New footage posted to YouTube this week by Phillip Turner shows Austin police officers doing something they haven’t always done: being friendly, respecting his right to record and essentially leaving him alone without threatening to beat or arrest him.
That resulted in what some might say is a pretty boring video.
And it might be if the Austin Police Department did not have an extensive documented history of arresting and abusing citizens recording them in public.
Also consider that in 2017, a United States Court of Appeals ruled in Turner’s favor after considering the facts of Turner v. Driver, which established in the Fifth Circuit that the public has the First Amendment right to record activities of law enforcement because it ensures cops “are not abusing their power.”
That case followed an arrest by the Ft. Worth Police Department, however, not the Austin Police Department.
But in a separate incident in 2015, Austin police officers did arrest Turner after surrounding him and treating him like he was a threat to their safety for wielding a camera in their presence and recording outside one of their substations.
New footage, posted by Turner on July 22 after he took an apparent hiatus from his YouTube channel The Battaousai, shows a stark contrast in the behavior of Austin officers compared to years before.
This video, which we think is an example of how police interactions with videographers and photographers should be handled, shows officers acting friendly towards Turner, welcoming him to record – even if they really didn’t want him there.
Off the bat, Austin police officer Schramm greets Turner, who is obviously holding a camera and recording.
“How are you doing, sir?”
“Turner? Phillip Turner?” officer Schramm asks.
“I can’t be that popular,” Turner replies.
“I work downtown. I know everybody. I know a lot of names.”
“I know a lot of names.”
“Fair enough,” Turner says.
Officer Schramm then recalls the last time he saw Turner.
“I think the last time I saw you it over there on North Lamar and it was like seven degrees outside. It was wild. I think it was over there at Walgreens or something.”
“You probably have a better memory than I do,” Turner replies.
“What’s the word, man? Anything good,” Schramm asks Turner.
A brief chat ensues.
Turner ask Schramm his badge number.
Schramm gives his employee number immediately and offers to write it down down for him.
Most of the video shows Turner recording the officers conduct a DWI investigation into an unnamed suspect.
One officer asks Turner not to walk between his cars so his camera doesn’t get out of focus, but assures Turner he generally doesn’t mind him recording.
During their investigation, officers were polite to Turner as well the suspect who was eventually arrested.
Turner has been just one person to be arrested for recording Austin police.
However, most of those arrests occurred before Austin named Brian Manley as the police chief after he served over a year as the interim chief.
Several members from the activist group Peaceful Streets Project have been arrested multiple times over the years when Houston Police Chief Hubert “Art” Acevedo was the police chief in Austin.
Read about those arrests, as well as Turner’s arrests, which hopefully played a role in recent, visible changes by the department over the past few years below.