If it is one thing cops hate the most, it is being videotaped. Ever since the Rodney King tape highlighted the corrupted cops’ love of excessive force, the camera has been their enemy. During my travels around Connecticut, I shoot a lot of video. Most of the time the video ends up on the cutting board, trashed never to be seen. I shoot everything; you never know when something amazing and/or crazy will happen.
While stepping out of Barnes & Noble Booksellers with a hot cup of Starbucks coffee in my hand, I notice three teenagers around the age of 16 running towards the entrance. The three boys look exhausted; one in particular has an unzipped black jacket on with no shirt under it, bare-chest and coughing while trying to catch his breath. I hear faint police sirens west of the store, heading in our direction. The teen in the black jacket quickly zips it up fully and all three rush beside me into the bookstore. I don’t immediately add up everything in my head, instead I head back to my car while dodging the same guy that asked me for a cigarette or spare change when I went into the bookstore.
As soon as I opened my car door, four cop cars pull up in front of the store. Instincts kick in and I grab my camcorder out of my left coat pocket (I never leave home without it, like my Visa). The cops get out of their cars and pushes pass a couple coming out of the bookstore. Moments later, they come out with two of the three teenagers that I saw go inside five minutes ago. I start recording. As you will see in the video I will post soon, none of the cops used excessive force. They did, however, take notice of me and my use of the camcorder; they didn’t like that. One cop pulled in front of me with his SUV and asked me with a heavy dose of sarcasm if I noticed any mistreatment and I said no. He then said, “We don’t do that here.” Another cop pulled up along the side of my car and shouted “trying to make a buck, get a job”. I tried to tell him I was only a Sliceofmymind.com blogger but he quickly drove away. I turned off my camcorder (big mistake) because seconds later another cop shouted at me that I was an asshole and that the media is always there at the right time.
In my defense, if the cops didn’t say what they said, I would have probably deleted the footage or archived it for later use in one of my Connecticut Stories videos I’m working on. It is my legal right to express myself, as protected by the First Amendment and that includes documenting public events. I do understand that police have one of the toughest jobs in the world but they had no right to say what they did. In reference to what the first police officer said “We don’t do that here”, there is a story behind it.
In East Haven, Connecticut, Rev. James Manship, was arrested after videotaping police during a visit to an Ecuadorean-owned grocery store on Main Street. The local storeowners have been complaining for months that they receive a large share of attention from police officers. They claim police officers have harassed them and their customers by stopping them in front of the shops asking for driver licenses for no reason. Their cries have been mostly heard among themselves and the local church until Rev. Manship took the video. Rev. Manship was arrested on misdemeanor charges. The officers claim they didn’t know what Rev. Manship was holding, an “unknown shiny silver object” but the video Rev. Manship and his lawyer posted on youtube contradicts otherwise. More on that story here. You can also see the video here.
I’m not on a holy crusade to protect a troubled community but I am documenting as much of Connecticut as I can for a video series on Connecticut, showcasing the good and the bad. I can say that our police forces do their jobs but we have had signs of corruption in our police departments. I would like to hear your comments/opinions on this. Am I wrong for videotaping them or am I in the right? Let me know…