For the second time in less than a month, video has surfaced showing the Petersburg police in Virginia attacking a citizen for video recording them in public.
Not many details are available at the moment because News 12 has been hyping and teasing the story all day on Facebook, promising to deliver the full details in tonight’s 11 p.m. broadcast.
But they did post two video clips; the first one showing a cop walking up to a man’s front porch and taking his camera, the second one showing the cops attacking the man.
Naturally, most of the commenters on their page are supporting the police, accusing the news station of trying to make them look bad. This seems to be a common trait in the Old Dominion judging from past incidents, which explains why the cops are not too bothered by respecting citizens’ right to record.
The last incident generated a good amount of local and national coverage as well as a local protest, but that obviously did not have an effect on the police department if this story, did in fact, take place since that incident.
One of the local stories from the last incident, titled “CBS 6 Investigates: What are your rights when filming police?,” simply amounted to the “investigative reporter” asking a local lawyer a question that journalists should be answering themselves.
We wanted to know when it’s OK to shoot video of officers, so we asked Rebecca Glenberg, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.
“People have a right to film police officers as long as they’re not interfering with the officers and their performance of their duties,” Glenberg said.
Glenberg said it is never a good idea to taunt the police, but that does not warrant them stopping you from rolling.
“Assuming that the person is at a reasonable distance, the fact that the police may be distracted because someone is filming them does not make the filming illegal,” Glenberg said.
In other words, no matter how much the local media hypes up this current story, it is unlikely they will come out and say that the cops acted unlawfully, even though we can all see they did from the video.
UPDATE: After hyping the story all day on Facebook, News12 finally ran the story, but never bothered to inform readers when the incident actually took place. We can assume it took place prior to last month’s incident because the suspects already went to court, but there is that confusing line in the story that states, “two months prior to this incident, there was another confrontation,” linking to last month’s incident, so maybe they meant to say two months after the incident they reported on today. Your guess is as good as mine.
Cell phone video shows JaQuan Fisher, 17, standing on his own front porch recording the arrests happening on Rome Street. In the video, an officer is heard saying, “Unless you want me to take your phone from you,” before there is a struggle and video goes to black.
“I was right here. I pulled out my phone,” JaQuan said, pointing to where he was standing.
Petersburg Police had just busted several people at a home next door. They were handcuffing the suspects in front of Fisher’s home. He walked out onto the porch and his cousin—who was one of the people being arrested–yelled, “Start recording.”
“[The officer] came off the porch and said, ‘Want me to take your phone?'” Fisher said. “I put my phone in my pocket and then when he tried to take my phone, I guess he thought he was going to get my phone and he shoved me. I shoved him back.”
Fisher’s sister also started taking cell phone video. She captured the violence that followed.
“They was trying to grab my son off the porch. I was trying to tell my boyfriend to open the door so we can get in the house,” Debra Fisher said. She is JaQuan’s mother and can be seen on the video wrestling with officers.
A second officer arrived during the struggle. There was an object in his hand. The family says he started spraying mace.
“They maced each other, too. He just started mace-ing everywhere,” Debra Fisher said.
A third officer came rushing in to the chaos and put Debra into a choke hold, nearly pulling her backward off the porch.
JaQuan Fisher was charged with two counts of felony assault on law enforcement. Prosecutors eventually dropped one charge and reduced the other to a misdemeanor. He pleaded guilty to that charge. His mother didn’t have an attorney, and a judge found her guilty of obstructing justice.
For the family, this wasn’t about the fight on the porch. It’s why they were even bothered by police to begin with.
“We have a right to do what we want to do with our phone sitting on your porch. Sitting on my porch,” Debra Fisher said.
Two months prior to this incident, there was another confrontation between a Petersburg resident and police caught on cell phone video.