David Hayes, Charged for Recording KPD
Dear Mayor Rogero,
I’m writing today after reading on Knoxville Black Lives Matter Facebook page that a friend and fellow alumnus of the UT-Knoxville student group "Students Promoting Environmental Action in Knoxville," David Hayes, was charged by Knoxville Police for "disorderly conduct" and "obstructing a sidewalk."
This is alarming to me because reportedly, all David was doing was recording police work, work officers on the scene allegedly remarked was "none of his business." There’s supposedly a recording that substantiates this allegation.
As you know, we’ve had negative repercussions in Knoxville and Knox County over the years following recordings surfacing depicting officers acting unprofessionally.
I think you can agree the proper fix is to ensure that every officer’s conduct is above reproach. The solution can’t be to single out, detain, arrest, or charge citizens who choose to record police action.
I can understand that officers acted within their rights in charging David, but "disorderly conduct" and "obstructing the sidewalk" are widely viewed as "catch all" charges penalizing the otherwise lawful action of recording police activity.
If I may suggest, charging David is a questionable use of city resources. More consequentially, it is potentially damaging to the City of Knoxville and the Knoxville Police Department’s reputations, especially since David is co-founder of the local Black Lives Matter chapter.
To reverse this negative outcome, I believe it’d be a meaningful gesture of goodwill to the Black Lives Matter movement to drop the charges. I’d like to ask that you consider using your influence in any way that might result in the charges against David being dismissed.
I’d also like to encourage the Knoxville Police Department and Chief Rausch to ensure that officers are familiar with the rights of individuals to legally record police activity. I do understand the need for individuals not to interfere with police work; however, charging citizens rather than educating them on how to exercise rights to record without interfering seems to be a bit heavy handed.
Ultimately, I think we’d all be grateful to call a community "home" where the only concern of officers with respect to recording devices is that their conduct on camera lives up to their exemplary reputation as officers and as a department.
I’d appreciate anything you can do to make this ideal a reality, starting with David’s case.
Thanks for your consideration,