A California man not only proved it is legal to record cops in public, something everybody should know by now, he also proved it is legal to insult them in a profanity-laced tirade.
He also proved to be an asshole, but that is not against the law.
“Fuck you, you fucking dick,” the man yelled at the Camarillo police officer as he was driving away.
“Have a good day, sir,” the cop responded.
“You should be scared, you corrupt little bitch,” the man with the camera continued.
“One of these days, it’s not going to be a guy with a camera.
“One of these days, people are going to be fed up with your fucking corruption, you little bitch.
“Get the fuck on. Get the fuck on, you little pig.”
The cop’s only other words were, “See you later,” before starting his car and driving off.
He walked up to the police officer who was making a traffic stop in a construction zone where fines were doubled.
As soon as he walked up, the cop ordered him to move across the street, accusing him of distracting him, even though the man had not even talked to him at that point.
The man refused to move, pointing out that he was standing at least ten feet away. The cop called for back-up.
Eventually, a plainclothes Ventura County sheriff’s deputy pulled up as well as another Camarillo cop in a patrol car.
The deputy maintained his professionalism, even engaging the videographer in civil conversation. The second cop didn’t say a word.
Eventually, all three law enforcement officers stepped back in their cars and left, which is when the videographer launched into his tirade.
So even though his goal was to make the cops look stupid, he did the complete opposite, proving that the cops were aware that the First Amendment allows citizens to curse them out.
Even foul expressions of disapproval towards police officers are protected under the First Amendment.4 See, e.g., Duran v. City of Douglas, Arizona, 904 F.2d 1372, 1377-78 (9th Cir. 1990) (individual who was “making obscene gestures” and “yell[ed] profanities” at an officer engaged in conduct that “fell squarely within the protective umbrella of the First Amendment and any action to punish or deter such speech—such as stopping or hassling the speaker—is categorically prohibited by the Constitution.”).
Robert Bell, an aspiring lawyer, stepped outside of a pub for a breath of fresh air in August of last year. After some police officers passed him, he raised his middle finger and flipped the cops off behind their backs. Bell didn’t notice another cop standing nearby who witnessed the shocking gesture.
According to a suit filed recently, the officer asked Bell, “Do you think that’s funny?” and before Bell could respond he was cuffed. When asked why he did it, Bell replied, “Because I don’t like cops.” He was hauled off to a holding cell where he taunted for his sexual orientation by officers. Bell was released after about two hours and later had his disorderly conduct charge dropped.
So perhaps we should all go out and start flipping cops off as a way to make a quick buck.
But I wouldn’t recommend it because civility goes a lot further in the long-run than a few thousand bucks.