A friendly debate

So my co-worker, Ashley Biviano, and I got into a debate about a video posted by a twelve-year-old which went viral, receiving over four-and-a-half million views since September 13, 2012. In the clip – “Cop breaking the law” – the boy questions a Nevada police officer’s right to park his motorcycle on the sidewalk while he grabs a cup of coffee. In the video, the kid, who identifies himself as Jeremy Drew, momentarily captures the motorcycle parked on the far edge of sidewalk with his phone before the officer belonging to the vehicle exits the unidentified establishment with coffee in hand. As the policemen mounts his bike, Drew asks him if there is an emergency or a legitimate reason for the motorcycle to be parked on the sidewalk. The officer’s response is hard to make out in the video, but it didn’t seem to satisfy Drew as he followed up with a request for the officer’s badge number, a request which the cop brushes off ... and that’s pretty much the end of the video. Although the clip is short (1:39 minutes of running time) the story doesn’t quite end there. A number of people posted comments on the YouTube video expressing some pretty polarized and at some points aggressively worded opinions. Drew, feeling that his audience had missed his point, followed up with a video in which he chastises negative commentators from either side of the “troll” foray.

Many of the commentators argued that the police officer acted unduly and that he should have been subsequently disciplined, or that the boy should experience consequences for his actions. I, on the contrary, believe both parties acted with civility.

The police officer – no doubt in the midst of a lengthy detail protecting the people, possibly from themselves – had pulled up to an establishment in desperate search of a beverage to quench his growing fatigue, to find a parking lot filled to the max with vehicles. He then did what most Americans would have done and unobtrusively parked his vehicle on far edge of the side walk, in no way obstructing pedestrian traffic.

In my opinion, Drew makes a big deal out of this for no real reason. Yes, technically the unidentified policemen was possibly committing a minor infraction. However, instead of fulfilling his civic duty by pointing out to the officer the error of his ways – as some of the commentators have postulated – I believe that Drew’s intention was just to be smart. Either way it was a minor thing which did not inconvenience anyone. Furthermore, I put forth that had anyone other than a police officer done the same thing, the likelihood that he or she would be ticketed or receive grief over their faux pas is not too high. It would seem that, as a public official, he was even more susceptible to the scrutiny of willful teeny boppers with smart phones.

As far as not verbally stating his badge number for the benefit of Drew’s hand-held home studio goes, I say “Why should he have?” Drew has eyes, and I am assuming – of course – that if he can operate a smart phone, he can sound off the digits engraved upon the officer’s chest, which I may point out is not exactly a discreet location, without the aid of an adult. Drew’s demand is clearly a patronizing attempt to humiliate the officer on camera. The cop’s unwillingness to do so is completely understandable and his awkward responses completely human.

My co-worker, Kevin Doonan, believes that the young Jeremy Drew “makes a big deal out of this for no reason,” and then suggests the officer’s action of parking on the sidewalk did not inconvenience anyone. The thing is, however - at least in my opinion - the concerned citizen had every right to question as to why the officer felt inclined to park in an area where the “Average Joe” could not park to grab said cup of coffee. Maybe an officer who stumbled upon a similar situation would leave the civilian be if he or she were parked on a sidewalk ... but something inside me begs to differ. Let’s assume for the sake of the following I drive a motorcycle. I have been working since 7 a.m ... at 10 p.m. this evening I finished my last work-related task for the day. I’m pretty tired, but all the spots in the local convenience store are filled, and since my bike doesn’t take up much room, I just park it right up on the sidewalk and pop in for a coffee. I’d be willing to bet, unless I was quick enough to evade the police that are around the store almost all the time, I would at least be spoken to as to why I parked there. If I was still inside, I’m almost sure I’d be cited. Would my parking in that area have inconvenienced anyone? Who’s to say? But that goes for the officer in Nevada, too.

Kudos to Drew for being an informed young man, and knowing he is able to film an officer on duty so long he does not interfere with his “duty.” Drew knew that he is within his rights to ask an on duty officer for his name and badge number. He could have also asked the officer for his card. When Drew asks for the officer’s badge number, the officer asks Drew why, to which the young man responds, “Because I have the right to.”

The officer said, “You do, huh? What are you, a junior lawyer?” Later in the video, the officer outright denies the boy his badge number.

Drew not only had every right to question the officer as to why he was parked on the sidewalk, he is within his rights to ask the officer for his information. As to the claim the young man was being “smart,” he was simply trying to document an on-duty public official who seems to think his badge grants him extra privileges you and I are not entitled to.

Was anyone hurt by the officer being parked on the sidewalk? No. But how many citations has said officer issued, or how many arrests has he made for civilians committing victimless crimes? I’m willing to bet a whole bunch.

I do not believe Drew was out of line in the least bit, and feel as though other youngsters should take notes or follow suit. Was the officer annoyed or inconvenienced by the boy ... probably. But that’s the name of the game. He’s a public servant. A member of the public that the officer stated he would serve and protect had a legitimate question and concern. When his concerns were brushed off, he rightfully asked for the officer’s information.

And sure, perhaps Drew could have stepped closer to get the officer’s last name and badge number on his video ... but that could pose two issues. One, the officer could claim Drew was making threatening advances by moving closer and could’ve taken some sort of action. The officer is armed and the boy is not. Drew is just that, a boy. Would it be wise to get closer to an armed man who showed just moments before by parking on the sidewalk that he believes some rules don’t apply to him? No. Secondly, it’s Nevada and his badge is shiny - possibly the glare made it so he could not make out the number or the name tag. In either case, the officer must provide such information when asked.

“Humiliate the officer on camera” - I see zero attempt to humiliate, just legitimate concerns regarding police accountability. Did Drew call him derogatory names, berate him, or even say anything remotely rude? Absolutely not. He was within his rights to question the actions of the public official in place and on duty to “protect and serve.”

The officer, failing to verbalize his information while in uniform and on duty, suggests to me he is ashamed or afraid of something. What reason would he have not to provide such information?

The follow-up video from the boy couldn’t be any more spot on. Drew had a written statement prepared in which he read aloud on camera explaining that negativity (regarding the comments below the initial viral video) will not get us anywhere. Drew documented what he saw, an unlawful act committed by someone who cites or arrests people for committing unlawful acts. The comments stooped to calling both the boy and the officer names - which will not incite change, they will only breed hate.

What I would hope comes from this video is not only children like Jeremy Drew, but adults as well, who realize the power they have as “laymen.”

Pull out your smart phone and use that documentation to hold any public official accountable. Boys like Jeremy Drew give me hope for the future. Keep things positive, and keep recording.

Follow Kevin Doonan and Ashley Biviano on Twitter

... @evesunkevin and @evesunashley.

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