re: Plan on being arrested?

      How do you 'plan' on being arrested by going about your lawful business?

      The Police are on record ad nauseum for having arrested people for going about their lawful business. So, every time you have an interaction with the police and "plan to exercise your rights" you are simultaneously "planning to be arrested" because there is a much higher likely hood of being arrested if you do not just roll over like an obedient citizen when TOLD to do so by an officer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy Lyman (profile), 3 Oct 2016 @ 7:23am

      Re: Plan on being arrested?

      Attempting to get illegally arrested? That's gotta be an arrest-able offense!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2016 @ 4:54am

    "His main purpose was to be arrested."

    This like projection, the cops prime desire being to arrest people and search their belongings.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Machin Shin (profile), 3 Oct 2016 @ 5:53am

    "His main purpose was to be arrested."

    So wait, a lawmaker who fought for the right to film police went out and intentionally tried testing how well his efforts paid off? It really is sad that police can't seem to understand, being a pain in the ass for a police officer is NOT illegal. It might very well be highly annoying, but if you can't handle some minor harassment then you really shouldn't be a police officer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2016 @ 6:02am

    Resisting

    The arresting officer indicates that Walker was told that he would be arrested for simply refusing to leave the area, at which point Walker said "Arrest me."

    There is not a lot of details, but my first impression from reading this was that as soon Walker was told that he could be arrested, he chose to cooperate immediately. As a congressman, it would be easy to sort things out in the police station, but telling a police officer that filming is not illegal could possibly result in him being beaten for "resisting arrest"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 3 Oct 2016 @ 6:17am

      Re: Resisting

      Add that to the charges against him: failure to resist arrest while being arrested for resisting arrest.

      Eat your heart out, Joseph Heller.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2016 @ 6:13am

    "a thorn in the side of the police department"

    By doing things like helping to "push through a state law protecting the rights of citizens to film police", I presume.

    I guess they'll teach him how those who write the lay shouldn't dare step on the toes of those who *are* the law, huh?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2016 @ 6:34am

    updates

    This is all week-old news, and there have been some updates since then.

    Police publicly apologize to Walker Tue, 27th:
    http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2016/09/27/little-rock-police-reviewing-john-walk er-arrest

    Walker rejects city apology Tue, 27th:
    http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2016/09/27/john-walker-rejects-city-apology-for-a rrest-during-filming-of-police

    Police dash cam video released Wed, 28th:
    http://www.arkansasmatters.com/news/local-news/lrpd-releases-dashcam-video-from-walker-arrest

    Vi deo shows Walker's sidekick getting way closer than he needs to the incident scene. He could have stepped back a few feet on the sidewalk and still had an angle, but he wanted to be almost in the middle of it, intentionally provoking confrontation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nerd bert (profile), 3 Oct 2016 @ 7:12am

      Re: updates

      So in other words, Walker's sidekick disobeyed the law and got arrested, while Walker obeyed the law and got arrested. The difference being that the cops had to apologize and release Walker, while they still got to charge the sidekick.

      All in all, this is a learning experience for the cops and the sidekick.

      And as for ""His main purpose was to be arrested." I think that's great! He's making a point on a law that he sponsored and it's rare to see a politician getting that involved in an issue. Normally they're so mealy mouthed that they're unwilling to take a stand, especially one for freedom and the accountability of authority (i.e. the cops).

      I guess it's the cynic in me in suspecting that since the election is only weeks away Walker didn't mind the additional publicity. But I'll squelch those thoughts since I approve of what he did.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JBDragon (profile), 3 Oct 2016 @ 9:02am

      Re: updates

      Walker was across the street, way out of the way, and the police were harassing him and wasted lots of time on that instead of just doing their job. It really made the police look like clueless idiots!!! They had every right to stand there and record what was going on. Crossing the street after being hassled by the police, not so bright. The other guy shouldn't have gotten so close though, he's just asking for it by those racist cops!!!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whatever, 3 Oct 2016 @ 6:34am

    Yes! YES! ...Ah, I came.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Kev (profile), 3 Oct 2016 @ 6:43am

    Little Rock

    Hi, I live in Little Rock. First, let me assure you that I'm not in any way defending the arrest, it was a stupid, stupid thing to do. John Walker is notorious in this town for being a race-baiting ambulance chaser. Google "Joshua Intervenors" for the highlights of his legal career if you'd care to learn more. tl:dr version is that he has filed a series of lawsuits against the school districts here dating back to 1982 that have accomplished little besides very nearly bankrupting LRSD. He has a history of antagonizing law enforcement in the area in the hopes of being arrested so that he can then sue everyone in sight. LRPD knows this and generally ignores him but for whatever reason, they didn't this time. Currently, all charges against both men have been dropped, the City Manager and the Police Chief have both publicly apologized (Walker made a very big deal of not accepting said apologies) and lawsuits are being prepared. The end result will be that the Citizens of Little Rock will write yet another check to this clown because a cop got frustrated and the perception of Little Rock as a racist Southern backwater will be reinforced. Good job all around.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 3 Oct 2016 @ 8:39am

      Re: Little Rock

      "because a cop got frustrated" Seems to me that not only in Little Rock, but around the country, cops are getting frustrated every day doing stupid shit. When I do stupid shit some data may be lost, an OS hosed to the point of a re-image. When these clowns make mistakes people die.

      "notorious in this town for being a race-baiting ambulance chaser" Says who? Because when the MSM gives you a label bet your ass they are onto something.

      "Google "Joshua Intervenors""
      Yes Sir... he's a horrible horrible man: /s
      In 1982, another dimension was added to the multi-district desegregation saga. The Little Rock School District, joined by a group of parents now known as the “Joshua Intervenors,” file a new lawsuit against the Pulaski County School District, the North Little Rock School district and the State of Arkansas, whose collective practices exacerbated racial segregation in Little Rock and Pulaski County. After successful litigation, the federal district court implemented an inter-district desegregation remedy and consolidated this case with the three original intradistrict desegregation lawsuits.

      So.... what? You support segregation?

      "I live in Little Rock."
      But yet a guy from Philly already knows more about this than you do.
      Is Mr. Walker Afro-american by any chance (Goes to google)AHHH!!! Yes he is.

      "and the perception of Little Rock as a racist Southern backwater will be reinforced."
      Oh the irony.

      So an Afro-american man fought to end segregation practices and that makes him a troublemaker. That Abe Lincoln... man, what a troublemaker too.

      Are you a white guy Kev?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2016 @ 10:53am

      Re: Little Rock

      Blaming the victim instead of the police that broke the law never works unless you around those who view police as gods that can do no wrong.

      While you might be right in him baiting the police, that doesn't change the fact those cops still broke the law. There should be serious consequences for police that break laws, otherwise what's the point in having them as police?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Eldakka (profile), 3 Oct 2016 @ 4:51pm

      Re: Little Rock

      If he won his lawsuit against the LRSD, then the LRSD were breaking the law. Therefore any monetary cost to them was due to their own illegal activities, and not to Walker.

      If Walker files a suit and wins against the LRPD, then the LRPD were the ones breaking the law. Therefore any monetary cost to them will have been due to their illegal actions.

      My conclusion? If you want to stop having to spend money on legal fees and payouts for your illegal activities -- stop doing those (blatantly) illegal activities.

      If the citizens of Little Rock are unhappy with their tax money being spent by these bodies as a result of their own illegal activities, maybe they should do something about it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2016 @ 7:08am

    except he did get in their way

    And was told repeatedly to get back to other side of the road. As a publicity stunt, it backfired because it was all on video.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    neost (profile), 3 Oct 2016 @ 7:37am

    If you watch the video, as those of us in Central AR have repeatedly, the police asked both men many times to move away from the scene and neither did. As a fellow Arkansas pointed out earlier, this guy's whole routine is to sue the LR city government out of existence. The Joshua intervenors have held LR hostage for a long time and financed John Walker through his many, many lawsuits.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JBDragon (profile), 3 Oct 2016 @ 9:09am

      Re:

      They were across the street and the police were harassing them!!! Wasted a bunch of time on nothing. So what if they were being recorded. If anything it was the police doing what they did that cause them to go ahead and cross over to get a better angle of recording.

      Just because the police tell you something, doesn't make it right. The second guy that walked up close up front, he got a little close, but shouldn't have been arrested over that. The congressman was more then far enough away. The police just just don't like to be recorded and I can see why.

      If you have nothing to hide you should welcome the recordings showing you doing your job correctly and professionally. That wasn't these police officers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2016 @ 1:48pm

      Re:

      As a fellow Arkansas pointed out earlier, this guy's whole routine is to sue the LR city government out of existence.

      The cop chose to arrest Walker.
      He made a mistake.
      The department had to apologize for it.

      But if all criminals had to do was apologize, then it wouldn't be much of a deterrent to crime, would it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Retarded guardian angels, 3 Oct 2016 @ 10:28am

    I keep hearing we need cops/retarded guardian angels. If we had wizards I am sure we would be convinced that we needed them as well, and that the world could never function without our magic guardians.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2016 @ 10:56am

      Re:

      What most people seem to want is a dictator telling them where, how and why to do everything.

      They cannot imagine thinking for themselves they just want to be told what to do.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2016 @ 10:47am

    "having at one point supposedly stepped in the way of the officers as they performed their duty. "

    What do you mean "supposedly"? There's dash cam video from the officers plus the video he was recording, right? I don't understand how you can say "supposedly" here.

    From the dash cam video, he was WAY too close to the traffic stop - he actually walked between the squad with the dash cam and the car being pulled over. That's not an appropriate location to be. Also, there was more than one person who got that close. The officers were absolutely right to tell him to back off, and arrest him when he refused.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shilling, 3 Oct 2016 @ 10:53am

    He was ordered to move for his own safety as they were about to shoot 40 bullets into the handcuffed perp and they were afraid a stray bullet might have hit the bystander. These officers have the decency to protect innocent bystanders instead of those trigger-happy cops that shoot first and see what happened later. These officers deserve a Monument and a pay raise sponsored by the innocent families of drugusers/dealers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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