Tuesday , May 28 2024

CBS 47 Eyewitness News Investigates: Police Filming, Helpful or Hurtful?

CBS47 investigates a growing trend of police accountability in Fresno.  More often, people are using their cell phones to record police activity.  They say it’s their right, to make sure police are acting within the scope of the law, or is it helping or is creating a deeper divide?

As the recording starts, a spotlight shines on an increasingly popular trend;  one that depending on who you ask, is either disturbing or deserved. A verbal assault on a Fresno police officer, but to the man behind the camera, it’s anger that’s justified.

Cbs47 Eyewitness News found the video floating around Facebook and were shocked when we watched it. A Fresno motorcycle cop hardly flinches while being cussed out. We wanted to confront the man behind the video, so we tracked him down.

Ironically, the 21 year old gave us permission to air the interview only if we concealed his identity. He told us he started recording the officer after seeing him pull over three women, and says two of the women were so upset they cried.

The man who took the video says, "As far as verbally assaulting, I did no such thing. It’s actually protected under freedom of speech. We can say whatever we want, at any time to any officer."

The man has no remorse. He says he’s skeptical of all police officers after his cousin was shot and killed by Eureka police in September of 2014.

Skepticism of law enforcement has received high-profile attention across the country, following officer involved shootings, in-custody deaths and riots across the country. An slow erosion of trust, but it’s the very trust people like the amateur cameraman say they’re fighting to restore, that sinks deeper and deeper with videos like these.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer says videos showing officers being harassed,  antagonized and disrespected are on his radar and are becoming more common. He says all law enforcement are trained to handle these situations and says he’s proud of the restraint his officer in the video exercised.

Chief Jerry Dyer says, We try to tell our officers to not personalized it.  They’re yelling at the uniform, they’re yelling at the badge; they’re not yelling at you as a person.

There are others in Fresno who also film police. It’s a trend that came to the forefront about a year ago, when a man named Brian Sumner,  and his cell phone camera, began hitting the streets.

26 year old Sumner calls himself a "police accountability activist."  He created a YouTube channel called FreeFRESNO and on it are hundreds of videos documenting police encounters.

Sumner says, "I realized there was little to no punishment for these officers when they acted above and beyond what they are expected of."

Sumner says he’s trying to hold police accountable and to make sure they’re not doing anything wrong.  In some of his videos, he respectfully talks to officers and they respectfully respond. In others, he lets people know their right and exercises is his own.  But in a handful of videos, his tone takes a turn.

Sumner takes various tactics in his videos to solicit a rise out of officers.  In one montage, he mocks several of them following Deputy Chief Keith Foster’s arrest on federal drug charges and asks where he can find heroin.

He says even though creating police trust is a priority, it’s hard to build when corruption is uncovered.

Chief Dyer says, "I think it’s a terrible trend that we’re seeing in America today, where it’s becoming very popular to criticize police officers, to provoke them, to interfere with them why while they’re trying to do their job.

Chief Dyer says he doesn’t believe Sumner is trying to make a positive difference. After all, he is accused of vandalizing the department’s Peace Officers Memorial, although charges have yet to be filed.

According to our legal analyst Charles Magill, as far as filming goes, the only time an arrest would be warranted is if it interferes with an officer doing his or her job. He says even behavior like using profanity toward a police officer,  isn’t considered unlawful.

Magill says, "An officer needs to have thicker skin than someone else in the public. Even though the public may be offended by what someone does, I think an officer has a responsibility not to respond."

Not every officer handles situations with such restraint. In one of Sumner’s videos, officer knocks his camera out of his hand. In another, Sumner claims he was pushed to the ground. Still, Sumner says he tries his best to have a healthy relationship with police

"Provide a positive sentiment when you have an encounter with a police officer.  Don’t turn it into a you versus them situation," says Sumner.

For others, that won’t come so easy.

Unidentified man says,  "The day police start community oriented policing and step out of their squad cars to say hello; that’s the day the trust can start building a back up."

Chief Dyer says 100 police body cameras are already in use and 300 more will be deployed over the next year. He says he’s all for holding police accountable during filming, but only if its done for the right reasons.

About NewsPress

Dedicated to going around town and getting in everyone's business!

Check Also

For agriculture, a changing climate brings challenges—but also opportunities

In many ways, climate change has already hit home here in the San Joaquin Valley—especially …

Wanna Comment?

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply