The Emerging Cop Stop Video Niche on YouTube

Posted by Rob Campbell on June 17th, 2015

Reflections on Creating an Important Video in the Emerging ‘Cop Stop’ Niche on YouTube

Reality TV has nothing on Cop Stop Videos. They are real, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Each video depicts two very different humans locked in a weird legal code combat.  One person has a gun and a badge and risks losing his job, while the other person, usually a private citizen, risks criminal charges and incarceration.  The citizen can gain reward via civil suit, months or years later and will accrue vast notoriety on the web if vindicated. The cop never will.

Jeff-Gray-Coral-Gables

Jeff Gray – Honor Your Oath

Making a good Cop Stop Video takes lots of practice. Jeff Gray the videographer behind HonorYourOath is hands down the best in the business, and that’s because he’s confident enough and experienced enough now to be able master his emotions and keep his mouth shut. He very cleverly lets the police carry the burden of providing the narrative.

As private citizens, you and I don’t have to answer police questions or show ID *except when driving, but it takes a courageous individual to resist unlawful Police demands, and KEEP CALM, and it takes a genius to laugh at them and make them look foolish in brief and clever responses.    Carlos Miller is Jeff’s mentor, and the founder of PINAC or Photography is Not a Crime.  He’s been arrested for filming police and public institutions and his cases and settlements have helped propagate a better understanding of the laws around public photography. And foster the emerging Cop Stop video niche.

Other Cop Stop Pioneers include,

Kenny Suitter pioneered ‘I don’t answer questions’ and that’s pretty much ALL he says in his best three videos.  Diop Kamue PoliceAbuse.com made a hit series of videos by sending young black volunteers into police stations to politely ask for a complaint form – results varied, and the story got major news media attention. Dave Ridley from the Ridley Report needs to be mentioned. His self deprecating caricatures of himself at the beginning and end of his videos contrast his intelligent commentary memorable.

Charles Veitch of Love Police in England, and even Dan Dicks, Press for Truth in Canada have some smart videos in the Cop Stop genre.  Dan made his name documenting the Toronto G-20 police outrages.  Another leading contributor is of course Ademo Freeman who runs the website CopBlock.org a decentralized national group that aims to create conversation on police accountability.  These people like to record local police DUI checkpoints, both from inside cars and at the side of the road.

Media commentators include Alex Jones followed by 4409 , The Ljp TV, and The Young Turks.  Online magazines with content detailing the rise of Cop Stop videos include a lengthy piece on The Root about the inconsistency of police brutality videos on Youtube include mentions of other notable videos in the niche.

Five Types of Cop Stop Videos

There are five main scenarios to the emerging Cop Stop video niche,

  1. Checkpoints, including DUI checkpoints, airport TSA, and border patrol. The videos are either shot POV from detainee’s perspective, or shot by an independent observer of the detainment.
  2. Knock and Talks – There’s police at the door and yes it is okay to record them. This genre pivots on a ‘Do you have a warrant?’ challenge.
  3. Detained? Either while walking with firearms (a legal activity), or a camera, or driving.
  4. CopBlock deliberate 3rd party observing and provoking police into action, i.e. ‘stay back!’
  5. Commentary, sometimes with news footage of bad behavior or user submitted video

My personal favourite of these five scenarios to watch is ‘Detained?’ because in most of these cases the videographer didn’t necessarily seek confrontation and can play the innocent victim protagonist (esp if they do it quietly).  If the subject is detained while driving a car, they MUST produce a license, insurance and vehicle registration information, but if they are stopped while walking out in public they do not have to show any ID.  Refusing to show ID usually leads to the confrontation which becomes the central conflict of the video.  Ideologically it’s a social struggle where a man’s right to privacy is threatened or overcome by the instrument of State’s need to identify and control citizens for the perceived Greater Good.

This classic Checkpoint Cop Stop video below was recorded by a young man on the fourth of July and has everything needed in a perfect cop video. The piece includes the utterance of classic lines like ‘am I being detained?’, and ‘are you a lawyer?’ and improper use of K9 tactics to validate an illegal search.  Yet the local sheriff reviewed the video and concluded the officer did nothing wrong!

One subcategory of Detained is ‘Public Photography’, which is a respectable sub genre because it perfectly highlights the misconceptions that some law enforcement and public security guards have regarding their own role as counter terrorism agents. The most entertaining situations occur when police and private security guards get hostile towards a photographer on public property taking pictures of their private institutions because they fear a terrorist plot. They rush the cameraman with hostile and arrogant demands to review and delete his or her photos, and then back off when they encounter resistance from an articulate and informed citizen that knows his rights. That’s what makes a good cop stop video, and this particular niche is where Jeff Gray excels.

Spectacular Cop Stop videos leave spectators believing the camera saved lives – like this media uploaded by Hammond Police Abuse com

Ten Things to DO When Filming Cop Stop Videos

  1. When asked for ID you should give a first name only (*unless driving a motor vehicle) and answer every other question with a question OR SAY NOTHING AT ALL for an entire minute.
  2. Get the officer’s names and personnel numbers – ask only ONCE when things are calm. The perfect time to do this is in response to LEO asking for your ID.
  3. Are they real police? Establish their perceived basis for authority in this situation. But if they are uniformed police in a squad car do NOT ask for three forms of ID as you’ll look idiotic. However if they are not real police you are free to completely ignore them and thereby encourage them to call real police, or better yet assault you as you try to leave the area. The best thing that can ever happen in encounters with security guards is if they assault you.
  4. Detained? Early on you must ask “Am I being detained? Am I free to go? If I’m not being detained I would like to be free to go on my way”. Detainees must establish this is NOT a voluntary detention. That’s it. Just say it ONCE on camera and their answer must begin with either yes or no. If the answer is ‘no you’re not being detained’, then that’s the end of the video. Don’t stick around looking for more – end the video clean.  If ‘yes’, then calmly ask the police officer to name the law, and shut up so they can answer.
  5. Ask Law Enforcement Officer to state in legal terms the reason for detention, or suspicion, and then be quiet and listen to everything they have to say… Do not respond to false allegations and protest your innocence or explain ANYTHING to them, but rather let them drone on and on listing all possible crimes or misdemeanors. This is a good place to silently count to thirty as per Charles Veitch.
  6. When asked to step out of the vehicle. It’s wise to comply unless you believe its being done to separate you from your recording device and serves no investigatory reason – then you could resist on the basis that you wish able to be able to keep recording, which is your right.
  7. Search? ‘I do not consent to a search’ just say it once and if they search anyway do not resist nor object any further. Once again a defense attorney only needs to hear you say it once to suppress any evidence found in an illegal search. This is why cops like to get suspects to verbally agree to a search. The best response to the police argument of “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear’ is to say, ‘oh so I’m guilty until I prove my innocence?’ which in so many ways is the perfect counter argument.
  8. Refuse to comply with arrogant demands that you ‘don’t put your hands in your pockets’. Be calm and quiet and defiant – be prepared to go to jail for what you believe is the truth and the strength of your legal position. So often a perfectly good video is ruined when the protagonist complies and hands over their ID ‘under duress’. You need a spine to get a million views and a cash settlement from the State.
  9. In a traffic stop where you are the driver, do not let passengers, esp wives or girlfriends in your car speak or be spoken to by police at any time during the encounter. You must quietly shush them or motion them to remain silent (mostly for their own comfort and grace later when watching the video).
  10. Shut your mouth – shut up, and shut up some more. The video should reveal NOTHING about the videographer. If stopped by the Police wait for them to tell you why, and then immediately ask to go. If they prevent you from leaving, then my friend you have a true ‘cop stop’ video. Shut up and enjoy it.

Fundamentally you must be prepared to go to jail to protect your liberty, but if you resist effectively, articulately and intelligently you can stay out of jail and still have a hit Cop Stop video on YouTube.

Eight Things NOT To Do When Filming a Police Encounter,

  1. Do NOT initiate the stop. It’s not a proper Cop Stop video if the protagonist seeks out the antagonist and initiates the police interaction. (The arrogant monkey poking the lion deserves its fate).
  2. Do not lose control. Do not swear, do not be disrespectful – be strong and silent. Act bored. Be uninterested and annoyed. Meet any aggression with equal defiance
  3. Do not act condescending or run off at the mouth about liberty and constitutional freedoms being eroded by law enforcement.
  4. Do not say ‘you work for me’. It plays much better to be meek and let the tyrants reveal themselves naturally.
  5. Do not be overly helpful, say thanks and you’re welcome, or be overly smug. Say NOTHING and instead and let the police provide the entire narrative except for a few gentle questions to direct their dialogue.
  6. Do not argue fine points of law with the police – state your belief and shut up some more.
  7. Do not try and shake the officer’s hand and ‘make peace’ or even thank them or say ‘you’re welcome’. That’s dumb.
  8. Especially do NOT say ‘I’ll sue you!’, or ‘You’ll be fired‘, because it doesn’t play well on video. If you are being victimized by Police ifs better to ‘appear’ weak and helpless to prevent their assault. If they touch you DO NOT SAY ‘don’t touch me’ but rather say ‘OMG you’re touching me?’ and instead of being a tough guy play the role of the slave who sincerely needs the public’s help in a David vs Goliath struggle against tyranny. It’s hard to cheer for the victim if he’s running his mouth with legal threats. So in these circumstances the best protagonists say things like ‘my family is watching’ ’oh please you’re hurting me’ and ‘help me’.

When the police stop you, for any reason, activate your recording device and  give the best (silent) performance of your life.