Earlier this week, we started getting a few tips about an incident down in Texas alleging some pretty interesting police misconduct. In a nutshell, a motorcyclist says he was pulled over for no reason, then ordered by a Dallas Sheriff’s officer to give up his helmet camera as “evidence” for crimes committed by other motorcyclists on the road. When the man refused, the cop allegedly decided to arrest him on false pretenses.
Normally, this kind of thing would quickly devolve into an endless case of he said-she said. The situation here is different because — whoops — the helmet cam recorded the whole exchange.
Keep reading to see the video, as well as coverage of the situation from local Texas news. From where we sit, it doesn’t look too good for the officer….
WFAA has a little bit of background:
It was Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, and Chris Moore — riding southbound on Stemmons Freeway in Dallas in a pack of 50 to 100 sport bikes — was pulled over while traveling below the speed limit.
“I didn’t expect that at all,” Moore said.
Officers were out in force that weekend, working to prevent another shutdown of a Dallas freeway like the one on Memorial Day weekend 2011 that ultimately led to three arrests.
As with any situation like this, you never can tell if the video we see tells the whole story. Viewers can never know what’s happening outside the frame of the camera. For what it’s worth, though, it appears this 11-minute clip is all one continuous shot, which doesn’t conclude until the officer turns off the camera the end.
For those of you at work, here is a transcript of the crucial part of the video (starting at about 3:28), courtesy of WFAA. The exchange is between Chris Moore, the man on the motorcycle, and Dallas Deputy Sheriff James Westbrook:
MOORE: “Was I doing something wrong? What am I being pulled over for?”
WESTBROOK: “The whole group of you guys.”
MOORE: “No. I was not, individually. How can you pull me over?”
WESTBROOK: “The reason you’re being pulled over is because I’m gonna take your camera and we’re gonna use it as evidence of the crimes that have been committed by other bikers.”
MOORE: “I have not committed any crimes, and you cannot take my personal property from me, sir.”
WESTBOOK: “That’s fine. Need to see your license and registration.
Then the officer walks back to his car, where he sits for a moment. And then, when he comes back out:
WESTBROOK: “You’re under arrest for your license plate being obstructed. Place your hands.”
MOORE: “Are you kidding me, dude?”
WESTBROOK: “Place your hands behind your back.”
As Moore continued to protest, the deputy lost his patience.
MOORE: “Why’d you pull me over in the first place?”
WESTBROOK: “Have a seat, okay?”
MOORE: “Sir. Sir. What you did to me was not right. You know it.”
WESTBROOK: “I’m going to ask you one more time to have a seat.”
MOORE: “That’s f’ed up. Where’s my bike going?”
WESTBROOK: “Sit down. I’m telling you to chill out.”
Westbrook is then seen on the video shoving Moore into his squad car and slamming the door forcefully.
To me, the most unsettling part of the video is when the police officer emerges from the car, and with no warning, says the motorcyclist is under arrest for an obscured license plate. That whole thing really does seem to come out of nowhere.
The other shocker is when Officer Westbrook suddenly loses his temper and shoves Moore in the car. The way he slams the door repeatedly appears to reveal a guy with some serious anger issues.
To be fair, other motorcyclists had been hassling and taunting police officers on the freeway earlier in the day. But neither Westbrook nor Moore were apparently involved in that.
It looks like the Dallas Sheriff’s office is launching an internal affairs investigation in response to the arrest.
The only proper way to conclude this post is by stating the obvious. It probably applies this fiasco somehow, even though I’m not exactly sure how. So, yeah: don’t mess with Texas.