St Louis video vigilante still catching cops behaving badly

Jefferson City Criminal AttorneyIn a 2007 post, I reported the story of a 20 year old kid who was approached and bullied by a St Louis area police officer who mistakenly thought his gun and badge gave him an edge over the young driver. The driver, Brett Darrow, turned out to carrying even more powerful tools: video recording equipment. Many believed he set the cop up. I do too, but it was an honest sting that would never come off unless a bully cop decided to target Mr. Darrow.

Brett had done nothing wrong. He was polite, but not intimidated. The cop’s threats were arrogant and buffoonish, obviously meant to school Brett as to who was the master and who was the servant, but in the end the life lesson belonged mostly to the officer. Thanks to the miracle of electronics  there were the usual tens of thousands of witnesses on YouTube.

Here’s my original post and a link to the story as picked up by CNN:

20 year old to Police: I’m watching you

Almost three years have passed and recently Brett was stopped at a DWI checkpoint. Disappointingly, he did not have his video up and running, but he did manage to audio record until the St Louis County police took his phone away and stopped the recording.  Here is the audio:

Audio of Darrow car stop and phone confiscation

Missouri Cops Harass Video Vigilante A Third Time

It is astonishing how stupid it is to forcibly stop a person recording an encounter with police if they are not interfering. Think about it. The only weapon a police officer has in a courtroom is the truth. The recording is the truth.

The stories that defendants tell about police misconduct are usually dismissed as self-serving lies (unless, of course, it turns out to be on video).  Clearly, a police officer is inviting a jury to dis-believe him once they see how afraid he is of a recording. A good cop is not afraid, but whether good or bad, he might as well assume that he is going to get recorded on video/audio.

Practical note: Mr Darrow is a very savvy fellow in dealing with police. His recordings are very instructive: He is polite, but never gives out information that is nobody else’s business. He says: “I don’t wish to discuss my personal life with you, Officer” and “I don’t want to answer any more questions. Am I free to go?” You cannot imagine Brett Darrow agreeing to a vehicle search. This guy could be giving classes.

Video journalist jailed indefinitely for remaining silent

Jefferson City criminal defense lawyerAn interesting “criminal” case is brewing in a small New Hampshire town. The city of Keene, NH has a substantial number of libertarian activists who have cultivated the habit of carrying video cameras around whenever they have protests or other events involving the government (which they would like to see strictly limited or–depending on who you ask–eliminated altogether). One of those video activists will soon complete his first full month behind bars for not turning off his video camera after the local judge banned recording in the public lobby of the Municipal building.

Sam Dodson runs a YouTube channel for his videos called the Obscured Truth Network.  On April 13, 2009, he brought his camera to the public lobby of the city building in support of another activist who was being arraigned (also for the crime of videotaping in that same lobby).

The court’s marshall ordered him to stop–and when he refused–they arrested him for disorderly conduct. At this point he went passively limp and was then handcuffed and dragged to a waiting patrol car. [see video below]. Other friends of the man being arraigned that day were then ordered from the lobby–and when they refused–five more were arrested for disorderly conduct.

Police booked all the arrestees and released them later that day–all except Sam Dodson. Dodson refused to talk to the police and refused to identify himself. He has since been identified by police but the judge refuses to arraign him and has refused him a trial until he is willing to tell them his name. Dodson is on a hunger strike, only drinking liquids since he was jailed on April 13.

Writs of habeas corpus have been filed and rejected by the court.  The court explained that Dodson’s complaint was premature because he “may make the same challenges . . . as the criminal case proceeds.” But the case does not proceed.

It is quite possible that Dodson will eventually be found not guilty of the charges, but the state will not give him a trial until they have broken his will. He therefore remains in jail for the indefinite future.

More on the story here: Exercising Right to Remain Silent Lands Video Journalist in Jail Indefinitely and video here:

* * *

Now that Sam Dodson has spent far longer in jail than any convictions would actually have cost him, this looks more and more like the authorities are just flexing their muscles with this guy.

Absolutely nothing would stop them from bringing him into court, reading the charges, setting the case for trial and releasing him until the trial date. It would cost them nothing. Instead, they seem intent on making martyrs.

Come back with a warrant

Illegal photography of a police officer.

Hey fellas, I’m just getting your picture.”

Then he snapped the photo. Deputy McCloud – who has been on the force only 18 months – told him that photographing him was illegal.

“I asked, ‘what planet are you from?’,” Conover said.

That was the response of Scott Conover who appeared to take a photo of an on-duty sheriff’s deputy.  The whole story is a good read. Click here. The deputy was not entirely unreasonable. He offered to forget the whole thing if Conover would erase the picture. Conover said no dice. The deputy arrested him. So Conover tossed the camera iPhone to his 12-year-old daughter who took more pictures.

Goofy incidents like this are proof that not every police officer has yet heard the message:  Camera phones & video & sound recorders are everywhere and there is no escaping them.

It is long past time for anyone–including police officers–to get all bent out of shape over it.

  • Note: I realize this depends on the assumption that that using your badge and handcuffs to imprison someone who does something you don’t like qualifies as getting “bent out of shape.” I think it does.

I’m not a fan of having surveillance everywhere, but if I’m in a public place, I have no right to complain if someone takes my picture. Neither does the misguided Deputy McCloud. I am curious to learn if the deputy was able to find a prosecutor who was willing to file the charges.

Here’s an earlier post on the subject of videotaping the police. This videotaped incident cost the officer his job.

and here is another . . .

The time is ripe for Missouri to record police interrogations

How will we explain this to the chief?

bank robberyWe once had a case of a bank robbery case in Audrain County where the bank robbers got away clean, except that some guy in the parking lot nearby saw them drive off and copied down their license number. That ID got them caught a short time later. Not that unusual, right?  Not until we noticed that the same thing had happened more than twenty years before in the same town. Same bank. Same witness.

I wonder if he was around when this video was made?

That was one angle of the scene. Here is another.

Taser and gasoline: New way to commit “suicide by cop?”

I was just reading about the unhinged guy in Texas who threatened to burn himself and his house. It seems he doused himself with gas and when a Texas Ranger shot him with a Taser, the poor guy burst into flames and was burned to death.

There was also a theory that a lighter was the actual source of the fire. I wonder if Texas uses the Taser with the video camera aboard like our local sheriff?

At least then they could tell exactly what happened.

I hope Sheriff White has taken note of this story.