Hey Officer, Look Into My Helmet When You Say That
Should a rider be legally able to videotape the incident when pulled over by law enforcement officers?
That’s the question at issue as a result of a recent traffic stop by a Dallas County Sheriff’s Department officer which led to the officer being issued a 38-day suspension. The deputy stopped a motorcycle rider, supposedly without cause, and seized his helmet camera. Video of the Memorial Day weekend arrest, by Deputy James Westbrook, has gotten nearly half a million views and counting on YouTube.
According to Dr. Robert Taylor, a criminal justice instructor at the University of Texas at Dallas, John Law made the right call in issuing the suspension.
“I think we should applaud the agency. There were days in American law enforcement when nothing would’ve happened. And those weren’t too far off.”
The officer made the arrest on Memorial Day weekend. Police departments were on the lookout for reckless behavior by motorcyclists on the way to a biker event.
Regarding his arrest of rider Chris Moore, Westbrook told him why he was being stopped, and this superiors were not pleased.
“The reason you’re being pulled over is because I’m gonna take your camera and we’re gonna use it as evidence of in the crimes that have been committed by other bikers,” Westbrook told Moore.
That, my friends, at least according to legal experts, did not “constitute probable cause” to make the traffic stop.
And it was hardly the first such incident of riders running afoul of the law when it comes to helmet cams,
A motorcyclist pulled over by a Maryland State Police officer was facing a possible term of 16 years in prison for using his helmet camera to videotape the trooper who pulled him over in 2010. Time Magazine latched on to that story and asked, “Should Videotaping the Police Really Be a Crime?”
During that traffic stop (in March of 2010) Maryland State Trooper Joseph Uhler pulled over one Anthony Graber, a Maryland Air National Guard staff sergeant. Uhler said Graber was speeding on Interstate 95. Graber then cranked up his helmet camera and recorded video and audio of the incident during which Uhler drew his pistol and ordering Graber off his bike.
Later, the Maryland attorney general’s office filed “wiretapping” charges against Graber saying that, at least in Maryland, it’s a felony to record someone without their knowledge.
The problem with that stance and the charges?
As the incident occurred on a public roadway – while the officer was performing a “public act” – the whole case unraveled.
Should you be able to tape law enforcement officers as they go about their business? I leave it to you to judge for yourself, but it just might save you a “Don’t Tase me, bro,” moment…