A police officer is caught on camera lying about the law. The problem is the officer didn’t know he was talking to an attorney, who he pulled over on a traffic stop, telling him it's illegal to record video of the officer.
Officer: Hey bud, turn that off, OK?
Driver: No, I’ll keep recording, thank you. It’s my right.
Officer: Don’t record me. You got me?
Driver: Look, you’re a police officer on duty. I can record you.
Officer: Be careful because there is a new law. Turn it off or I’ll take you to jail.
Driver: For recording you? What is the law?
Officer: Step out of the car.
Driver: What are you arresting me for? I’m sitting here in my car. I’m just recording in case anything happens. I’m surrounded by five police officers.
The attorney is right. The officer was wrong and is now under investigation.
Jesse Bright, a North Carolina criminal defense attorney, had been working as an Uber driver when he and his passenger got pulled over by Wilmington police.
When Bright starts recording video on his phone, the sergeant tells him that's breaking the law, and a deputy backs it up.
“I’ve never heard of this law that you’re not allowed to record the police anymore. It must be brand new,” Bright says.
“Well, they just recently passed it,” the deputy responds.
“Like, super recently?” Bright asks. “It seems like a strange law.”
That's because former Tampa police chief and law enforcement consultant Jane Castor says it isn’t a law.
“Clearly the supervisor in this instance is incorrect," Castor notes. You can videotape officers anytime you want to, as long as you're not interfering with their investigation, which he's not doing. For the sergeant, it's especially troubling that a supervisor doesn't know that officers can be videotaped. It should be protection for the officers as well, because if you're doing the right thing, now you have a video footage of you doing the right thing."
“If he's willing to just directly lie to me, and tell me this is against the law to film the police, that worries me. Most people, when they're given an order by an officer, they don't know it's an unlawful order,” he says.
Officers told Bright they pulled him over because he just made a stop at a known drug house. His passenger claimed he was picking up his paycheck as a dog groomer.
Officer: I’m going to search your car.
Driver: You’re not searching my car.
The officer calls for the K-9 unit.
Driver: Bring the K-9s. I don’t care. I know my rights.
Officer: I hope so.
“Just being at a known drug house is not probable cause for pulling someone over. You have to see some type of activity that would indicate they were involved in a narcotics transaction or delivery,” Castor says.
What you don't see in the video: the K-9 apparently smells drugs in the car.
Bright says officers searched without his permission and found nothing. No one was arrested.
He wants people to know, and Castor agrees, it's okay to speak up to police when you think your rights are being violated.
Wilmington police have launched an internal investigation into the officer's actions. Police chief Ralph Evangelous issued the following statement:
"Taking photographs and videos of people that are in plain sight, including the police, is your legal right. As a matter of fact, we invite citizens to do so when they believe it is necessary. We believe that public videos help to protect the police as well as our citizens and provide critical information during police and citizen interaction.”
The sheriff says the deputy at the traffic stop, as well as others in the department, received additional training about recording rights.