An award-winning San Diego Community College District police officer at Mesa College is on paid administrative leave (paid vacation) as he is under investigation for pulling his gun and aiming it a photographer, who was filming him.
Last week, a photographer was walking past Officer James Everette and was filming him with a camera and a GoPro camera as well.
The officer gets out of his vehicle, moves around behind it and asks what the photographer is doing and proceeds to tell him to put the camera down. The photographer clearly states his rights to film and is not a threat to the officer.
However, the officer then escalates the situation and draws his weapon and points it at the photographer, claiming he doesn't know what the GoPro camera is, which is irrelevant since no crime was committed, at least not by the photographer. The officer seems to be committing one though.
Take a look. WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE
The photographer eventually places the GoPro on the ground and continues filming with his other camera.
He demands the officer's name and badge number and his supervisor, which he identifies by name.
Moments later, a backup officer arrives along with a Sergeant, who hands the GoPro camera back to the photographer and conducts himself calmly.
the photographer is understandably angry that his life was threatened when there was no reason for the officer to draw his weapon and point it at him. There was no threat from the photographer.
The San Diego Community College District issued a statement regarding the incident.
"Video has circulated of an incident involving a San Diego Community College District Police Officer which took place during a traffic stop near San Diego Mesa College on May 16. The officer involved has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation. The SDCCD takes any incident like this very seriously. We will not comment on the incident until that internal investigation is concluded."
Everette received an award in 2015 for subduing a violent suspect, according to NBC San Diego.
There was absolutely no reason for the officer to even address the photographer. He wasn't committing a crime and he wasn't obstructing justice. He was merely filming the officer.
Filming police is not a threat to police. It is a right protected by the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 against the State of Illinois' attempts at stopping citizens from video recording police in public, saying that it was unconstitutional and violated the First Amendment rights of individuals.
Officer Everette made a very stupid decision that was obviously not driven by fear, but by his pride, as the video doesn't show him to be nervous in any sense of the word when he unholstered his weapon and pointed it at the photographer.
Those of you who read this and say the photographer should have just complied are missing the point that he was not committing a crime, and the fact that the officer had no authority nor lawful jurisdiction to command the photographer is what is the main issue here.
Do I think cops put their lives on the line? Sure, I do, but that does not justify this type of behavior and some of the deadly force we have seen from police officers recently. They are not to be judge, jury and executioner. I'm fine if they are meeting real deadly force with deadly force, but in a lot of cases that are being captured on video today, a lot of the incidents could be handled in a non-lethal fashion.
Officer Everette will probably get a slap on the wrist when he demonstrated for all to see that he is not qualified to be on the police force. After all, it's his job to know the law, not violate it.
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