Saturday, December 30, 2006

Police threaten driver for invoking rights.

Evidence that American cops are out of control continues to mount. You will find video proof of what I mean below. Normally I would have it here so you could watch it but the person who filmed it placed it on Google video instead of YouTube. Google doesn’t allow such linking (stupidly in my opinion as I know it tends to mean I go to YouTube for material and ignore Google Video entirely).

Here are the details. Brett Darrow, 19, was driving in St. Louis when he approached a drunk driving roadblock which police set up. He had his video camera in the car and it was running. You will see the police intentionally deny him constitutional rights and overstep their authority several times. Darrow never broke the law yet he was threatened with arrest for merely invoking constitutional rights.

The police used drunk driving as the pretext for pulling people over. But what interested them in Darrow was not whether he was drinking. They wanted to know where he was going. He was being interrogated as to his private, legal activities which are no concern of the police.

The police ask: “Where are you headed tonight?” That is not related to drunk driving and while the can chat Darrow is under no obligation to answer that question. He replies: “I don’t wish to discuss my personal life with you officer.” His response is polite and to the point. The police order him to leave the car running and to get out of the car because he refused to be interrogated by them on matters which are not their concern.

The police officer then makes it clear that his invoking of his rights is the reason they will punish him by delaying him further. “I’m going to interview you because you didn’t want to interview. You didn’t want to sit down and have a talk with me.” So refusal to be interrogated illegally is now a reason to be interrogated illegally. Again Darrow responds politely: “I do not want to talk about my personal life.” The require Darrow to leave his car.

The video camera then records a police officer getting in the car under the pretext of moving the car. The pretext only existed because they refused to allow Darrow to pull the car over himself. Brett is asked if he has had anything to drink. He says he has not. Two police officers are asked to watch him while the third calls in his license as a pretext to hold him longer.

Brett asks: “Why am I being detained officer?” The police officer tells him “You better stop runnin your mouth or the other officer will find a reason to lock you up tonight.” So to ask a legal, polite question elicits a threat from the police that they will look for an excuse to arrest the person just to punish them for invoking their rights.

Darrow now get assertive, and properly so. “You’re saying you’re going to make up a reason to arrest me?” The officer says: “No, I didn’t. I said we would find a reason.” What the officers said is that they would “find” a reason to arrest the man because they don’t like his questions. Darrow then tells the police that they should know “all of this is being recorded”. I suspect the officer didn’t believe him and responded that they were recording as well. Darrow emphasizes how the police told him he would be arrested if he didn’t answer their questions. The cop denied it saying “I said do what he told you to do.” But he is not legally required to obey orders to surrender constitutional rights.

Darrow asks: “Why are you going to find a reason to lock me up when I’m only asking you why I’m being detained in a normal voice?” The officer ignores the question and tells Darrow to obey orders. Darrow asks: “Am I being detained?” The officer says he is. Darrow is told he may not leave.

At this point the officer openly lies. When Darrow asks why he is being detained he is told “Because you don’t have a driver’s license.” Remember the first officer demanded the license and walked away with it. So by obeying the order of the first officer he is told he is now in violation of the law and can be detained because he doesn’t have a license.

Darrow points out the first officer took the license and wants to know why the police officer is making this claim. The officer doesn’t answer except by saying: “Nineteen years old and you know everything.” Obviously he doesn’t know everything but he does know his constitutional rights and that upsets the police.

Darrow wants to know if all drivers are being forced out of their cars like this. The police refuse to answer. When the police return his license and insurance card Darrow again asks why he was detained. He is told “You didn’t want to answer my questions”. Darrow notes that he is not required to discuss his personal life with police officers when they are checking for drunk driving.

Darrow complains on tape to a supervisor about the police riding the clutch when they moved the car causing it to smoke. At this point the police supervisor says they had to move the car because they “were conducting an investigation”. Investigating what? The pretext of the stop was drunk driving and it was clear that Darrow had not been drinking. This seems to imply the checkpoint was merely an excuse to do other sorts of searches which they are not allowed to do.

This shows typical attempts by the police to intimidate people into surrendering legal rights. They are allowed to see if Darrow is drunk but not allowed to require him to tell them where he is going or to harass him and threaten him with arrest when he doesn’t answer their questions.

To see the 17 minute video of the incident go here.

Notice: Scott Darrow has recorded a second incident with a police officer. We report on this second case here. In the second case the office in question has been suspended from duty. Read more here.