The head of a civilian group that films police activity blasted Police Commissioner Bill Bratton Thursday for saying shutterbugs were getting in the way.
“We’re here to say that we’re not interfering,” CopWatch Patrol Unit founder Jose LaSalle said Thursday at a rally outside City Hall.
“If they’re not doing something wrong, there’s no reason for the police to cover, to try to prevent us from documenting what they’re doing,” LaSalle said.
He’s calling for legislation to protect those who film cops and cited a measure introduced in California that would penalize cops for interfering with citizens filming their interactions.
“We want the City Council to create some type of bill that protects video recorders, especially cop-watchers like myself and other people that take it upon themselves to document police activity,” LaSalle said.
Steve Barber was at the rally to complain that a cop knocked him down while he was filming an arrest in East Harlem Tuesday night.
He said he spent most of the night at Mount Sinai Hospital because of the alleged assault.
“I was upset. I got hit hard,” Barber said. “At first I was kind of dazed. I couldn’t believe that it happened.”
Barber insists he didn’t get in the way of any officers, including the one who he said hit him because the cop told him he got too close to his gun.
“In the video, it shows that when I got there, there was nobody there. They were coming past me. They were walking past me. I didn’t get in their way, I was just standing there,” he said.
In the video, Barber’s phone falls to the ground while he’s using it to shoot the cops. Cops can be heard telling him he got too close to the officers and that he tripped.
Barber said he thinks Bratton is just trying to cover for cops who don’t want to be watched.
“A lot of his cops are being caught out there now,” he said. “Now that we have the technology, it’s no longer our word against theirs.”
Bratton said Wednesday, “The cameras are everywhere but when they start literally getting in your face, interrupting arrests, it starts to become a problem.”