David Hayes, Charged for Recording KPD
Thank you for your thoughtful response.
I must apologize for my error in interpreting what I read on the BLMKNOX Facebook page:
I inferred from the post’s use of the word "documenting" that David was "recording video."
I appreciate your personal reassurance that charges brought against David did not arise from efforts to record police activity.
I concede your point there aren’t examples of negative repercussions arising from members of the public recording KPD officer conduct.
However, my thinking on this is there have been several instances of problems arising from recorded images of local law enforcement officers’ conduct in recent years.
The negative repercussions I’m thinking of largely relate to erosion of public trust arising from images capturing unprofessional conduct by (former) law enforcement officers in Knoxville and Knox County over the years. A serious negative outcome includes lack of civic participation in law enforcement efforts, participation I’m sure you know better than I is critical to effective community policing.
Examples of negative images include the globally infamous incident of the Knox County Sheriff’s officer choking out a UT student in 2014, squad car footage of rogue KPD officers assaulting a homeless man in February 2013, or the more recent footage of inmate abuse at the Knox County detention facility.
I recognize that your officers were trying to assist an individual in distress and were themselves under duress as the situation deteriorated upon David’s insertion of himself into the situation.
I also appreciate your officers were within their rights to apprehend and charge David under their professional interpretation of the law, and that David’s case is now within the purview of the courts.
However, where I hope Mayor Rogero will be able to agree with me is that there is value in exercising restraint when applying available laws.
You demonstrated leadership in this respect during the Cumberland Avenue protests recently, and I admire your handling of that situation. I believe your show of restraint helped de-escalate the student demonstration to a peaceful resolution.
While I can’t condone David’s allegedly hostile disposition toward your officers, at the same time I feel I can’t support your officers’ choice of a course of action that essentially transforms a social justice activist into a young man entangled in the legal system. I understand disproportionate entanglement of young black men with the judicial system is a major point of contention in the Black Lives Matter movement, nationally.
I’m also skeptical that whatever danger David faced standing on Wall Street rather than on the sidewalk outweighs the negative repercussions to him as a result of his entanglement with the legal system.
Most importantly, I’m wary of possible negative repercussions of any unfavorable public perception of local law enforcement arising from what I consider to be needless escalation of this encounter. Charges of "disorderly conduct" and "obstructing a roadway" seem to be two areas of the law where restraint might reasonably be exercised, particularly when weighed against the benefits of upholding positive perceptions of law enforcement activity.
Finally, I concede it’s fair to suggest your officers felt threatened by David’s language. However, the case speaks to another idea posited by the Black Lives Matter movement: there are opportunities for enhanced cultural sensitivity among law enforcement officers with respect to encounters with minority youth. Knowing David’s history as a student activist, I’d like to suggest his language was simply a young black man’s version of my own very formal, very "white" admonishment that "there may be negative repercussions."
Thank you again for your thoughtful reply, and for your sustained leadership in law enforcement during a challenging time for Knoxville.
On Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 6:16 PM, David Rausch <drausch> wrote:
Thank you for taking the time to send your concerns regarding this recent incident. I am not able to go into too much detail, but I can advise you of the facts of the situation and assure you that the facts do not support the information that you have heard. I can assure you that the arrest had absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Hayes video recording of the officers. We have audio and some video of the incident from our patrol vehicles and can assure you that at no time did our officers state that he was being apprehended for his video recording. As a matter of fact, he clearly mentions it to the officer during his conversation after his apprehension when he is in the patrol vehicle and the officer clearly tells him that is not why he was arrested.
I am not aware of any negative repercussions that anyone has had with the Knoxville Police Department over video recordings. I have been with the Department for over 23 years and in a Command position for over 10 years. I can assure you that our officers are aware that others may and will video their actions in public. We have had in car cameras in our patrol vehicles since 1998 and our officers are on video when in front of the camera and always on audio recording when in contact with the public. We have no problem or issue with being videotaped. Again, that is not what caused the arrest of Mr. Hayes.
To assure you know the facts, the two officers were providing care for a white male in his early 50’s who they were called to assist after two witnesses observed him fall. Upon arrival at the scene, the good Samaritans who were trying to help the individual assisted the officers with information. Since this individual was experiencing a medical emergency and an ambulance was not immediately available, the officers decided to transport him to the hospital in one of their vehicles. They were helping him into the patrol vehicle when Mr. Hayes decided to interject into their activity.
Mr. Hayes was only apprehended after he began causing a scene with the officers. He threatened the officers and continued to cause a disturbance. He was charged with Obstructing a Roadway and Disorderly Conduct because of his actions. A review of the incident shows that he clearly met the elements of the offenses that the officers charged him with. I respectfully disagree with your assessment of the use of these charges, as an individual cannot be charged with Disorderly Conduct just for videotaping and Mr. Hayes was in the roadway putting himself in danger, not on a sidewalk.
As for your request of dismissal of the charges, the only one who can impact the case at this point is the Judge in the courtroom where the facts will be heard on the case and the video and audio from the officers vehicles will be reviewed, as well as any other evidence that may be brought forward.
I can assure you that our officers are well versed in the rights of individuals and our first response is to counsel and educate, with our last response being incarceration. I am sure you would agree that the responsibility of individuals in a civil society is to respect the role that the officer fulfills in our community as well. I can tell you from the audio tape from the police vehicle that Mr. Hayes states that he does not respect the police and his agenda during this encounter was not as you have been advised. We continue to support the right of the public to hold us accountable for our actions. However, we cannot allow those who choose to interfere with our efforts by threatening our officers, and especially those efforts to assist those in medical distress, to continue without taking appropriate action.
I appreciate your desire to know the facts in this situation.
Chief of Police
Knoxville Police Department
From: Tanner Jessel [mailto:mountainsol]
Sent: Monday, March 21, 2016 1:48 PM
To: Madeline Rogero
Cc: CharmeAllen; Chief of Police
Subject: 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,