A Texas police department is under scrutiny following the uploading of a Facebook video titled “First Amendment right to record in public.”
About halfway through the video, which was recorded and distributed by cyclist 33-year-old Charles Dominguez, an officer with the DeSoto Police Department pulls his official vehicle over and raises his gun. It appears that the officer responded in frustration with Dominguez.
The officer tells him, “if you keep following me I’m going to take it as a threat.” Dominguez replies that he’s merely riding his bike.
Fox 4 News reports that Dominguez and the DeSoto police department have a difficult relationship as Dominguez is known to regularly follow police officers and firefighters around the city.
“The actions of our officer are concerning,” the department wrote in a news release. The department also addressed Dominguez’s tendency to record, saying, “This behavior, at times, can interfere with the duties of the officers and cause safety concerns to the officer as well as the citizens involved in the specific event.”
The department shared a similar sentiment on Facebook.
Several who had watched the video flocked to the post’s comments section to either criticize or defend the officer and the department’s response.
“Why is it necessary to release the photographer’s name, and to tell us what he is ‘known’ for? It shouldn’t matter who took the video… only that an officer pointed a weapon at a member of the public without justification… PERIOD,” said one commenter.
“What I see are officers trying to do their job and a complete moron interfering by distracting the officer,” countered another.
Many of the critics accused the department of infringing on Dominguez’s constitutional right and protecting the offiicer in question. Many of the defenders accused Dominguez of harassing officers.
Chief Joe Costa said that he and his officers “respect the rights of all citizens including the First Amendment,” noting that he respected Dominguez and others for wanting “to be sure that police officers conduct themselves in a professional and fair manner.”
“However, I do have an issue when that behavior interferes with our duties, causes safety concerns and infringes on other citizens’ rights during a police contact. I also have issue with the fact that our officers have been harassed and belittled by the actions of Mr. Dominguez and that’s not right!” Costa added.
Corwyn Davis, Dominguez’s attorney, argued that his client had not given the officer a reason to fear for his safety, especially one that would lead to the brandishing of a gun.
“Just because you’re a good guy and a good cop on a bad day does not mean you get a slap on the wrist and you get to go back out and patrol DeSoto and mess with people like Mr. Dominguez regardless of what he does,” he said.