By Jack Burns
Phillip Turner has made a name for himself as a 1st Amendment activist. As TFTP has reported, Turner won a landmark decision at the U.S. Court of Appeals (5th Circuit) effectively securing the rights of all citizens in LA, MS, and TX to film police in the course of their normal duties. But some police departments, specifically Austin PD (Lamplight Village Substation), still don’t get it and continue not only to infringe on citizens’ rights but break the law in doing so.
In a recent upload to his YouTube channel (video embedded below), Turner recorded himself sitting at a picnic table on public property outside Lamplight Village PD headquarters. Predictably, police officers soon arrived and began questioning the videographer and demanded he identify himself.
In customary fashion, Turner remained silent and refused to answer any of the officers’ questions. He knew they would ask for his ID and would likely illegally search him to obtain his identification. Therefore, he did not carry his driver’s license or wallet with him.
If I’m not doing anything wrong then there’s no reason for you to be here…Texas is not a stop and ID state Is it?
Turner repeatedly asked for the police officers to cite the “penal code” which allowed them to stop and ID him. They refused to answer likely because they did not know the very law they were sworn to uphold. Turner said:
You know you’re violating my 4th Amendment rights…Texas is not a stop and ID state.
Not having an ID and refusing to answer their questions seemed to infuriate the officers who insisted they knew the law better than he did and that “by any means necessary” they would ID him, search his name for outstanding warrants, and possibly arrest him or let him go.
Turner repeatedly asked the officers if Texas was a “stop and ID” state. It’s not. He knew it wasn’t but he wanted to have their responses on video. One over-confidently incompetent officer (unidentified) ordered his fellow officers to handcuff him and place him in the car.
He quite confidently informed Turner that he had been a police officer a lot longer than Turner had been an activist. Unfortunately for the officers, they were dealing with a professional. Turner has uploaded several videos instructing citizens how to deal with police without cooperating with their procedures which often trap people into incriminating themselves.
Turner expressed that he was remaining silent and exercising his 5th Amendment right to remain silent. For amateurs, the temptation to “help” the police “just do their jobs” often gets them in trouble with the law. The Constitution is clear: simply because a police officer makes contact with a citizen does not obligate that person to speak to them. The commanding officer promised:
You will not be released until we identify you.
But he was wrong—they did release him. After not getting their way, officers Tripp and Smith were forced to release Turner, although they promised to file a “suspicious person” conducting “suspicious activity” whose name could only be identified as “John Doe.”
Is that not what most people want? Do they simply want to go on their way, free to exercise their liberties to walk where they wish, film what they wish, and not be interrupted by police officers who seem paranoid someone may be watching them do their jobs.
It’s called accountability. Police officers are accountable to the public and the citizens, and part of that accountability is not making contact with people who simply do not want to talk with them, nor harass, handcuff, and detain entirely innocent people who have committed no crime.
Once again, Phillip Turner has instructed citizens everywhere how to remain silent, be uncooperative, and be set free when officers do illegally detain them, place them in handcuffs, and threaten them with arrest. Unfortunately for the Austin PD, they were sued for their actions. Turner reportedly received a check in the amount of $5,500 for being illegally detained.
Turner does not do it for the money. It is about freedom, the 1st Amendment, and citizens’ rights to film in public. These 1st Amendment audits will not end until police are properly trained and respect not only citizens’ constitutional rights but also their rights not to be approached by police.