Video vigilantes: Are they going too far? - WFSB 3 Connecticut


Video vigilantes: Are they going too far?


Metro police are reporting a surge in so-called sovereign citizens. The FBI defines them as people who don't believe they have to answer to government authority.

More and more, those people are interfering with everyday police traffic stops.

"We have had situations where a sovereign citizen was stopped, and they immediately got on their cell phone," said Al Salinas, a Metro officer and director of the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center.

"Within a short amount of time, a second vehicle arrives at the officer's stop, and there are several individuals within that vehicle that are videotaping the police officer," Salinas continued.

While police acknowledge it is legal, they say it can cross a line, even threatening an officer's safety.

"Our concern is when the individuals, the citizens, become so aggressive with the videotaping, they approach upon the officer's immediate area, immediate space, where it draws the officer's attention away from where it should be," said Salinas.

The FBI says sovereign ideology can promote violence. In some cases, sovereign extremists are considered domestic terrorists.

"It's absolutely crazy. It's the farthest thing from the truth," said Rick, a sovereign citizen who withheld his last name.

Rick said he is an avid photographer of everyday life. He has a YouTube page devoted to his videos, some of which depict Metro police officers.

Rick claims sovereigns do not pose a threat to officers' safety. However, there have been incidents outside Nevada in which police deaths have been linked to extremists in the sovereign citizen movement.

Last year, two deputies were allegedly shot by sovereign citizens in Louisiana. In 2010, two officers were killed during a traffic stop in West Memphis, AR.

"Those are isolated cases," Rick said. "One sovereign shoots a cop, and now all sovereigns are dangerous?"

Rick said he has never had a bad encounter with local police. There are those who have, however. Mitchell Crooks was arrested after shooting a video of officers, but the charges were dropped.

The officer in Crooks' case, Derek Colling, was eventually fired for his conduct in connection to the videotaping incident and several other high-profile episodes.

"For this reason, it's important to document encounters with law enforcement. Small infringements become large ones if they're unchecked," Rick said.

"If you don't expose the tyranny, people don't know it's happening. If they don't know it's happening, they're not going to do anything about it," Rick added.

If there is a way to strike a balance between the protection of civil liberties and refraining from obstructing an investigation, it may lie in maintaining discretion.

"Citizens need to understand they can't get that close to police officers with regard to videotaping, especially if they have nothing to do with the incident and the officer instructs them to back away," Salinas said.

Rick said he believes police should never have anything to hide.

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