Mimesis Law
16 July 2019

Cop Tip: Why Open Carrying While Cop-Watching Is Not Very Bright

May 25, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — For the last few years, the number of people who are videotaping the police have substantially increased. These guys go out, stalk the police, and film them. Most police don’t like it, but, depending on where you live, it may or may not be protected under the First Amendment.

So in Brenham, Texas, this one guy was cop-watching. Brenham is a small town in central Texas, best known for being the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream and Blinn College. The cop-watcher shot the below video, which we’re going to analyze.

The cop-watcher carried a police scanner in his car, and heard a call that the police were looking for two burglary suspects who had fled on foot from the police. He’s interested, so he heads that way and, in the process, pulls behind a building. He’s observed by a police officer, who then stops him.

So far, so good. This is a reasonable suspicion stop. As the officer later tells the guy in the video, it is common for burglary suspects to call their friend to pick them up behind a building if they have run from the police.

Next, listen to the officer as he initially approaches the vehicle. At 0:20 you can hear the officer loudly demanding to see the driver’s hands, and the cop-watcher complies. This tells any officer watching the video that it is not a normal traffic stop; and the officer is concerned that the person may be armed. It is a clear sign of a high-risk stop, and the signs continue as the officer comes up to the window.

The officer begins to talk to the cop-watcher, until he sees the holstered pistol on the guy at about 0:35. The officer then immediately controls the cop-watcher’s hands and handcuffs him. He then removes him from the vehicle, still wearing his seat belt, and pats him down for weapons.

At about 1:30, the officer starts asking about the camera and the scanner, wanting to know why the guy has all of it going. He’s asking for a reason. Burglars will often use scanners to let them know what the police are doing, so that they can avoid being arrested. There’s nothing illegal about it, but that just pinged the cop’s threat meter a bit more.

So he asks the cop-watcher who he is, and the guy replies, “Andy.” Andy then asks what he did wrong. The officer then explains it to him, about the two people committing a burglary, the driver carrying a pistol, and that he pulled back behind a building. The officer clearly articulated reasonable suspicion, which is all he needs to conduct an investigative stop under Terry v. Ohio. Andy doesn’t get it. He believes that the officer must have seen Andy commit a criminal violation to be stopped, and he believes that he doesn’t have to identify himself unless he has committed a crime.

Andy is partially correct. Texas is not a “stop and ID” state, like Nevada and some other states (see Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada). In a stop and ID state, police may arrest you if they have reasonable suspicion, have stopped you, and have asked you for your ID. Texas is not one of those states. Under Texas law, you do not have to identify yourself if you are merely detained, only if you are lawfully arrested.

That doesn’t prevent the officer from making another, valid arrest, at which point he would have to identify himself. The officer could arrest the individual for “Failure to Display a Driver’s License” because he has legally stopped the vehicle. He could also arrest Andy for “Unlawful Carrying a Weapon” since he did not display his License to Carry to the officer.

Most police officers know that there is more than one way to skin a cat. So many won’t have a lot of patience, and will just arrest that guy.

That’s not what the officer does here. The officer even tells Andy that if he’s one of “those guys” who run around filming stuff, that is okay, but that he needs to know what’s going on. After the officer IDs Andy, he cuts him loose.

The good thing is that Andy knows that the officer did not violate his rights. He noted in the comments that the officer could have pulled his own gun on Andy or pulled him out the window. He has said that he will not file a complaint or a lawsuit.

That’s wise, because the city and the officer would win.

The issue here is whether it is wise to openly carry a pistol while cop-watching. Look at the video again. Start to think about all the places that this could have gone bad. If you are going to cop-watch and carry, it is probably wiser to carry concealed.

It’s safer for the cop-watcher anyway.

6 Comments on this post.

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  • Leonard
    24 May 2016 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    I agree, but this is Texas. They believe a gun should be carried anywhere at anytime. Cop Watchers should be aware that Unions and their police leadership are indoctrinating officers to believe that they are walking targets. Going into a situation as this, with officers already in a heightened alarmed state is asking for trouble. This officer handled the situation very well.

    • Greg Prickett
      24 May 2016 at 1:31 pm - Reply

      I agree that the officer did a good job. The hysteria promoted by some of the police unions about open carry is part of what causes concern about this particular situation.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for open carry for those who want to do so. I’ll probably continue to carry concealed, but carrying a firearm is not the issue for me. My editor, said it best, that it was about “picking battles, and not starting a war on two fronts at the same time….”

  • Agammamon
    16 November 2016 at 12:29 am - Reply

    “Next, listen to the officer as he initially approaches the vehicle. At 0:20 you can hear the officer loudly demanding to see the driver’s hands, and the cop-watcher complies. This tells any officer watching the video that it is not a normal traffic stop; and the officer is concerned that the person may be armed. It is a clear sign of a high-risk stop, and the signs continue as the officer comes up to the window.”

    Let me see if I’ve got this straight – if a cop demands to see your hands and you comply then its a sign that you’re dangerous. If you don’t comply its a sign that you are dangerous also.

    Is that the takeaway here or is this just a poorly worded paragraph?

    • Greg Prickett
      16 November 2016 at 12:40 am - Reply

      Nope, that’s not was was written.

      When an officer stops someone for suspicion of burglary, like the case here, the officer is going to be concerned about weapons.

      Any officer watching the traffic stop would know that it was not a normal traffic stop, because officers do not behave that way on normal traffic stops. Here the officer was concerned that the person could be armed. It is the sign of a high-risk stop before the officer ever approached the car. It is not based on the driver’s compliance.

  • bacchys
    16 November 2016 at 1:01 am - Reply

    It’s rather hard to display one’s driver’s license while keeping both hands visible and then getting handcuffed.

    Just sayin’…

    Overall, I think carrying at all while cop-watching is a foolish thing to do. Pick your battles and minimize the reasons they can come up with to make an arrest.

    • Greg Prickett
      16 November 2016 at 1:05 am - Reply

      I agree.

      But I’m not much on open carry anyway, I’m more of a concealed carry guy. Don’t get me wrong, there are times where open carry has advantages, but for the most part, the gun should be hidden.

      Second, if you’re going to cop-watch, you’re asking for extra attention. Why make it easier for them?