ARLINGTON, TX — Kory Watkins is a member of a cop watch group called Tarrant County Peaceful Streets Project. It started a year ago and Watkins says they just want one thing.
“To make sure there is a fine line of transparency for everybody to see,” Watkins said. “Just in case something happens on the police stop. We could be able to help the police department if need be. We could help the person who is getting pulled over or we could help ourselves.”
Saturday night, Watkins didn’t realize the footage he was shooting might help him — along with his wife Janie Lucero and fellow cop watcher Joseph Tye. All three were arrested while he was recording a police stop in Arlington.
“I was following the orders of the police officer that was telling me to move backwards and at that time, that`s when the police officer from behind me, came in with his car and almost hit me and my wife. And shortly after that I was arrested,” Watkins explains.
“Out of approximately 20 people out there recording the officers three were arrested because they did interfere,” Jeffrey Houston, Sergeant of the Media Office for the Arlington Police Department, said. “‘The issue is these people were interfering with the call and not allowing the officers to do their job.”
Arlington PD says it’s just fine to record their officers. They’ve gotten used to it. The problem is there is no clear standard for when it becomes interference.
“If an officer says, ‘Can you step back a little bit?’ then you probably need to step back at that point,” Sgt Houston explains. “As a whole, we go out of our way not to take enforcement action on these groups; but when it becomes interference with the officers, they can`t do their job. We had to take action.”
Watkins believes he was arrested because he got upset and says the video shows he never interfered with letting the cops do their job.
“Being upset isn`t illegal. I didn`t hurt anybody,” Watkins explains. “There was a car coming at my wife. Any normal husband would get angry at that. Even if somebody is yelling at an police officer — doesn`t matter if they’re yelling rainbows and butterflies or if they’re yelling f-bombs and s-bombs. That’s not illegal.”
Arlington PD says they’ve tried to reach out to the group on two occasions, hoping to find common ground.
“First response we got the first time is that they would not meet with us and by policy they don`t cooperate or get along with law enforcement,” Sgt Houston explains. “The second time we didn`t receive a response at all. And it`s just a dialogue about how they can come and accomplish their mission of recording officers and hold us accountable.”
“There’s no need for us to meet or anything like that,” Watkins said. “We aren`t doing anything wrong. We`re standing on the sidewalk and expressing our First Amendment rights to freedom of press; freedom of speech.”
It looks like for now, the cop watchers and the cops will have to agree to disagree.