The right to film police has been repeatedly affirmed. It’s utterly necessary for accountability, as shown so clearly in the case of George Floyd, and the murder conviction of Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed him, and whose brutality was caught on camera by an onlooker. Still, some police aren’t so excited about this kind of accountability, and they think they’ve found a trick to prevent it.
YouTube has a list of rules about what cannot be on their site, and copyright violations are perhaps one of the most frustrating to many users. As irritating as it might be to have your child’s birthday video pulled down because a popular song is audible in the background, in this case, some officers are weaponizing that rule.
In the clip below, an deputy is arguing with protesters for the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP). There is a little visible tension as the two discuss whether a banner has to be moved and why, but when the deputy realizes he’s being recorded, he pulls out a cell phone and begins to play a Taylor Swift song.
The APTP explains some more context. The protestor is APTP policy director James Burch and this took place at a hearing for former police officer Jason Fletcher, who is charged in the death of Steven Taylor. They say the group has heard stories of officers using pop music to try to keep videos off YouTube, but this incident is rare because the officer admits to the trick on camera.
The SF Chronicle notes that Fletcher was charged with felony voluntary manslaughter, to which he has pled not guilty.
In fact, other cases of this have been documented — though without such a blatant admission. Vice reported in February about Sennett Devermont, who entered the Beverly Hills Police Department to file a form requesting body cam footage of an incident in which he believed he was ticketed unfairly. He recorded and live-streamed the interaction.
While he’s talking to Seargent Billy Fair, Fair pulls out a cell phone, begins playing Sublime’s Santeria, and doesn’t speak again until the music is underway — an action that was speculated to be an attempt to prevent the video from being streamed, or even to have Devermont’s Instagram account taken down or banned.
Still, the Anti Police-Terror Project has found a way to turn the incident around and use it for good — the video is going viral (no, YouTube hasn’t taken it down) and they’re using it to invite people to help Taylor’s wife and children. They’re sharing this GoFundMe, which as of this writing is over $27k, to help cover needs for his children as the legal battles proceed.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com