AUSTIN - Police are launching an internal investigation after viewing a video of the interaction between a bystander who was recording a traffic stop and two APD officers over the weekend.
"It's self-inflicted stupidity, as far as I'm concerned," Police Chief Art Acevedo said Monday afternoon.
The video was recorded by Phillip Turner, a self-proclaimed "cop-watcher" who routinely records traffic stops around Austin. He said that's what he set out to do Friday night when he pulled over on Burnet Road between midnight and 2:00 a.m. after he saw a car pulled over.
"So I pulled into the parking lot, got out, got my camera, started filming and probably within the next 30 seconds I was approached," said Turner. "This officer was just aggressive with me. He stood in front of me, shined the light in my camera, asked me what I was doing."
Turner said he records officers to hold them accountable for their actions and so that people can see what the officers deal with. He's no stranger to the department or Acevedo. In fact, Acevedo said he's spoken with Turner in the past.
"In most instances, at least that I'm aware of, where he has engaged in his lawful right to videotape police officers, he's always done it in a manner that is respectful," said Acevedo.
"I think that anybody that reviews our policy and reviews that video from start to finish will make their own conclusions," Acevedo added.
"Public Recording of Official Acts" is Section 302 (page 122) of the 2016 Austin Police Department Policy Manual.
Under "Interaction with the Community" Section A states, "Officers are reminded that photography, including videotaping, of places, buildings, structures and events are common and normally lawful activities."
"I don't know you from Adam man," an officer tells Turner in the video, "but this isn't normal activity for people, it's not."
Section C says the individual has a legal right to be present and does not interfere with an officer's safety or lawful duties.
In the beginning of the video, an officer comes up to Turner and tells him he's making sure he's not interfering with the traffic stop.
"How was I interfering?" Tuner asks.
"Right now, you're over here, nobody knows what you're doing," the officer responded.
"Did I say anything over there?" Turner asked.
"It doesn't matter," the officer said.
That section of the policy goes on to state, "Additionally, officers shall not intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices" but one of the officers shines his flashlight into Turner's camera.
"I have the right to film, it doesn't matter," said Turner.
"Okay," said the officer.
"I didn't say anything to that officer," Tuner went on.
"And I have a right to put my flashlight right in the middle of your camera," the officer said.
"You're clearly mistaken," said Turner. "That's against your policy."
"Okay," said the officer.
"Interacting with the community, 302," Turner explained.
"Okay, I'm not worried about that right now," said the officer.
Eventually, Turner pulled out a second camera and the officer pulled out another flashlight.
"Boom! That's why I carry two flashlights big guy," said the officer.
The policy also states an officer shall not "In any way threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage an individual from recording officer's enforcement activities."
"Touch my flashlight and I promise you this is going to go in a different direction," the officer told Turner.
"The video depicts actions by members of our department that are not consistent with our policies, our procedures, our training and our expectations. And so we've launched an internal investigation," Acevedo said.
In addition to the investigation, one of the officers is off patrol for the time being.
"Because when you look at the attitude in terms of not really being concerned about policy and dismissive of policy. We will not tolerate our officers being dismissive of policy," said Acevedo.
Acevedo also expressed frustration with the actions in the video, saying at a time when public mistrust of the government is so high, respect and transparency are what's needed.
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