Simi Valley Police Officer Refuses To Take Report From Citizen in Accident Due To His Videotaping Their Conversation

185px-CA_-_Simi_Valley_Policevideo cameraThere is a controversy in Simi Valley, California where a police officer refused to take the statement on a car accident of a man who wanted to videotape their conversation. While the officer in the video below acknowledges the right of the citizen to videotape, Simi Valley police officer Corey Baker states that he is not going to allow the man to effectively portray him as causing some violation by filming him. While the officer cannot refuse to take a statement on this basis, the man in the video (identified as Jeff Knapp) struck me as highly rude in his encounter with both the other driver and the officer.

Knapp is shown on the videotape videotaping the other driver while yelling objections to what he is telling the police on the line. I thought Knapp was way out of line in his interruptions and taunts. He then proceeded to videotape the officer in their conversation. I can understand why the officer found this off-putting. It is difficult to speak with someone who has a camera pointed in your face. However, refusing to take his account of the accident is to punish him for videotaping — protected right.

This is the type of poor behavior that could undermine the recently recognized right of citizens to videotape. This video could be used to show that videotaping presents an impediment to police trying to do their job because Knapp did not have the simply decency to lower the camera. Officers could claim that such filming denies them the ability to fully evaluate the condition and sobriety of individuals involved in accidents. Knapp could have still audiotaped the conversation without sticking a camera in the face of the officer who is trying to speak with him.

I believe Baker was wrong, but I also believe that Knapp and other needs to use these rights in a civil and mature way. Now, the incident has caused Baker more heat after it was learned that he made more in overtime than he did in base salary in 2012 — leading some to claim that he is “milking” the system.

Kudos: Michael Blott

37 thoughts on “Simi Valley Police Officer Refuses To Take Report From Citizen in Accident Due To His Videotaping Their Conversation

  1. People here w/ an agenda will find it different to reconcile this incident. Somewhat like the ASU post from yesterday, we have citizens w/ chips on their shoulder. That bothers me on several levels, topping the list is IT’S STUPID. Why not just pull the cops service revolver and shoot yourself in the foot?

  2. I am on Knapp’s side on this one. He seems very much in the right and it appears the other party was lying about him so he started videotaping it. The cop is wrong, dead wrong.

  3. I respectfully disagree with your take on the man videotaping. I found that the other man was the passive aggressive party who intentionally twisted his words to make it seem that the party filming him was aggressive. He told the 911 operator that the man was threatening him although what the man actually said was that he was making no threat. The police officer was out of line by refusing to speak to the man with the camera. The officer was quite defensive about being filmed. If he had behaved in a professional manner there would likely be no buzz about this video at all.

  4. This is the kind of incident where the police write up both sides of the story, end of story. There’s now a police report for the owner of the damaged vehicle (if there is one) to use when contact the insurance company. Seems like there might be some a-holery on the other side as well, since this is the kind of incident that would normally not be worth a police call. Some non-violent communication classes would be helpful for the participants where they would learn that tone of voice is important and the use of “I” statements rather than “you” statements. Cop should have just taken the guy’s statement but it was his choice of which statement to take first.

  5. I see absolutely nothing wrong here with the officer’s demeanor or way he handled this situation. The accident occurred on private property and is really not a police matter. The filmer has established his willingness to exchange info with the aggrieved “door” victim. However, filming guy is absolutely off his rocker on this minor matter. Let the civil judges handle this one. If I’m the cop, I drive off. Baker is getting an unfair rap here IMHO.

  6. I’m for mandatory Crisis Management courses in high schools & college (2 semesters).

    Reality can include challenging behaviors and potentially dangerous situations that are present at unpredictable moments. How you respond to and manage these behaviors greatly determines their outcomes,
    from their impact on the immediate safety of everyone involved to the long-term goals. Clear policies and effective, ongoing training help you to minimize violent incidents and escalating crises.

  7. This whole thing resulted from one car door hitting another car door, with damage that cannot have been more than a few dollars? Really? The guy with the camera is an unbelievable jackass.

    I see nothing particularly wrong with the cop. He said that the jackass had the right to video and that he chose not to talk to him if he continued to do so. It was clear to me that the cop had no issue with the video but was not going to feed into the “citizen’s” obvious hositlity and agression. Disengaging was very much the proper thing to do.

  8. Simi Valley? Hmmm…. That town is cop central for Southern California. It’s where cops from other jurisdictions go to live. There may be more going on here than meets the eye – especially if the other driver was an off-duty cop

    As far as the rudeness of the guy filming: that appears to be irrelevant. The officer refused to take the report because of the filming; not the attitude.

    And for over $170,000 a year a police officer should be able to handle both the filming and the attitude.

  9. Bill H – the cop was very calm and I will give him that. However, he does not have a right to NOT talk to the victim who is already a little hyper because of the other person. He is already paranoid not aggressive.

  10. I’m very familiar with Simi Valley. Never particularly thought of it as a “cop town”. There’s a Hells Angel bar in the outskirts of SV. I do not believe the other driver was an off duty cop, because he would have identified himself as such immediately to both the filmed and the responding officer. And I seriously doubt he would have called 911 for a door ding.

    On the video Knapp admitted questioning them why they were looking at his license plate #. If his tone was consistent as in the video, they probably called the police to keep the peace. There are some people who tend to put fuel on a spark and escalate, rather than de-escalate, a problem. The videotaper kept taunting and putting in his 2 cents to the other driver. But that driver was a stranger. You shouldn’t keep taunting strangers thinking a video is some shield of safety, since your phone can be taken away or smashed.

    I wonder if the Simi Valley PD has told their officers they have the right to not be filmed if they choose. He seemed very calm, and may have been reciting what he’s been told. From what Professor Turley has written, it sounds like the right to film police in public has only recently been confirmed in the courts, and that information may not have trickled down in all departments.

    I agree with Professor Turley that Knapp had the right to film, and that he was not doing so in a calm and mature manner. It does not sound like there is anything the cop can do about a door ding except to note that he verified the 2 cars were parked next to each other, and there was a ding on one car and some paint on the other. And that Knapp admitted his door “slipped open” and hit the other car. (I hate it when doors slip open, especially on the freeway! Darn that door, acting on its own volition!) Knapp dinged someone’s door. It will probably cost less than the deductible to get it fixed, so I wouldn’t bother running it through insurance. Just admit what you did and pay to get it fixed.

    I do like how the cop maintained his composure in the face of Knapp, who was obviously a bit excited with something to prove. His car likely had video going as well, so he should be used to having to do his job every day on camera. That must be really hard, constantly being filmed and your every mistake recorded and scrutinized. He should have allowed Knapp to film, and told him all he could do was verify the position of the cars, and leave it as an insurance/civil matter. His job was just to keep the police while 2 drivers exchanged information.

  11. And it is very common for cops to rack up overtime, which is coveted. They’ll work themselves into the ground, if allowed, to maximize overtime if they’re saving up for something, like an expected baby, etc. Too much overtime is not a good idea – because consistent overtime means they are understaffed. It would cost less and benefit the community just to hire the required number of people. Plus there are safety risks to the cops themselves when they get too tired.

    But I do not blame the cops. If the department can’t or won’t hire enough people, then their only recourse is overtime. Some cops don’t like overtime, like those with families, and some love it, like those saving up for something or trying to pay off debt. It is up to the department to limit how much overtime each cop should be allowed to serve for safety reasons, and not the fault of the cop for consistently volunteering for it.

    Just hire more cops and then it won’t be a problem. There could be an interesting discussion on the mechanisms involved in staffing police forces.

  12. The cost of living in Simi Valley is lower than in the surrounding neighborhoods of Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks. To get more house for their money, I suppose that cops would live in Simi, Oxnard, or Camarillo to avoid the congestion of the Valley.

    I had never thought of Simi as a cop town, but after I thought about it, it would make sense that cops would live in some of its nice communities, rather than where the cost of living has skyrocketed. Tract homes can easily cost over $1 million in some of the neighborhoods in Ventura County, which would make it very difficult for those in law enforcement to find good neighborhoods for their families.

  13. The guy video taping is clearly out of control emotionally. He is really pushing the boundaries with his actions, and the cop was right in refusing to take his statement while he had a camera shoved in his face. This guy clearly lacks common sense and decency. When you act is such a manner, you will suffer consequences. Tough.

  14. There must be a way that a citizen can videotape anything that happens in public without it becoming a nuisance or an obstruction of justice. It is illegal to videotape someone without their consent. In these cases, when a person continues to talk when he has been notified that he is being filmed, then his consent is implied. He does not have the power to order that the videotape be stopped. His only recourse is to refuse to be recorded by walking away. However, a policeman has a duty to do. I hope that police departments will eventually train their officers to know how to handle these increasingly common situations. I do not understand how an officer can object to his public function being memorialized. It seems to me that the officer should have requested that the video camera be held by another person or another officer as the report was being taken. Unlike a private citizen, I’m not aware that a police officer has to be notified that he is being audiotaped or videotaped because he is a public officer and his actions cannot be reasonably regarded as private.

  15. I thought there was a $500 base amount of damage before a police report could be filled out. Both the guys were a-holes but the guy filming is that type that invites a knuckle sandwich, quoting his rights and continuing to accuse the other guy of lying, this, that, and the other, unrelenting jabbering.

    The cop seemed calm and totally together when he arrived, I don’t understand why he didn’t simply continue while being filmed. He would have been seen to be an exemplary police officer. The moment he refused to be filmed he went to the other side, the side that has brought this problem to light.

    Citizens have rights and the police need to respect those rights. However, citizens have no right to shove stuff, whatever it is, in the face of a police officer. Perhaps the police officer should have the right to arrest certain types for belligerence?

  16. issac
    “Perhaps the police officer should have the right to arrest certain types for belligerence?”
    = = =
    So police should arrest people filming them?

  17. It’s difficult to assess what happened prior to filming… The man with the camera appeared to be hypersensitive to the situation as a whole, thus his need to film. His behavior is indicative of his nervousness and thus comes across belligerent to all parties. That being said, however, the officer acknowledged the man’s Right to film officers and immediately dismissed the man’s desire to make a statement.

    I guess if police decide to ignore a party to a disagreement, they can?

  18. Max-1 – you could tell by the tremor in his voice that he was nervous from the beginning and as the other victim was on the phone he became more ‘paranoid.’ You cannot tell from the video if the cop approached closer or the victim pushed the camera closer. Whichever, the cop should not have avoided him.

  19. This scenario will become much more common as people who use Google Glass (a/k/a Gl*ssh*les) demand to film everything and everyone. All you people demanding that police officers just accept it should think about the next step — when it happens to you, over and over again.

  20. This was a non-reportable accident from the beginning. (Non-hit-and-run, low damage threshold, and not on a public roadway). As such for the officer was not required to make an accident report so the taking of his statement was not necessary.

    On another note the officer should have just kept quiet about his objection over the filming and what he did wouldn’t have been an issue.

    As for the overtime issue, I don’t consider it a problem if the overtime is available and he simply signs up for it. Someone else could have did the same. If there is a problem with the amount of overtime slots handed out that is a problem of the administration. Secondly, not all overtime shifts are simply patrol. Often times it is at sporting events and traffic control at construction sites and the city bills these entities for the overtime.

  21. I have a slightly different view. Party A calls 911. Party B is filming. Cop shows up. Cop refuses to talk to Party B. Cop talks to Party A. Party B stops filming. There is no video of any conversation with Party B after Cop talked to Party A.

    Point 1: Seems to me that standard police protocol would be to talk FIRST to the Party that called 911. If I ever call 911, I hope the cop comes straight to me, not to others hanging around. If the cop doesn’t know exactly who called, once he finds out it was me, he should get my side of the story first.

    Point 2: Consider this. Party A is with his girlfriend, some guy dings the door and reacts poorly to Party A’s comment. Words are exchanged, perhaps in anger or aggression. Party A calls 911 and says that Party B is threatening him. This may be less about a “door ding” as it is Party A’s concern for his safety and that of his girlfriend. So all this talk about cops not responding to a private property “door ding” simply assumes that’s what the call to 911 is about. What if the conversation between Party A and B escalates and violence erupts? LA Times headline: “Cops Ignore Call for Help in Parking Lot; Two Dead”.

    Point 3. Every a-hole has a temper, and when it goes off you must either run away or get help.

    But that’s just how I saw it.

  22. The first ( and only commandment ) is “Let thy neighbor alone” In all cases , no one should bait a policeman ( even if the policeman is being an authoritarian jerk ). Being polite is hard … but it is the best approach. Being polite does not mean giving up your rights …. just don’t jam them down someone’s throat.

  23. All that the guy with the camera had to do was to take the camera out of the face of the cop. He should have simply lowered the phone, and kept on recording the conversation with the cop. Simple. He chose to be a fool, and was treated as one. I think that similar treatment of fools here would elevate things. The cop showed excellent judgment and tact.

  24. Steve H – just for a slightly different perspective. Party A and gf appear to be able to get in their car and escape. Party B has his wallet out to give his insurance information. He still has it out when the officers arrive. This sound more like Party A and gf trying to cash in then Party B create an incident.

  25. Wow. My takeaway from this incident is that people cause their own problems. If Nervous Videotaper had just simply profusely apologized to 911 Caller and his pissed off girlfriend, maybe they all could’ve just gone home after the door ding incident.

    Instead, all three chose to get emotional about a simple “oops” and now they’re all standing there wasting time and energy over nothing.

    On several occasions, I’ve been in my car when someone next to me has opened their door carelessly and hit my car – without any apology. Big deal. It could’ve just as easily happened without me there and the result is the same. Yes, I have a nice new-ish car, it simply doesn’t matter.

    Life’s short. When the big earthquake happens, let’s see how upset everyone will be when they’ve got dings galore on their cars, houses, and heads. Get on with living!

  26. wow so now im in moderation for EXPRESSING MY PERSONAL POINT OF VIEW.. ok on that note just delete the post and ill delete my account and do as many other of the smart ones have done and go play where the grown ups are

  27. You can say the citizen is making a mountain out of a molehill, but there is also reason and restraint on his part.

  28. shakingmyhead,
    There are four or five “magic words” that trigger the filter. You used at least one of them in your comments that went to the filter. If you can rewrite without using the word (slang term for anus), your comment should go through. With regard to cussing, I once read an amusing book about profanity and its history. The book included an anecdote that makes the point that naughty language is unnecessary to express extreme displeasure.

    Seems one of the local church pastors was an avid golfer, but was really bad at it. After another of his shots went into the water hazard, his golfing buddy had a burning question. “Preacher, you keep hitting bad shots and losing balls. How come you never cuss.”

    The minister replied, “Have you noticed that after I make a shot like that, I always spit on the ground? Grass will never again grow on that spot.”

  29. @Schulte – My husband does, too, and he still gets dings. Which cracks me up every time! We’re in Southern California, people need to learn to roll with it.

  30. JMW – if you really want to unnerve people like that leave a note on their windshield saying you are sorry you scratched their car. But don’t sign it and don’t say where the scratch is. They go nuts looking for it. Far better than actually ‘keying’ the car.:)

  31. I’ve dealt with both of these officers before, the other being Officer Colotto i believe. These two officers and another Officer Heller are the calmest most down to earth cops ive ever been in contact with. And i was the one on the one causing the problem the day i met them. Point being treat with respect and respect will be givin right back to you. Simi pd does an awesome job of keeping this town safe and treating our citizens right!

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