Cop Who Arrested PINAC’s Philip Turner Charged
Feb. 25, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — In a move that some might see as a step in the right direction for police accountability in Texas, Galveston Police Sergeant Archie Chapman was indicted by a grand jury for unlawfully searching the car of self-described “video-activist” Philip Turner on November, 2015. Chapman faces up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine for his misdemeanor criminal trespass charge.
“I’m actually pretty shocked,” Turner said, “I’m just glad that he’s being held accountable for his actions.” Turner is a correspondent for the website PINAC (Photography is not a Crime), a website “dedicated to documenting police abuses throughout the country.”
Turner was arrested outside of the Galveston Police Department headquarters, where he was observed filming police vehicle license plates and the comings and goings of police officers at the station during a police memorial service.
Turner told the Galveston County Daily News that he was, “conducting a ‘First Amendment audit,’ – a test of local police officers’ knowledge of laws regarding the right to film law enforcement.” Turner’s goal was to get the attention of police officers to see if they would violate his First Amendment rights. Turner said that police failed the audit when they arrested him, and proved his point.
Police claim they arrested Turner for not giving his identification, although Turner was not legally required to identify himself unless
police officers had a reasonable suspicion that he was involved in a crime unless he was lawfully under arrest.
Turner has been at this for a while. In addition to his activism for PINAC, Turner also manages a YouTube page, The Battousai, where he has posted more than 100 videos of himself interacting with police officers.
Detractors of these “audits” claim Turner is simply “baiting” law enforcement. Turner and his fellow video activists don’t disagree. “It’s very important that people stand up for their rights, because when we don’t, those rights get trampled and eventually taken away from you,” Turner said. Acting Police Chief David Smith said at the time that Turner was not arrested for filming, but because police thought his actions were suspicious. Except….. that his “suspicious actions” just happened to be filming law enforcement.
This indictment comes less than a year after Texas Representative Jason Villalba withdrew a controversial bill last April that would have made it illegal in Texas to record cops from within 25 feet for citizens not affiliated with mainstream media. This bill was prompted in no small part by incidents involving “first amendment auditors” like Turner and his fellow video activists.
In defense of the bill, first vice president of the Dallas Police Frederick Frazier told the Dallas Morning News that he wanted to prevent “dangerous situations, almost like a setup to try to get officers to do something stupid.” He worried that, “ultimately the officer is … going to be disciplined, ridiculed on social media and possibly killed.”