An Arkansas state senator, who championed legislation that protected a citizen’s right to film or photograph in public, was arrested on Monday for doing just that. Rep. John Walker, along with another man identified as Omavi Kuskukuru (also identified as Omavi Shukur), were arrested on charges of “Obstruction of Governmental Operations” while filming the police conducting a traffic stop in Little Rock.
The arrest took place while police were in the process of arresting two people who had been pulled over in a car without a license for warrants. In all, there are four cops present, including two that are trainees. Little Rock police officers initially questioned Walker about why he was filming and then eventually asked him not to film. They also accused him of “race baiting” when he brought up racial issues regarding police.
Later Kuskukuru can be seen approaching (but still a good distance from) the area where the traffic stop is taking place and being arrested. Next, Rep. Walker can be seen walking around the same area and being followed, then arrested, by one of the officers.
Via the Arkansas Times:
Walker walks up during the stop and begins filming with a cell phone from across the street, an activity noticed by cops on the scene, some of whom know Walker. In time, two officers cross the street to ask Walker what he’s doing and why. He identified himself but said he didn’t need to explain his actions. Officers explained the traffic stop and said the driver was being treated with “total respect.” They also said they agreed he had a right to observe.
The conversation grew heated, however, as Walker explained his interest in treatment of black suspects and made reference to police use of deadly force. That raised the ire of an officer who asked if Walker had ever been a police officer. He questioned whether Walker understood the challenges police face. One officer called Walker a “race baiter” and asked if he’d be interested if police had stopped a white person. The officer said Walker had been trying to film police for years and was just trying to provoke.
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.
Within hours, the charges had been dropped against Walker, he had been released, and the LRPD had announced it was conducting an internal “investigation.” The next day the city had issued him an apology, which he refused to accept. The charges against Kuskukuru, who is also a lawyer, however were not dropped. Rep. Walker and Kuskukuru held a press conference on Thursday discussing the arrests and the treatment of minorities by police.
Via (ironically enough – #JusSayin #FTP) the NWAhomepage.com:
Walker and Omavi Shukur spoke for nearly an hour about the events that led to their arrest and also about what they say is the mistreatment of black people in Central Arkansas.
“With these tapes, you saw that we did nothing,” Walker said, speaking of dash camera video from police cruisers.
Walker says he and Shukur were peacefully exercising their right to record police interactions when they were approached by officers who made disparaging comments.
The two men were eventually arrested on misdemeanor obstruction charges which have since been dropped. The city has apologized to Walker — an apology he rejected.
“What happens to me happens to many, many people in our community every day,” he said.
Minority neighborhoods, they say, are targeted by overzealous police, but the majority of the time it goes unnoticed.
“There are countless people that don’t have the privileges that Mr. Walker and I have that fall victim to a lot of the biased and draconian practices of the LRPD,” Shukur said.
Walker says he has not decided whether he’ll file a lawsuit against the city, but that the officers involved should face consequences. He also had harsh criticism for Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner and City Manager Bruce Moore — both high ranking African American city officials.
“The system somehow or another imposes upon black people in positions of authority to act like white people… like white people would normally act in the past and that is to mistreat people who are at the bottom end of the socioeconomic ladder.”
There’s several interesting things about this story beyond the simple fact that a state senator was actually out there filming the cops and they were arrogant enough to arrest him for it. One is the attitude the cop is teaching a trainee that anyone filming them is a “thorn in their side” who is just looking to get arrested. That’s a good peek into the reason the culture of the police is so toxic. they are taught from the day they step on the job the bad habits of the “Bad Apples” that came before them.
The other is the display of several prevailing ideas among cops and cop apologists. First, the nonsense that only other cops can determine if a cop is in the wrong and the fact that they get irate if someone without a Magic Uniform dares to question their behavior, in spite of the rapidly escalating number of incidents in which they’ve been caught assaulting, falsely arresting, or even murdering people. Not to mention that all the “Good Cops,” that supposedly make up the vast majority of those behind the shiny badges, are so obviously not bothering to do that.
Their rationalization that the “challenges of being a police officer” should justify their abuses of citizens, even when those citizens are innocent, is a big part of why people have such little trust of the police, especially the poor and minorities who are constantly being harassed by them. Whether people want to acknowledge the role of racism in police abuses or not, the residents of those communities have very real, visible, and at this point well documented reasons for being skeptical of the motivations and actions of the police.
The idea that simple act of someone filming them is considered a provocation by the police is, as always, also rather telling.