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Monday, October 3, 2016

Arkansas Congressman Who Helped Protect Citizens' Right To Record Police Arrested For Recording Police

from the seems-reasonable dept

While the recording of police activities has been covered here for years, I think we're starting to see what is at least a slight ratcheting down of the drama over the issue. Once almost universally rejected by law enforcement groups, the freedom to record police as they go about their public duty has become more recognized rather than less. That doesn't mean the issue is settled, though, as shown in a recent example in which Arkansas police arrested a state Congressman who had helped push through a state law protecting the rights of citizens to film police.
Officer Jeff Thompson of the Little Rock Police Department arrested Arkansas state Representative John Walker for recording their treatment of a black man who had been put in handcuffs during a traffic stop. Officer Thompson told Rep Walker he had to stop recording or face arrest. Rep Walker said, "Arrest me." Officer Thompson did. Police later dropped charges against Rep Walker, but are continuing with the prosecution of his colleague, civil rights lawyer Omavi Shukur.
Shakur, officers say, had done more than merely be present with a recording device, having at one point supposedly stepped in the way of the officers as they performed their duty. Police reports and statements alike, however, suggest that Rep. Walker merely stood by and filmed the police traffic stop and refused to leave when so ordered. The arresting officer indicates that Walker was told that he would be arrested for simply refusing to leave the area, at which point Walker said "Arrest me."
In other reporting, some of the police that were on site at the time of arrest discuss Walker being purposefully provocative, with one even indicating that Walker likely wanted to be arrested.
Film in another patrol car, taking the driver to jail, has audio of an older officer telling a younger black female officer who'd made the stop about Walker: "His main purpose was to be arrested." Walker, he said, had been "a thorn in the side of the police department" since he joined the force.
Even if we accept this at face value, there seems little value in law enforcement obliging Walker, giving him fuel for his cause and plastering his name all over the news. Particularly when the arrest comes about for his doing something that not only isn't illegal, but is something that Walker personally fought to legalize. Would it be so hard to just let Walker film away and go about your public duty?

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