In­ci­dent high­lights dis­putes over videos

A deputy U.S. mar­shal is ac­cused of smash­ing a woman’s cell­phone in South Gate.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Joseph Serna

In South Gate, po­lice had al­ready been warned: Just ex­pect that you might be filmed with cell­phones and other cam­eras as you do your job.

Af­ter high-pro­file uses of force caught on video in places like South Carolina, New York and L.A.’s skid row, of­fi­cers in the Southeast L.A. sub­urb had been told to take film­ing in stride. If you’re not do­ing any­thing wrong, po­lice brass rea­soned, what do you have to worry about?

So on Sun­day, when a law­man was caught on video snatch­ing a woman’s cell­phone in South Gate as she recorded and smash­ing it on the ground, it was with re­lief that South Gate po­lice said the of­fi­cer wasn’t one of their own but a deputy U.S. mar­shal.

“We’ve had in­ci­dents where peo­ple have video­taped us and it re­quires un­be­liev­able re­straint. Typ­i­cally dur­ing times where things can be a lit­tle chaotic,” said South Gate po­lice Capt. Dar­ren Arakawa. “We re­ally have to con­vey we’re living in a dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment now where po­lice ac­tion is scru­ti­nized and a lot of video is sur­fac­ing. We sim­ply tell our of­fi­cers to as-

sume they’re be­ing recorded out in public at all times.”

The idea of an un­seen cam­era cap­tur­ing an of­fi­cer’s con­duct first be­came prom­i­nent af­ter the Rod­ney King video in 1991, Arakawa said. But video’s star­ring role in con­tro­ver­sial po­lice ac­tions, in­clud­ing beat­ings and shoot­ings, has in­creased in the more than two decades since. And more and more po­lice de­part­ments, in­clud­ing the LAPD, are plan­ning to equip their of­fi­cers with body cam­eras.

“It’s a dou­ble-edged sword. Law en­force­ment is adopt­ing some of the prac­tices of tech­nol­ogy as well with body cam­eras, dig­i­tal records, dash-cams,” Arakawa said. “It’s just in­dica­tive of the times.”

On Sun­day Beatriz Paez, 34, recorded video of deputy mar­shals as they de­tained a group of peo­ple in her neigh­bor­hood. Some­one else in turn was record­ing her, on the video that ended up on YouTube and sparked the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“The U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice is aware of video footage of an in­ci­dent that took place Sun­day in Los An­ge­les County in­volv­ing a Deputy U.S. Mar­shal. The agency is cur­rently re­view­ing the in­ci­dent,” of­fi­cials said in a state­ment.

“There is no sit­u­a­tion in which an of­fi­cer can in­ten­tion­ally grab and de­stroy a cam­era be­ing used to law­fully record law en­force­ment,” said Hec­tor Vil­la­gra, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. “The of­fi­cer’s con­duct is a bla­tant and de­lib­er­ate vi­o­la­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion and his du­ties as an of­fi­cer to abide by the law.”

In the video, Paez is shown stand­ing on the side­walk aim­ing a cell­phone to­ward two men stand­ing a short dis­tance away, wear­ing black shirts with tac­ti­cal vests read­ing “Po­lice” across the back. As the men stand with their backs to the woman, she can be heard say­ing “You are mak­ing me feel un­safe, and I have a right to be here” and “You need to stay away from me, I don’t feel safe with you closer to me,” among other state­ments.

Paez said Tues­day that the men had no­ticed her record­ing mo­ments ear­lier and be­gan to back up to­ward her to block her view. About 27 sec­onds into the video, a third man, a deputy U.S. mar­shal wear­ing a tac­ti­cal vest and car­ry­ing a ri­fle, walks across a front lawn to­ward the side­walk where Paez is stand­ing.

Paez ap­pears to aim her phone to­ward the deputy as one of the other men mo­tions to­ward her with his arm. The words spo­ken at this point in the record­ing are un­in­tel­li­gi­ble.

At 32 sec­onds, Paez takes a cou­ple of steps away from the men. The deputy mar­shal cross­ing the lawn then rushes to­ward her and grabs the de­vice from her hand.

“Oh! No! Don’t do that!” Paez is heard yelling as the man wres­tles the de­vice out of her hand and smashes it on the ground.

The phone’s screen was shat­tered and the de­vice stopped work­ing, said Paez’s at­tor­ney, Colleen Flynn. They plan to try to re­cover the video Paez was record­ing from the phone’s chip, Flynn said.

Paez said she be­gan record­ing when she saw the law en­force­ment pres­ence, their mil­i­tary-style weapons and a line of peo­ple be­ing de­tained. She said the of­fi­cers started let­ting the peo­ple they de­tained go soon af­ter she pulled out her phone and started record­ing.

“It’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity to take care of each other,” Paez said. “It’s our con­sti­tu­tional right to film.”

Ir­fan Khan Los An­ge­les Times

BEATRIZ PAEZ holds her cell­phone. She was tak­ing video of deputy U.S. mar­shals when it was seized.

Ir­fan Khan Los An­ge­les Times

THE DAM­AGE TO Beatriz Paez’s cell­phone is dis­played. Sev­eral re­cent high­pro­file in­ci­dents in­volv­ing video­tap­ing of po­lice ac­tions have caused con­tro­versy.

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