But For Video: Everyone Behaving Badly Edition

The advent of pervasive citizen video has been a boon in putting the lie to police claims that their conduct was always justified when a complaint of excessive force is made. After all, it’s the word of a decorated police officer against the word of a criminal, and the target of police force is, by definition, a criminal or they wouldn’t have deserved to be the target of force.

Now, they have to work harder and stifle chuckles to pull off their claim of justification in the face of video showing what happened.  But, for those who have found these videos illuminating as to law enforcement misconduct and lies (which would exclude most judges), there is one thing to bear in mind. As much as the proof is now indisputable that police sometimes engage in abuse and needlessly excessive force, it doesn’t mean that the victim of their force is pure as the driven snow.

What the videos can show is that there is a pointless mix of entitlement, antagonism and just plain dumb behavior by people involved in police interactions.  And before anyone informs that people have a right to behave poorly, and that behaving poorly is never an excuse for police to use excessive force, you are absolutely right. In a theoretical vacuum.  And police should, without question, exercise sufficient self-control and restrain their violence so as not to harm.  We are in complete agreement.

But the point remains that an encounter can wind up with a video on Youtube of police using excessive force, a lot of time wasted in court, plenty of huffing and puffing without any worthwhile outcome.  The cops may be wrong, completely, totally wrong, in how they react, but if people didn’t behave like jerks in the first place, there wouldn’t have been a reaction.

Example 1: Arizona State University assistant professor Ersula Ore:

Ore, refusing to show her ID, responds to Officer Stewart Ferrin, says “do you have to speak to me in such a disrespectful manner?”  Disrespectful is relative. Should he have asked for her permission first?

Example 2: Simi Valley police officer Corey Baker arrives at the scene of a trivial touching of one car to another (which fails to achieve the high rank of fender bender), to be met by Jeff Knapp, one of the people involved, videotaping the occurrence.

Baker asks Knapp to put down the camera, which he refuses, asserting his right to video.  Baker acknowledges his right, but in reaction refuses to talk to Knapp.  Again, Baker’s reaction is wrong, and his refusal to speak to Knapp and take his statement is dereliction of duty.  But, as Jonathan Turley says:

This is the type of poor behavior that could undermine the recently recognized right of citizens to videotape. This video could be used to show that videotaping presents an impediment to police trying to do their job because Knapp did not have the simply decency to lower the camera.

I believe Baker was wrong, but I also believe that Knapp and other needs to use these rights in a civil and mature way.

I fail to see that Knapp’s videotaping interfered with Baker’s performance of his duty in any way other than annoying Baker. Nor is it relevant that Baker’s overtime payments are more than his salary, which may be fascinating but is wholly unrelated to what happened here.

There are some bad cops out there, engaging in horrible violence, abuse and misconduct, and the value of video in showing what happened can’t be understated. But that doesn’t absolve people from behaving like entitled brats, adamantly refusing to demonstrate any discretion in their interactions with police.

It may be that the Ore and Knapp decided that they wanted the confrontation with police to serve as an opportunity to assert their right to the fullest possible extent, challenge the police to react poorly and use it as an example.  If so, then they partially achieved the goal, showing in each instance that the police officer could have shown greater restraint and performed his duty in a more sensitive manner.

But they still come off poorly.  There will be some, perhaps many, who will view these videos through the prism of their bias and see nothing wrong with their behavior.  If the goal was to get the choir to sing “hallelujah,” that’s fine. But if it’s about persuading others, not predisposed to being sensitive, if not antagonistic to police, they have instead fed into the mindset that the people who cry abuse, refusal to respect rights and, in the case of Ore where the ASU Ethnic Studies Network is questioning whether she was the victim of racial profiling, are a bunch of entitled malcontents and flaming nutjobs.

If you want to spend a night in the can as a martyr, be a jerk.  If not, don’t needlessly antagonize cops who did nothing inappropriate until after you behaved like a jerk.  It’s not effective, persuasive, or smart.  And if you want to put on a show, then do a much better job of it.

16 comments on “But For Video: Everyone Behaving Badly Edition

  1. Turk

    I doubt Ore “wanted the confrontation with police to serve as an opportunity to assert their right to the fullest possible extent, challenge the police to react poorly and use it as an example.”

    She was the one, after all, that was unexpectedly approached by the police. I would consider it unlikely that someone in that circumstance thought things through in the manner you suggest is possible, as it is more likely she is simply reacting to what the cop is doing.

    Contrast that with the folks that whip out their cameras and stick them in the face of the cops, which works to antagonize.

    They may both come off poorly, but only one seems to have an element of premeditation about it.

  2. Fubar

    Partial page from a brochure titled Duties of Citizenship, issued by the Department of Re-Education and Expectation Equilibrium Adjustment, to be sold at the Department’s monthly auction of deceased inmate’s possessions. Barely visible penciled notation, ordered erased by courts to ensure inmate privacy, is believed by some document examiners to read “They Thought They Were Free Too”.

    Text originally printed on item:

    We’ve no internal passports. You see,
    We are not only brave, we are free!
    Therefore all must obey,
    When policemen say “Hey,
    You there! Show me state-issued I-D!”

    1. SHG Post author

      I might feel the same had she not been walking in the middle of the road. Jaywalking, stupid though it may be as an offense (though it was very critically important to thwart when a child was harmed), is still an offense. And having engaged in it, the request for ID was, sadly, proper.

      Yeah, I know, but it was, even if entitled scholars think they deserve to be treated with a level respect that lesser mortals can only dream about.

      1. bacchys

        The request for ID is proper, a demand to see documentation supporting it would not be. There’s no general law in this Republic (yet) that one must carry state-issued papers proving who you are.

        Given where the video starts, I don’t know if that happened in Ore’s case. I’ve seen enough examples of cops demanding to see driver’s license from a pedestrian who has already given their name and other identifying information, all the while insisting the poor schmuck is failing to “identify.”

        1. SHG Post author

          When a cop is authorized to require ID because a person has violated a law (such as jaywalking, here), and the person cannot or refuses to provide one, the officer is authorized to take the person into custody, and use force if necessary to do so, to verify their identity. So is the point of your comment to make people stupider or get people hurt?

        2. ExCop-LawStudent

          Bacchys, you may be technically correct, that the individual merely has to tell the officer who they are, etc.

          In most of those cases, if the individual does not come up with ID, the officer will arrest for the underlying violation, fill out the ticket, write “instanter” on the signature line, and put the individual in jail.

          It seems that people actually lie to the police about who they are, so after this happens once or thirty times the officer finds it is easier to take them to jail and make them post bond to be released.

          Yeah, they may say “failure to identify” but normally they are not charged with that, in my experience, unless they gave fictitious information. You would be amazed at how many times someone has given me “their” ID information, but when they are arrested, they have a DL in their wallet with a completely different name on it.

          1. SHG Post author

            I think bacchys conflates the specious demand for ID from someone who has done nothing to warrant the demand and the demand from someone for whom reasonable suspicion exists, even if only for a BS charge like jaywalking.

  3. Alex Stalker

    I’m a little surprised you didn’t take this opportunity to link Chris Rock’s “How not to get your ass kicked by the police.”

    1. SHG Post author

      Been there, done that. I keep forgetting that everybody hasn’t read every post I’ve ever written, so I don’t include vids I’ve used before. But it’s a good one:

  4. John Barleycorn

    Open palm pain.

    My digits on both hands cover my skull in paralysis. I can’t even see the noon sun through the weight and phantom webbing that makes me imagine I learned to swim.

    Seriously, do you know how pathetic is it to hold up a cell phone for “justice”. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it… but really, are we really there and you come with this?

    So in the sprit of concise cauterization, this semi-almost-could-have-been-mullet-rant-if-you-would-have-given-it-a-deeper-bibliography-or-even -a-Wheeeeee-or-just-went-there-with-it post of yours is overdue. It is solid, you are correct but in aggregate and as aggregation it fails miserably.

    Besides polite is cool! Which you seriously fail to mention like a boss and like you really mean it!

    Really? You go with a very able in years jay walking professor that is making the current intertube rounds and over the top parking lot person whom is sure to go with full skull implant mounts for soon to be purchased go-pro paranoia recorder. All this before google glass finds it way to compete with Apple widgets in a Wal-Mart near you? All—- righty then, I guess? Hey, I can see most days, but really?

    Why yield on this topic? What’s going on here? WTF!

    It is Thursday so why not roast some of your back channel conspirators some of whom really, really need the bath water you are looking at as potable for pasta. Just for fun and meant only as a roasting for twisted perspective check. What is the new potable anyway? I don’t know? but…Yeah. this sounds like fun.

    The one from Chicago. The Practicing Professor who does not grade, edit, or even read his communist comment section full of masturbating republicans because he is certain the Today Show will be calling his agent shortly and the target audience is always best left to fulfill their own desires. A tireless advocate whom never misses an opportunity to promote ThE BeARs, whom he is certain should become cubs and one day stand alone to insure that every child shall be welcomed into the collusion with the hero worship worthy of a balloon twisting clown’s magic. His posting of Reddit material whole cloth to fill the need of no void in his corner cracks the whip upon the undergraduate sociology majors with dreams of law school admission across the land., and no question about it he writes some sassy editorials that find real ink on real newsprint even when editors whack off a few hundred words. I might trust this guy but for his teeth and sappy tendencies. I do dig his first name though. Advice…? This guy don’t need no stinking advice…who wouldn’t be mesmerized by the familiar welcoming tone of his writing? His exuberant love for animals alone makes Bob Barker look an baby seal butcher. He dare not think about anything other than the constitution or material worthy of making the cut before the first commercial break during the 6 o’clock news. If his dog only knew what was up, that dog would become the messiah of paradigm.

    Then there is the rambler under current favorable cloak in DC from Austin Texas, but everybody knows he ain’t from there other than “modern times” reinventing Generation X before he weds a Me Generation hippy chick who will became a libertarian after her folks make her weed the vegetable garden . You just know he flexes in the mirror while checking out his by-lines and sniffing sharpies. The steel framed doors and eight inch dead bolts are on the list but he ain’t them. He is worthy of an action figure though, as he has been rolling and folding the seams with no fear of the material metal for some time. He needs to “check in” with his news editor these days while he should be pushing his book publisher for some bonus cash. I got nothing against him he just agitates me. If I were forced to put my finger on it, my WAG would be he floats a wee bit deep in territories that he has never actually rolled in. He can aggregate and write with the best of them though. Get paid, procreate, and dry out your wings before you find your late 40’s cowboy.

    I didn’t forget about the ignited one. One whom no governmental or contracted governmental authority should ever let near a train, let alone a pedestrian intersection or walkway. They actually do have trains in Florida, I never would have known that before the man who should wear a cape appeared on the scene. I kind of like to imagine him as a Cuban Pirate but that might even be a little bit fanciful for a Floridian who visits tanning salons. I am nearly certain the once and only time he got really, really high was on some an island off the coast and he done did let a mermaid tattoo “instigator” in three inch outline ink across his shoulder blades….. And well, fuck it, What are you going to do? There is no way out from there even for a “photo-journalist” regardless of ones tax status. Hopefully any 501-C-(something low number) status will never change the discussion amongst his hippest past peers on the federally mandated open access cable channel. On his polite days he kind of reminds me of my grandmother talking about Jesus without the Jesus. I think his trajectory and angst is with fletching that will keep his arrows straight but he is still fucking pissed off. I kind of like that. I would never even suggest it…but if he were to take it a bit more uptown and truly fit that into the party downtown, I think his readership could back him and produce the the actual business cards of the diligent public servants he gives undisputable benefit of the doubt to. Or something like that in-un-under-disputable-doubt-thing considering I don’t know? I guess they have really good pension plans whoever them poor bastards are that get phone calls are.

    Go ahead esteemed one, You get a pass with this one. Time for me to burn another hole through the super eight film and then go get me another pair big shoes and stylish jeans. I will not be participating in the citizens video “revolution”. For good, bad or ugly.

    Think about it. This is your brain, This your brain on camera!

  5. Matt B.

    I know a CDL who says that even the worst cop can be a good cop, and even the best cop can be a bad one. I’m not sure he’s right in a Training Day sense, that is on the extremes of the bell curve, but even a cop who goes into it for all the right reasons, solving problems, talking people down, etc, has bad days. Hell, I can be a right bastard because of woman problems, etc, and I don’t deal with borderline personalities usually. To expect cops to be more-than-human, or for that matter, doctors, nurses, lawyers, or judges, is just stupid.

    How about everyone try not to be an asshole, if you feel like you must film a cop, tell them why, even ask (even if they say no and you plan to continue), and expect that people will be people? I welcome your captain obvious response, but really… sometimes having a right doesn’t mean you should use it, and even if you do, it doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole about it.

    1. Nigel

      Problem with that is if you don’t use your right you will lose it very rapidly.

      The UK now allows cops to stop and search you if they feel like it. Because terrorists. (Never mind that when we actually had active terrorists running around blowing things up, it wasn’t the legal) If people had put up a fuss about the right they were losing it might have helped.

      We have the same word situation with cameras and filming in public – it is legal, but people get arrested for it (even tourists in London taking photos as you would expect!) It matters not if you are filming a police constable, it is legal. Except they just arrest you for obstruction, regardless.

      So yes, use your rights. Or you won’t have them because few enough people will know about them for them to still exist.

      1. SHG Post author

        The alternative to exercising reasonable discretion isn’t never use your rights. Use your rights inappropriately and it impairs the utility of the right. Use it properly and it enhances its utility. Your comment is simplistic crap. Instead of use it or lose it, try use it properly.

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