Taya Graham and Stephen Janis commemorate five years of the Police Accountability Report with this special livestream panel featuring legendary cop watchers James FreemanLackLusterThe BattousaiTom ZebraLaura Shark, and Otto The Watchdog. In this extended livestream, Graham and Janis host a timely discussion about the possibility of police reform, the importance and impact of cop watching, and why it’s vital that we all find ways to keep fighting for change.

Pre-Production: Stephen Janis, Taya Graham, David Hebden
Studio Production: David Hebden, Cameron Granadino


Transcript

The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Taya:

Hello, this is Taya Graham, and welcome to the Police Accountability Report five-year anniversary live stream. That’s right, you heard me correctly. It’s been five years of reporting on police malfeasance across the country, and boy, do we have a lot to talk about. Not just about policing, but the community that has grown around the idea that holding police accountable is a serious task that requires all of us to participate. And honestly, that is one of the most important things I’ve learned in my five years of hosting the show, that there are people who care, not just about law enforcement, but how the government in general executes policies more than the mainstream media would have us believe. Meaning, the idea that there is a mass movement of indifference and apathy simply ignores the truth that I have witnessed firsthand because, over these past five years, I spoke to people all across the country who care about our rights and our communities. People who are willing to stand up, point a camera, risk an arrest, and come forward and talk to us.

It’s an amazing community of people who have something in common, the belief that we not only can control our destiny, but we can actually improve the lives of our fellow citizens by doing so. And to help me unpack these ideas, I’m joined by an all-star cast of copwatchers and First Amendment activists that have become literal legends in the world of holding police accountable and government accountable, a group whose passion and commitment to reporting on and documenting police malfeasance is unquestioned.

And so, just to give you an idea of what’s to come, let me give you a quick rundown of the people who will be joining us tonight. So first, we have the often comedic, but also serious copwatcher, James Freeman, whose onscreen antics have made him one of the most creative and formidable copwatchers on YouTube.

Next is another legend, a YouTuber known as Lackluster. Lackluster has built a YouTube channel with over 1.5 million subscribers with top-notch investigative reporting on police malfeasance across the country. And then, of course, one of our favorites, Otto The Watchdog, will join the discussion. Otto is another YouTuber who has used comedic and often unorthodox tactics to illuminate just how absurd policing can be in this country.

We will also be joined by the renowned copwatcher known as The Battousai, who has actually made case law when he was arrested for filming police in Texas. And finally, we’ll be speaking to two activists whose work can be best described as hardcore and unrelenting. I’m talking about Tom Zebra and Laura Shark, the incredible duo that has single-handedly hold the LA County Sheriff’s Office and Police Department accountable. And for the record, there were many other copwatchers we wanted to include, but unless we are going to do a ten-hour livestream, we’re just going to have to wait for them to join us next time.

And it’s quite a lineup, so I’m anxious to get started, but please remember, this is a live show. There may be some technical difficulties and I will also be looking down in the chat and trying to put your questions and comments on screen. And if possible, have some of our copwatchers respond to them as well. But please give me a little bit of grace because I’m trying to do quite a few things here at the same time.

But you know what, I have to find Stephen, I have to get him in here so I can start the show. Now, I know you’re thinking why isn’t Stephen here now? Doesn’t he know about the livestream? Don’t you guys plan for this? Well, to be fair, I’m going to ask our studio manager, Dave, to put Stephen’s Google calendar on the screen so people can see it. Notice how mostly his time is spent outside. The only event on his otherwise meager schedule is this livestream, which is clearly marked by me. So this constant absenteeism is not my fault. But wait, hold on, Dave. I think Dave has located Stephen. Hold on one second.

Stephen, Stephen, Stephen, Stephen. There’s a livestream. Stephen, there’s a livestream. That’s what’s going on.

Yes, Stephen. Stephen, please. Please. Stephen, you’re not some journalistic Keith Richards. Get in here. Seriously. That was not meant to be a compliment. Please get in here. Please just get in here. Please, please, Stephen, please just get in here. This is a livestream. You need to be here in live, in person to do it. Right now. Oh, jeez, please get inside.

Hi, pardon us. Much like that cat you saw behind him. He’s like a stray cat and he has to be encouraged to come indoors. So while I wait for Stephen to find his way in here, I want to delve a little deeper into the theme I discussed at the beginning of the show, namely community. It was something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit as I was preparing for this show. When I first started the Police Accountability Report with Stephen, I had no idea I would still be hosting it five years later. And in many ways the time has flown by and there are stories that I’m so proud of, and instances when we help people assert their lives.

But when I’ve cherished the most from the past five years are the relationships we’ve built with this unique community. And I’m not just talking about our guests, our incredible mods, Noli D and Lacy R. Hi, Noli D. I’m talking about all of you, the people who comment and offer a fresh perspective on our work and sometimes even pushback. And most importantly, the victims of police malfeasance and brutality, who contact us and have the courage to tell their stories to us.

And, of course, I include in this community, the people who gather for our live streams and join our premieres to discuss and learn from, and share it with all of us. I thank you for being here because it’s one of the aspects of independent YouTube journalism that I think our mainstream media counterparts and their pundits don’t understand. On YouTube, you don’t have an audience, you have a community. You have people who participate and people who expect you to do more than pose for the camera. They expect you to be active, respond, and be responsive beyond the confines of the story. And that is what’s so special about what I do. And seriously, it’s not just about me, it’s all of us. And I will say more about that later. But finally, one critical part of that community has finally decided to join us, Stephen, so kind of you to go out of your way to be here. We certainly appreciate it.

Stephen:

Taya, thank you so much. I was just wondering, did you like my song? Do you think… I thought it was pretty good, and I think maybe you have a new… I love the-

Taya:

Maybe you could save that for later and we could discuss it.

Stephen:

Okay.

Taya:

Maybe a little later.

Stephen:

You did call me Keith Richards and I was pretty pumped up about that.

Taya:

That’s not what I meant.

Stephen:

Okay. It wasn’t a compliment.

Taya:

That’s not what I meant.

Stephen:

Okay, well that’s fine. All right. I’m willing to accept that. But thank you for having me here. I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to be with this community and all these special people. And what a lineup, that’s an incredible lineup.

Taya:

I know. I’m so proud of the cast that we have.

Stephen:

That is Copwatcher All-Star Hall of Fame, whatever you want to call it.

Taya:

I completely agree.

Stephen:

I am totally pumped to hear what these people have to say about policing in America.

Taya:

Well, Stephen, before you arrived, we were talking about community. And one person who was part of this very interesting community is Colorado copwatcher, Eric Grant. And Eric is what one could fairly characterize as colorful. He has filed and won multiple lawsuits against various police departments, which has led to, among other things, First Amendment training and body cameras for those same departments. And he was also part of a landmark civil rights lawsuit that established the right to record police in the Tenth Federal Circuit. But Eric has also faced legal challenges. He pled guilty to threatening three federal judges and was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2021. Now, lately, due to his good behavior, Eric was set up to be transferred to a halfway house, literally his last stop on his way to freedom, but then law enforcement stopped back. And for more on the rest of the story, I will turn to Stephen, who’s been looking into breaking developments regarding Eric. Stephen, can you share some of what you’ve learned with us?

Stephen:

Yeah, just recently over the summer, it’s interesting, a federal grand jury in Louisiana in the Southern District of Louisiana indicted Eric on account of harassment, interstate harassment. In other words, calling and harassing a law enforcement officer from Colorado to Louisiana. What was really questionable about this entire ordeal is the fact that he was indicted when he was pretty much ready to be released from his current situation in Colorado where he was going to be transferred to a halfway house. He’d already been put in a minimum security prison. And this indictment occurred over the summer, and then they just issued a writ of habeas corpus for it. They did not lay out what the charges were, like what particular incident.

There is a video we found where James Freeman was being harassed in a park when he had camped there with his children by a park ranger. And Eric had called and supposedly, allegedly, and we’ll say allegedly at this point, made some threats. But it really is a questionable and curious timing because of how Eric… He’d been serving out a twelve-year sentence for threatening three judges in Denver and had had such good behavior that he was on the precipice of having some freedom at that point.

And so it seems that some of the people he spoke to, like Abidy, Liberty Freak, feels like this was time to keep Eric in prison because the case, the incident date, goes back to 2019, in the summer of 2019, so this case is almost five years old. So the question is, why is this happening? It happened. They charge him right within the statute of limitations, the charges themselves, there’s one charge, there’s one count, can add another five years to Eric’s sentence. So, it really is a very difficult situation. And I think you’re going to talk a little bit about what happened when he finally ended up in prison down in Louisiana.

Taya:

Yes. Before I go on and share something from Eric, I wanted to say hello to Manuel Mata. He’s a copwatcher that we’re very fortunate to have with us. Manuel was going to turn himself in, but fortunately, they gave him time served, and maybe Manuel will be able to share a little bit more about what happened. We were very worried that he was going to be incarcerated for 180 days. So, we want to welcome Manuel Mata.

Stephen:

Yeah, welcome.

Taya:

Welcome back. And also of course to say hi to HBO Matt out there. Good to see you.

Stephen:

Oh, HBO Matt.

Taya:

Yeah, he’s out there.

Stephen:

Is he driving somewhere, or is he…

Taya:

Almost every time I’ve spoken to HBO Matt, he’s been in a car.

Stephen:

Every time you talk to that man, he’s driving.

Taya:

Seriously, he’s driving.

Stephen:

Pretty amazing.

Taya:

Yeah. So I’m going to share something now. I think it’s pretty obvious that in our prison happy society, we often forget how much of a toll incarceration can take on someone.

Stephen:

Absolutely.

Taya:

And this is particularly true for Eric, who as I said, through good behavior, had earned a degree of autonomy. And all of this was taken away when he was transferred to a state facility in Louisiana. So first, I want to read a letter from Eric describing the conditions in jail. And I want to thank, you Lacy R, for providing us this letter to share.

Stephen:

Yes, thank you Lacy.

Taya:

“In one word, this is horrid. I’m in my place now, it’s awful. There are 76 bunks stacked close in a big open room, just like Auschwitz concentration camp. The toilets are open along the wall, no privacy, showers the same. No curtain, no library, no books, no physical mail. It’s all scanned to the kiosk computer. In fact, the Monroe address is the right one. They scan it there. No law library. I’m literally the only white guy on my pod. For the first time in my life, I was deloused. It was mandatory. I guess that’s an issue here. They do not even provide underwear or socks. We have to buy them from the commissary. Can you believe that? Tablets suck, and cost is $1 per hour to use. Oh my God, Lacy, six months to two years, I am officially in hell. I might plead guilty just to get out of here. I’ll call you in a bit. Love from the Gulag. Vladimir Putin would be proud.”

Stephen:

Wow.

Taya:

That’s pretty powerful. Sounds terrible conditions. That’s St. Tammany Parish Jail I believe he was calling from. I mean writing from, excuse me.

Stephen:

Right. One of the things, we have this presumption of innocence, but when you’re put in basically a torture chamber, the presumption of innocence just literally evaporates. Because, as Eric said in his own letter, he’s like, “I’m going to plead guilty just to get out of here.” And I think that pretty much undermines the idea of justice, particularly in his case. And in many cases, he’s not the only person who suffers this way in prison. And I think prison is probably an important component of undermining the idea of presumption of innocence and the fact that you can fight back against the system of justice because if you are incarcerated like that already in what sounds like unbearable conditions…

Taya:

Absolutely.

Stephen:

… we see here why so many people plead guilty, and don’t really have the right to a trial. And the idea that you have a right to a trial is ephemeral when you’re sitting in jail like that. That is a very deserving-

Taya:

Something that I think is beyond anecdotal evidence is that prosecutors often stack charges in the hopes that you will plead guilty, prosecutors do want to win cases. And I’ve heard, and this is somewhat anecdotal evidence, but that people get punished if they try to take it to trial. If they fight for their innocence, then they’re doubly punished when it comes to sentencing if they dare do that.

Stephen:

This is my question, and this is an important question about this. Why five years later do they bring these charges? This is not a complicated case.

Taya:

Yes. This was a 2019 incident.

Stephen:

So if you’re investigating a murder or some sort of complex case with all sorts of trails of evidence, that’s not the case with this. This was a single phone call as far as we know. Now, we don’t know all the details of the case.

Taya:

We don’t know all of them.

Stephen:

But from what we know, it was one or two phone calls and some joking behavior by Eric because there’s that aspect of him. But why five years? Why did it take five years to investigate a phone call? And that’s what raises really troubling questions about this because Eric has spent a lot of time in prison. He has certainly done what everyone would want, someone who has to in some way make amends for his behavior if you judge it to be wrong. And he obviously, there’s a lot of discussion about that. But why, five years later, does Louisiana, does the federal system, suddenly indict this man, drag him out of Colorado down there, and put him in what would be abject conditions?

Taya:

Absolutely.

Stephen:

It does seem rather strange to me. It doesn’t seem like a case that would’ve taken five years to bring to trial.

Taya:

And in our conversations with Eric, because we’ve stayed in touch with him, he was working with some of the other inmates to create care packages and Thanksgiving for people. They were doing work for people outside of the prison. He started a men’s group. They were doing positive things.

Stephen:

I don’t want to necessarily have an opinion on this, but I think Eric has served his time at this point. If you agree that Eric’s behavior was wrong, he has served his time. To bring this up now, five years later, is to me, very questionable.

Taya:

Yes. And yes, Cajun Randy, he was in St. Tammany, and now he’s in Plaquemines. Yes.

Stephen:

Yeah, Plaquemines.

Taya:

We were also speaking to Eric from jail, as we mentioned earlier, and we asked him if there was anything he wanted to say to everyone. So, we’re going to play that clip now. Remember, we had been on the phone with him for 15 minutes, so we only had a few moments left, but I said, “Is there anything you want to say to people?” So maybe we can play that clip now.

So, Stephen, I think Eric is a perfect example of both the benefits and pitfalls of cop-watching. But he’s also a unique character too, someone who had his own style, someone one could say was unorthodox, but he was also ingenious in the way he approached the process of YouTube activism. And that’s another part of YouTube journalism that I have grown to understand and embrace. It is completely creative.

Stephen:

Absolutely.

Taya:

We make the rules, so to speak. And I understand this from my own experience. And Stephen, I know when we were developing the show, it was both an organic process, but also collaborative. We took so many suggestions and ideas from you folks out there, like you Noli D, and translated them into reality. Stephen, it was almost like inventing a new form of journalism, and not to give ourselves too much credit, but…

Stephen:

Here’s the thing. This is very important to remember. We talk a lot about David Graeber, the noted anthropologist, and he always said that a bureaucracy of violence causes a dead zone of imagination. So, how do you respond to that in journalism? With journalism, you have to be creative. And that means that you have to turn on the creative juices to make it work. You can’t hold police accountable through the normal standard practices of journalism. When we were creating the Police Accountability Report, we had to turn everything on its head and say, “Look, we can’t approach this. We’re talking about a huge, massive, indifferent bureaucracy that really in places where it takes root, places like our own city, we see how it affects the psychology of the community.” And in that case, we had to respond in kind.

We had to be where we create this so-called Dead Zone, as David Graeber said, we had to create a zone of creativity where we take a show and formulate it and say, “We’re not going to do the traditional journalism. I’m going to stand outside like a real…” Well, what am I going to say? I’m going to stand outside a lot, and I’m going to develop a persona around that. You are going to have your rants where you provide context, but also emotion because this is emotional for people. A lot of people love Eric. And it’s not just a simple thing we’re just reporting. We are engaged to the point where we feel the emotion, people. And I think one of my favorite things about the show is your rant at the end, which you’ll be doing today, which you have a great one coming up.

Taya:

Thank you.

Stephen:

Which no other person I ever know in journalists can do the way you do it, but you connect to the emotions of this problem. The people that we talk to, like Eric, their lives are turned upside down. And let’s remember that Eric started his protests against the mistreatment of homeless people in Denver.

Taya:

Yes.

Stephen:

So, we’ve responded in a way that I think we match. We want to be more creative than the people that are doing the bad deeds and the bad governance. Bad governance makes you less creative, but we’re going to be more creative. And that’s where this show came from, was like a fountain of creativity between me and you, and our audience, and Noli D and Lacy R, and Tom, and Laura, and people, all these people. Eric, Otto…

Taya:

And all the people that we met along the way, Otto, and Blind Justice, and so many others.

Stephen:

It’s a tradition in all movements of social justice to be more creative and to think of ways and new ways to fight power that is entrenched, and otherwise, it’s anti-creative. There’s nothing more anti-creative than policing in America the way it’s constituted. And in many ways, it seems to respond to complex social problems with simplified forms of bureaucratic violence. Well, we responded to that, and that’s where the Police Accountability Report came from.

Taya:

And I think that’s actually a perfect segue as I’m putting up some little comments up here.

Stephen:

Cool.

Taya:

A perfect segue to start rolling out our guests.

Stephen:

Please do.

Taya:

And I am so excited about this particular group because, as I said before, they are collection of independent YouTube activists, copwatchers, First Amendment activists, or whatever you want to call those who have simply made a difference, and not just a difference in my life or our show, but the people they have helped by telling their stories. Stephen, we often describe our show as the reverse cops.

Stephen:

Yes.

Taya:

And I’m sure you all know that that’s the infamous Fox show that tells of American law enforcement’s absolute fixation on the working class from the perspective of cops exclusively. And I would say we try to do the opposite. And I would say all our guests do the opposite. They center the victim, not turn people into victims like a show like COPS does.

But let’s get started with our first guest and just one more housekeeping note, our hope for this, our hope for our celebration of our fifth year, we’re going to thank all of our patrons at the end, patrons past, present, and future, we’re going to thank them all, and I hope you’ll bear with me, to hear me thank you personally at the end.

Now, we are going to stick to five questions per guest to make sure that they’re not trapped with us till one o’clock in the morning East Coast time. So we’re going to start, I hope you’re ready, and if you have questions, I will try to bring up one for the guest. I won’t be able to bring up a question for every single person in the chat, but I’ll at least try to get one for the guest. Okay. So first up is the most eclectic, an idiosyncratic YouTuber out there who has used humor as a tool and absurdity as a trope. His name is Otto The Watchdog and his battles with Royse Texas Police Department are truly epic. Take a look at this confrontation with Royse Texas Police.

Stephen:

You okay?

So, that’s a totally lapsed time, right? Okay…

PART 1 OF 5 ENDS [00:29:04]

Taya:

Okay. I’m not going to lie.

Stephen:

That is one of my favorite clips of a cop watcher.

Taya:

It’s a [inaudible 00:29:20] weird because I laugh every single time I watch that clip. I’m sorry.

Stephen:

It’s so understandable.

Taya:

Seriously, when he starts kowtowing to the police, it’s just that one police officer literally looks like he doesn’t know what to do, and he kind of like wanders away from Otto.

Stephen:

The thing about that clip to me that’s really interesting is Otto is really laying out the absurdity of police control over our space, how they try to police our geography. And he’s just showing them how literally absurd they are. And the funny thing is the way they reacted, they don’t know how to handle it. They don’t understand what’s being communicated. But I don’t want to go into that. I can talk about this for hours. Let’s get to Otto because-

Taya:

Right. So one of the reasons why we’re having him go first is that he also happens to be a good friend of Eric Brant. So we wanted to welcome Otto. Thank you so much for joining us.

Otto:

Hey, I’m happy to be here. Thank you.

Taya:

It’s great to see you. Now, I’m sorry to start on a somewhat sad note, but first we’d like to know your thoughts on Eric’s recent charges and whether or not the timing concerns you.

Otto:

Oh, the timing, yeah, that’s concerning. I think, like you said, the original phone call was like 2019, and here we are just now getting the charges, so they can file a charge and then just sit on it, so the statute of limitations doesn’t… Once they file it, the statute of limitations stops, and they can bring it up pretty much whenever they want to. And yeah, he was about to go in for a parole hearing and this guy is basically the mayor of the jail at this point.

Stephen:

Wow.

Otto:

So he had a really good chance of getting out. He was already in the process of relinquishing his authority within the inmate administration of the jail that he was in. So that’s pretty disheartening and it should be terrifying to everybody.

Stephen:

Yeah. Otto, I was wondering, I mean, Eric is resilient. I mean, we all know, he’s like one of the most resilient people I’ve ever met. But how do you think this is affecting him? Are you worried about him at all? I’m just wondering.

Otto:

Eric is pretty, he’s a tough guy and he’s been through a lot of stuff just like everybody else has, but everyone does have a breaking point. And if you don’t believe that you have one, just most people will get a speeding ticket and they will go and they’re like, “Oh, I’m going to fight it.” And then they find out that their court case was rescheduled and they end up just paying the ticket, because it’s too much of an inconvenience at that point. Okay? So if you’re willing to give up something that you know is wrong over a ticket, a small thing like that, eventually you will get beaten down. And that’s pretty much the goal. It’s not a bug of the system, it is in fact the goal of the system. That’s the whole point.

Taya:

Someone in the chat asked about you whether or not some of the cases that you had were resolved and if things had been resolved in relation to some of the difficulties the police had caused for you and your family. So maybe you could just give us an update on the status of your lawsuits against the police, who continued to pursue cases against you. Can you let us know if they’ve been dropped? Just give us an update.

Otto:

Yeah. If you were following my story, I was arrested a lot, a lot. I had a lot of charges. And for somebody who was arrested a lot and had a lot of charges, I have no convictions. Everything was dismissed. Of course, there’s always threats of imprisonment and plea deals and all of this and that. And like Eric said, he was thinking about pleading guilty just to make it stop. Well, that actually doesn’t work. You think it does, and then they slam you with something else, and that’s after, they can do enough things to you that you’ll want to plead guilty. And the hardest thing for an innocent person to do is to not take an easy way out and make a plea. Because they will make it sweet. But I have no convictions and all the lawsuits that I filed were successful, and we have settled out of court on all of my lawsuits against Rockwall, specifically. Some of my cases, the officers were entitled to qualified immunity, which we absolutely should overturn, because you and I would not be entitled to not knowing. You know what I mean?

Stephen:

Yeah. I mean that was in the fifth circuit and that they’re pretty pro-police. Well, let me ask you a question because what do you think the status of cop watching is now? Because you had to go through a lot of arrests and then you kind of turned to cop watching as a way to put it back on them. But where does that leave cop watching? I mean, we’ve reported on a lot of places where they are trying different types of arresting for ridiculous things like corners news, arresting for organized crime. Where does cop watching stand now in terms of what police are doing to fight against it?

Otto:

So they’re passing a lot of laws, trying to make active cop watching, following traffic stops as dangerous as possible without making it illegal. So now they’re putting distance requirements and things of that sort. So some of them are 10 feet as a guide and some of them are 10 feet as rule. And now Florida, I hear it once 25 feet, nobody’s carrying around a tape measure, so it’s all kind of subjective, right?

Stephen:

Right.

Otto:

And then it’s, “Hey, fight it in court.” And as we go back to my previous statement about getting a hundred dollars ticket, then it’s like, “Okay, well I’m just going to plead guilty to it because it’s easy enough to get out of this endless torment.” So they’re trying-

Stephen:

That subjective part really scares me.

Otto:

Everything’s subjective, Stephen, everything’s subjective.

Stephen:

True, true.

Otto:

If you’ve watched even five minutes of any one of these people that you’re going to have on your show today’s channel, you’ll know that you can be the most dangerous thing that the police can find in your car is that you’re innocent. That’s guaranteeing that you’re going to get a ticket. You know what I mean? You’re going to jail, buddy.

Taya:

Very well said. Very well said. You know what, I have a question for you, but first I just have to shout out, we’ve got some great cop watchers down here showing some love and support for the other cop watchers. Guess who’s down there.

Stephen:

Who?

Taya:

Munkay 83.

Stephen:

Oh.

Taya:

Munkay 83. Somebody down there, I think they said, “[inaudible 00:36:20] is not the same without you.” I think we might even have Joe Cool down there.

Stephen:

Joe Cool is legendary.

Taya:

Legend. So just shouting out some of the great people down there. And I think I saw Lady Liberty Press as well.

Stephen:

Oh. Awesome.

Taya:

Just wanted to make sure to say hello to you kind folks. You see some cop watchers in there, you might want to find out more about what they do in the live chat. You might want to go follow them and click on their channel after we’re done. But before I go any further about some of the wonderful things in the chat, Otto, I have to ask you a question that may seem kind of serious, but I was kind of wondering, after all you’ve been through fighting back against police and it’s really they were nuisance charges, but they made your life miserable, making you drive all the way across country to go to court and just putting all the stress in your life and the cost of money. So I’m just asking, was it worth it? Was this fight to hold police accountable worth it?

Stephen:

That’s a great question.

Otto:

Oh, that’s a loaded question. Was it worth it? Was it worth it to me personally as an individual? No. Absolutely not. I would not recommend anybody to go through that intentionally on purpose for yourself. But I do think, and as ridiculous as this might sound, I do think it was worth it for you. And for my kids eventually one day, I think it’ll be worth it to them. We don’t lose our freedoms in one fell swoop. We lose them in tiny little increments.

Apparently we’re losing them about 10 feet at a time. And Florida just made it 15. So eventually it will be 50, and then it will be a hundred, and then it’ll be audio recordings are not allowed, and they’re going continue put restrictions on it. And I know that not because I’m Nostradamus or have a special book or a Magic 8-ball, because that’s what they do with every single thing else, we’re going to limit just a little bit. And then before you know it, you can literally, no shit, you can go to federal prison for the rest of your life over some things you bought on Amazon.

Taya:

That’s incredible.

Stephen:

[inaudible 00:38:37].

Otto:

Some things you buy on Amazon.

Stephen:

Otto, was Nostradamus, was he a cop watcher?

Taya:

16th century.

Otto:

Yes.

Stephen:

Oh, he was?

Otto:

Yeah. I mean, he-

Stephen:

I just wasn’t sure.

Otto:

He rubbed the government wrong. And that’s a common theme.

Stephen:

Nostradamus would’ve made a hell of a cop watcher. Just saying.

Taya:

Well, Otto-

Otto:

Well, generally, actually, we are kind lucky to be able to do what we’re doing-

Stephen:

True.

Otto:

… with as much as we’ve gone through individually and as a group, we are kind of lucky that at least we’re not actively being shot every day on the street, but a lot of men did get shot in the street so that we could do this. And if we don’t continue to stand up and push back against the encroachments, then we’re not going to have the ability at all.

Stephen:

I think that’s great.

Taya:

Otto, I think you’re absolutely right, and like you, I would never suggest to someone that they put their freedom on the line like that, especially if they have family that they’re concerned about. But I understand how important it is to stand up for your rights. And there’s a certain point where if we don’t make the individual decision to stand up, no one else is going to do it for us. So I’m really, it’s amazing that you led by example in that way.

Stephen:

Let me say this, Otto, we appreciate and we are grateful that we’ve been able to cover you and allow us to tell your story. So we want to thank you for that.

Taya:

Thank you. We do.

Stephen:

Because that is a wonderful thing that you’ve been willing to share all of this, so people can understand what’s at stake and why it’s important. And without your story and other people’s stories, we would not be able to tell that story. So I just want to say thank you as a reporter. I appreciate it.

Otto:

Hey, I want to say thank you guys for everything you do, for telling the stories, because if nobody tells the stories, then there was no story to have.

Taya:

They’re very true. And I think finally some of the folks in the mainstream media have realized that cop watchers exist. So that’s a nice change of pace. We were a little ahead of the curve, maybe by five years.

Stephen:

Five years.

Taya:

About five years, we were a little ahead of the curve.

Stephen:

That’s why we’re here. That’s what we’re here for.

Otto:

For sure.

Stephen:

[inaudible 00:40:53].

Otto:

In the [inaudible 00:40:55] of things, cop watchers won because now everybody, the first thing that happens is everybody pulls out their phone.

Stephen:

Very true.

Taya:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Otto:

We won.

Stephen:

Without fear.

Taya:

Beautiful.

Otto:

Without fear, right. Everybody knows their IDs now. Y’all have to show you my ID. Everybody knows to record their traffic stops.

Taya:

Yes.

Otto:

Everybody knows what to do with it, and the cops do too, right? We’re going to record that shit and put it on TikTok or YouTube.

Taya:

Beautiful. And what a perfect and inspiring way to end your segment, Otto, I wish we could keep you on this whole time, but we have some other awesome people waiting in the wings, so I just want to thank you for joining us-

Stephen:

Thank you, Otto.

Taya:

… for our fifth year anniversary, and just we appreciate you so much, Otto.

Stephen:

Thank you. Thank you.

Otto:

You have a good one.

Stephen:

You too.

Taya:

Take care.

You know what, that was Otto. Fascinating and really insightful as always.

Stephen:

Yeah. As always. He’s great guest.

Taya:

Now our next guest truly needs no introduction. As I said before, he has built one of the largest cop watcher channels, reporting on police abuse across the country, and he has done it with his own distinct style and voice. And his videos get millions of views. You might recognize him. Take a look.

Stephen:

Oh. Sorry, sorry. Thank you.

Taya:

Don’t forget to check that screen to make sure you’re not on it before you.

Stephen:

Yes. Okay.

How’s the chat?

Taya:

Looking good.

Stephen:

Do we call him Dale? Do we call him Dale?

Taya:

I’ll ask. So without further ado, we would like to welcome LackLuster to the channel. LackLuster, thank you for joining us. Should we call you Dale or should we call you LackLuster? How should we-

Dale:

Either way is fine.

Taya:

Either way is fine.

Stephen:

Wait, I just have to ask you, did you sample that body camera sound, the [inaudible 00:43:53]?

Dale:

Yeah. Actually it’s probably one of the worst samples I could have picked up.

Stephen:

That is brilliant.

Dale:

I know Stephen loves that.

Stephen:

As someone who’s watched a lot of body camera footage, when I heard it, I was like, I know that sound, that sound. I wonder-

Dale:

Every commercial has a little jingle or something like [inaudible 00:44:10] at the end, [inaudible 00:44:11] the body cam was pretty distinct.

Stephen:

Is that meant to tell cops that they’re on camera? Is it to remind them or why did the body camera have that? I don’t even know.

Dale:

As far as I know, I am not a hundred percent sure, but as far as I know, yes, it’s just a reminder in case they forget to leave it on, [inaudible 00:44:31] turn it off.

Taya:

I was going to say something a little saucy, but I’ll keep that to myself. So first I’m just curious from your perspective, are police changing their behavior or are you getting just as many calls for help as before? What are you seeing?

Dale:

Yeah, it is kind of difficult. I’ve personally seen a large shift in the behavior of various law enforcement agencies across the country. I’ve had insurance companies that represent those companies reach out to me for tips on how to keep their guys out of the litigation. Things like that are happening, but it’s one of those occupations where there’s a high rate of attrition, so people are always coming in, getting kicked out or just bouncing around to different departments. So I think we’re always going to see new people that don’t understand what’s really happening out there. And unfortunately, most of these new guys are 20-year-olds and nothing, no offense to any of the audience out there that’s still very young, but when you’re 20, you don’t know shit. Excuse me-

Stephen:

Good point.

Dale:

… and then you have all this responsibility and power, and that corrupts the best of [inaudible 00:46:01] and I know I certainly wasn’t at my best in my 20s, so.

Taya:

Neither side of [inaudible 00:46:08]-

Stephen:

I kind of wonder if you’re driving you pulled over and you say, “Well, if you do something wrong, you’re going to be on LackLuster channel.” Do you think cops are aware of it now, where they’re like, “Oh God, I don’t want to end up on LackLuster channel”? I mean, because you’ve gotten so big.

Taya:

Seriously.

Stephen:

Do you think there’s behavioral adjustments going on out in the field because of what you’re doing?

Taya:

I know, I hope there are.

Stephen:

I think so.

Dale:

Yeah. There’s a couple of videos on the channel where people have made mention of the channel like, “Hey, this is going to end up on LackLuster,” so that’s [inaudible 00:46:38]-

Taya:

That’s awesome.

Dale:

… fun for me, of course. But I don’t know if it’s going to affect any. It might even make them worse, might make them perform for the camera, if you will.

Stephen:

Well, you say people would shout “World Star” before they do a video, now-

Taya:

Oh, that’s right.

Stephen:

… like if a cop comes, I’m just going to shout, LackLuster.

Taya:

LackLuster.

Dale:

[inaudible 00:46:58].

Stephen:

Just a thought.

Taya:

Oh my Gosh.

Dale:

We also see too. I’ve never asked my audience to do anything with their time. Well, maybe to speak their mind or something like that, but never anything specific, never any direction on where to go with, where to speak their mind. But I do post Facebook links in the description of my videos and Twitter sometimes if they have it. And I’ll see often in those comment sections, they’ll say, “You got LackLuster,” because they’re just [inaudible 00:47:35].

Taya:

That’s excellent.

Stephen:

That’s cool.

Taya:

That’s so excellent. Something I wanted to ask you about that I saw is this project that you seem to be working on, I think it’s with Long Island Audit. It seems like you’re trying to give people a way to literally have a lawyer in their pocket. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Dale:

Yeah, sure. Attorney Shield, it’s up, it’s running. It’s on iOS and Android.

Taya:

That’s great.

Dale:

We kind of did a little soft rollout because apps are extremely difficult to build and we’re not using any APIs at all. We built all the software, I mean, I had nothing to do with building a software. I don’t know how to do any of that. But we’re making everything our own, so that when we need to do something, nobody can shut us down first off, that’s number one. Amazon can’t shut us down or whoever else. Nobody can shut us down. And anytime we want to build, we know the code inside and out. So that’s great. But with that, that makes it a lot harder to build.

So we did kind of like a quiet, soft launch. So the people watching right now obviously will know that it’s actually up and running. But we’re waiting. And we’ve had a few interactions. Some have gone very well, some have not. And not like they’ve gone bad for the person because they’re using the app or anything, but we’re working with some of them. Most of them want to remain anonymous because that’s most people don’t want to be on the internet. But hopefully we’ll be able to share some of those interactions pretty soon and show you guys how the app works, because it’s pretty awesome if you ask me.

Taya:

Oh, you know what, I just have one more question before, I know you want to jump in, but I have one more question for you, Dale. So this is something that we discussed prior to the show, but you were telling me that people are already using AI to duplicate your work. Can you just talk a little bit about that and what you’re doing to fight back? Because there’s so many different ways that AI is going to be affecting the future of people who are trying to put out content, whether you’re a cop watcher or any other type of content creator. But I think it’s especially dangerous for cop watcher.

And one of the things I’ve noticed is that there’ve been some body camera channels that have popped up, and I’ll say allegedly, or one could say that they look like they are fed directly by police departments as a form of propaganda to kind of counter the narrative that we’re seeing when people actually hold their cell phones up and have real life encounters with police. So it does seem like they might be somewhat cherry-picking these encounters. So I just want to know how you’re handling AI, how it makes you feel, what you’re trying to do to fight back, anything along those lines.

Dale:

Sure. Well, the biggest push I’ve seen so far, it isn’t necessarily AI all the way. I’m seeing a big push from foreign countries blasting out YouTube channels with police interactions. And a lot of times they’re just taking my video, my script. They’re transcribing my script and running it through an AI voice, and then running basically somebody else’s voice over my editing and blurring out my logos. So that’s all over the internet, and there’s very little I can do about it. I can copyright strike it, but I’m still a one-man team, I have no employees. I need an editor, but it would be a full-time job to try to track down all the people doing this. But my biggest concern with it isn’t really for me or the channel because the channel’s going to be fine.

Stephen:

Okay. Sorry.

Dale:

My biggest concern is that the channels that are doing this aren’t even from the United States. So they really have no stake in the game. They don’t care what happens to the victims. They don’t care what happens with the police forces. I mean, maybe they might in some relative way or something, but because they’re not living in America, they don’t care. It doesn’t affect them. They’re for money. It’s a pure grift, a hundred percent. And that’s kind of bothersome because I think my work has, I don’t know, terminated, suspended dozens and dozens of cops, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through GoFundMe for victims, things like that. That’s something you’ll never see from the foreign agencies making these videos. So I don’t know. It’s interesting.

Stephen:

Speaking of that, and that is absolutely terrifying and distressing that foreign countries are using this to some sort of entertainment fodder to get YouTube revenue basically, I’m assuming. But where do you see cop watching now as a practice and art form, whatever, where do you see it headed at this point and what’s happening to it? Where do you see it now?

Dale:

I don’t know. It could be very interesting. We got Trump talking about pushing more qualified immunity and getting rid of… I think he said something about people filming the cops recently, and I can’t recall it.

Stephen:

Really, he specifically. Wow.

Dale:

I know he said something about qualified immunity and making it, increasing it.

Stephen:

That’s true. That’s true.

Dale:

Yeah. I think it’ll be very interesting. We live in unprecedented times. This is truly an amazing period that we get to live through. And I don’t know, I mean, AI could ruin everything we’ve worked for or it could-

Taya:

So true.

Dale:

… make it 10 times better depending on who’s working on it and [inaudible 00:53:41] working on it. So it’ll be very interesting to see.

Stephen:

It’s a weird thing to think about because 10 years ago, you probably couldn’t have done what you’ve done and had the impact and the influence that you had. That’s been a benefit of algorithm [inaudible 00:53:53] technology. But then on the other hand, AI is a really sort of treacherous path there, and it might not be the same thing. It’s weird to think about in that sense.

Taya:

Actually, I’ve been spending every other night working on this piece that I’ve been writing and writing and writing about my experience at this journalism conference when I said, “Oh, why don’t you try all these wonderful AI tools?” And so I’m looking at these AI tools and I’m like, well, some of them are interesting, but some of the ones that I was being given for free, I was like, wait a second. They just want to learn how my brain works. They just want to learn what I know so that they can replace me so that a newsroom that would normally have a hundred people in it now are only going to have 15 miserable souls running around in circles, prompting the AI and trying to find out whether or not the latest social media video is a deep fake or not. And it’s just going to be like a hamster wheel nightmare.

So my concern isn’t that AI couldn’t be used for good and couldn’t be used to benefit creators. But if I know anything about the current system that we’re in, those with immense wealth, these technocrats are going to grab ahold of it and they’re going to use it to extract even more wealth from us, even more wealth from our society. These technocrats already ignore legal norms. They already exploit the working class, and it’s actually going to diminish the power that we have as laborers to come together. I’m actually a union steward, so if you eliminate all the laborers, then we don’t have any power against these folks, against these corporations. And so what I’ve noticed is what they’re most likely going to do is use it to replace human beings and to make labor as cheap as possible. And there’s just going to be a wide swath of people that are losing their jobs all over the place. Because what I’ve noticed with AI is that it’s replacing the things we love to do. Stephen loves making music. No comment on his music. He loves making-

Stephen:

That was [inaudible 00:55:48].

Taya:

It was a great song.

Stephen:

Thank you.

Taya:

He loves making music.

Stephen:

[inaudible 00:55:51].

Taya:

He loves writing. I like writing. We like making videos. I love doing voiceover work. I love doing narration. That’s all stuff that’s being replaced by AI. People who do art, hand drawing things, come up with cool styles, that stuff, the computers are doing all the stuff we actually like doing. Even actors, the people who are doing the behind the… They’re the ones in the background. People who spend like 20 years like playing zombies in the background of the movie because they love doing it-

Stephen:

You’re worried about zombies now, you bring zombies in this.

Taya:

I’m worried about the zombie actors, Steven.

Stephen:

Okay. Ask him the question.

Taya:

I think I started ranting.

Stephen:

Yeah. This is not the rant part. This is the part where you ask our guest questions so they can-

Dale:

No, it’s [inaudible 00:56:32].

Taya:

I’m sorry. The question is, Dale, do you see a horrifying dystopian future where we’re all going to have to ask the-

Stephen:

It’s very loaded question. That is not an objective question.

Dale:

No, absolutely. I don’t know if you guys watch what Nvidia puts out. They make all the microchips and GPUs and all that fun stuff, but technology advances. They used to say anyway a thousand times per year, and now he’s saying the CEO of Nvidia saying with whatever they just created, that it’s going to be more like a million times per year.

Stephen:

Moore’s law. Moore’s Law used to be the capacity-

Taya:

Oh, yeah. That’s right.

Stephen:

… of a chip with double every two years. And now, yeah, can you be more exponential? I think it is more exponential, yeah.

Taya:

Yeah. It’s absolutely horrifying. Can you say one last thing about AI?

Stephen:

No.

Taya:

Please.

Dale:

Yeah.

Stephen:

Yeah. That’s Dale. He’s the guest. He’s gonna-

Taya:

Dale, may I say one last thing about AI please?

Dale:

Absolutely.

Taya:

Okay. So what I’m concerned about is my one hope was that this AI was going to be self-limiting because at a certain point, there’s just not going to be enough energy and not enough storage for all this AI to work. And that’s why it worries me that former CEO or current CEO Sam Altman is walking around hat in hand to all these petrol companies to make sure that there’s going to be an endless supply of energy for AI. So the one hope that it might be self-limiting, he’s absolutely trying to destroy, despite the fact that he had gone on record saying, “Gee, I’m kind of worried what we might’ve unleashed out of Pandora’s box.” And then he goes around and he’s like, “Let’s make sure it can never be turned off.”

PART 2 OF 5 ENDS [00:58:04]

Taya:

… Pandora’s box, and then he goes around and he’s like, “Let’s make sure it can never be turned off.” He’s trying to build Skynet, as far as I’m concerned. Okay. Last thing I’ll say about it>

Stephen:

Well, and we talked about this with my editor. Dale, do you think RoboCop is the next step on policing? Are one day we going to get pulled over by a robot, and you’re going to have to turn your channel into a RoboCop channel, I guess?

Dale:

Yeah, absolutely. LAPD is already working on some robot that deploys from a police cruiser, and comes to your window, and then connects through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, or whatever. You don’t even go face to face with a human anymore. You’ll be a little R2D2 thing, and a screen.

Stephen:

That’s just-

Dale:

Probably, it’s supposed to be a human on the other side, but-

Taya:

Oh, my God.

Dale:

… how long that lasts.

Stephen:

Wow.

Taya:

I think in New York they were getting the robot AI dogs, and then they had something that looked like a little trash can.

Stephen:

Right. Dale, thank you

Taya:

Dale, I have been given the signal that I definitely should let some of our other guests come on, and I need to stop talking about AI.

Dale:

Yeah, sorry to the production team. I was clicking buttons, and I didn’t know what some of them did, and I think I-

Taya:

You popped up a two-cipher. It’s all good. We were happy to see you.

Stephen:

Yep.

Dale:

All right.

Stephen:

Dale, thank you so much-

Taya:

Thank you so much for joining us.

Stephen:

… and congratulations on all your amazing work and-

Taya:

We love it.

Stephen:

… the success of your channel. It’s inspiring, to say the least.

Taya:

Absolutely. Thank you for what you do to help educate people. Because you do a terrific job-

Stephen:

You do.

Taya:

… adding the law to it. A lot of people, myself included, don’t realize the legality, some of the finer points of these police stops. You’re really helping educated people, me included, so thank you.

Stephen:

Thank you, and thank you for coming on.

Dale:

[inaudible 00:59:37] time, I appreciate it.

Taya:

All right, you take care.

Stephen:

Take care.

Taya:

Wow. I’m so glad we got to talk to him. We’re about to have someone very special coming up.

Stephen:

Mm-hmm.

Taya:

We’re about to be joined by a true original, a man, whose blend of satire, critique, and sometimes even absurd antics, makes him an impossible act to imitate. Take a look. Whoops. I did not need to put that up there. This man is a committed, independent journalist, who’s recently focused on the courts, to expand his efforts to hold police accountable. I’m, of course, talking about the man, the myth, the legend, James Freeman. James, thank you so much for joining us.

Stephen:

Thank you, James.

James Freeman:

Oh, I had it muted. Sorry. Hey guys, thanks for having me on the show.

Stephen:

I mean, those are such fascinating videos you do-

Taya:

Yes.

Stephen:

… because it exposes the absurdity of how police control space. Every time I watch them, I learn something new about them.

Taya:

I love it.

Stephen:

Just because when you juxtapose those roles, it reveals how those rules really operate on us, in ways psychologically we don’t think about. Every time I watch them, I’m like, “Wow, this is really like… this should be… I once read a book about 20th century theory of police power. James has actually explained it in a better way than reading a 200-page book. I just should have watched your videos, instead of reading certain things.” It really, it’s pretty phenomenal.

Taya:

I completely agree.

James Freeman:

Thank you.

Stephen:

Yeah.

Taya:

James, first to start off on something a little less fun first, I wanted to get your reaction to Eric’s latest indictment. I know you know him well, you’re friends. If you don’t mind sharing with us what your reaction is.

James Freeman:

It’s sad, it’s disappointing. Honestly, I still continue to get shocked by these people. I continually say, “I think I’ve seen everything.” This is what we can expect from them though, they’re terrorists, and that’s what they do is they terrorize people. Especially people like Eric Grant, he is still a very strong voice, whether he’s outside of the cage, or inside of the cage. Like you guys talked about, he’s been very successful at continuing to help other people, while he’s in. Eric has never been a threat to anybody. The reason that he’s in jail is because he allegedly made threats, allegedly made threats of violence. Eric isn’t dangerous, because he would violently attack someone. Eric is dangerous to the government, because he tells the truth, and he shows the truth.

Taya:

Well said.

James Freeman:

There’s nothing more dangerous than that, to them.

Stephen:

You make a really good point, because allegedly Eric was in Colorado when he is making these threats. But again, I want to ask this question again, because this is a very important question. Does the timing of this indictment-

Taya:

Yes.

Stephen:

… raise any questions for you?

James Freeman:

It looks like they had it planned all along.

Taya:

Wow.

James Freeman:

I mean, he was about to get out, and they knew it. That’s, again, this is sadistic. This is plotted out. I guess we would call it premeditated even. I don’t see it as shock. I mean, they continue to shock me actually.

Stephen:

Wow.

James Freeman:

I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all. I think they had it all planned out and said, “You know what? Let’s get him to where he’s got a glimpse of hope, and then let’s crush him.”

Stephen:

That’s really-

Taya:

Absolutely. First, let me just say thank you to some of the new subscribers we see here, and some of the great live chat donations. We really appreciate those super chats.

Stephen:

Absolutely.

Taya:

Hi to Matter of Rights, who’s one of my Patreons. We appreciate our Patreons, so hi, Matter of Rights. Okay. I had to make sure to do that.

Stephen:

Okay.

Taya:

I have another question. I’m multitasking.

Stephen:

Okay, fair enough.

Taya:

I had another question about Eric’s style. Some people feel that Eric’s style, just as doing his protests. Some people would say they were performance art. Some people would say they’re very creative. Other people would say it’s overly aggressive, loud, intrusive. How would you characterize it, and how would you defend it, if you would choose to defend it?

James Freeman:

Oh, that’s an excellent question, because early on when I had started my channel, there were lots of people who commented both on my channel and on Eric’s, and said, “James would never work with Eric, because of the way he acts.” I made a special point to go out of my way to travel, to work with Eric, and told people, “Look, just because I don’t do things the exact way somebody else does, we need all different types. What Eric is doing is very important, and to be quite frank, I don’t want to do it.” I’m glad he was. He mentioned to me, when I went out there, he said, “I’ve done activism for so many years, and I never got any attention on anything that I was doing, until I started using that four letter word that starts with F, and all of a sudden everybody’s paying attention to my stuff.” I mean, he was effective at doing what he wanted to do.

Taya:

Well said.

Stephen:

I mean, it’s so fascinating, because we interviewed him about that, and he was talking about how many years he tried to break through the noise.

Taya:

Yes.

Stephen:

Then once he did, it’s a fascinating tale, because really he was calling attention to a grave injustice that homeless people were being abused, that the criminal justice system, that judges had serious problems, and conflicts of interest, and no one paid attention. Then when he finally got people to pay attention, suddenly they start indicting him. I will say that what he said in some cases, was offensive to me. But there are people that make threats like that all the time, and it’s not uncommon. It seems like, I think there’s a lot to what you say. Could you expand on that? Because really, was it the threats, or the threat of Eric’s truth that was the problem?

James Freeman:

I really don’t even think that what he said was a threat. I even articulated to people, I was quite disgusted by it too, but I don’t believe it was a threat. His wording specifically, I don’t think-

Stephen:

Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers.

James Freeman:

Right, and if you know him, he’s atheist-

Stephen:

Right.

James Freeman:

… so prayers to who?

Stephen:

It’s really fascinating, because he would say thoughts and prayers, so in a way… because Eric’s uncannily brilliant on things. Look, we’re doing a documentary, a very long form piece.

Taya:

Yes.

Stephen:

I have gotten to know him, and when he was doing, he’s commenting on that idea of thoughts and prayers, when people get shot, and someone says, “My thoughts and prayers,” and I feel he’s at the same time satirizing, as he is criticizing.

Taya:

Yes.

Stephen:

Am I getting this right, you think?

James Freeman:

I think you’re right, and his genius is beyond what I think a lot of people comprehend. Yeah, I think you nailed it.

Stephen:

Yeah. I mean, look, he is complex as they come, and there are many different ways to look at him, but sometimes when I sit down, and I was listening to some of those, because I had listened to them reading the recording, and thoughts and prayers, I’m like, “Well, Eric’s also making a commentary within this, that is quite brilliant in many ways, because it’s an empty phrase.” Right?

Taya:

Absolutely.

James Freeman:

Yes.

Stephen:

It’s an empty phrase. We’re saying, “We’re not going to solve a problem. But we’re going to share our empty thoughts and prayers.”

Taya:

Absolutely.

Stephen:

Eric was couching in that, and I’m like,” “Wow. You’ve really got to be careful of making quick judgments about Eric’s behavior, or what he says, because there’s always layers to it.” I’m sure that you found that out too, James. But let me just move on to one thing, because the courts-

Taya:

Yes.

Stephen:

… you know, you have spent a lot of time holding courts accountable. Why is that important, and why do people ignore it, at their peril?

James Freeman:

I think the courts are far more out of control than the police. When I first started my channel, that was where I actually put a good amount of attention. Then I realized that it was such an uphill battle, that I was going to win absolutely nothing on, that I stepped away from it. I don’t think the people were ready for it. But I want cameras in every courtroom, the way that cameras should be on every police interaction. To be quite honest, I don’t really care how it gets done. There are courts now, like the Ninth Circuit of Appeals, for example, has their own YouTube channel. They live stream almost all, if not all of their hearings. These things are supposed to be public.

Stephen:

Agreed.

James Freeman:

They’ve always been supposed to be public. Back in the day, the whole point of a court recorder, the guy who sits there and writes, or types what’s going on is because nothing that’s going on in there is supposed to be a secret. It’s all supposed… and so basically to me, they’re just behind on the times. We have far more advanced technology than a freaking typewriter, to document what’s going on in the courts.

Stephen:

Are you sure?

Taya:

Well said.

Stephen:

Than a freaking typewriter.

Taya:

Right, right, or having a courtroom sketch artist.

Stephen:

Oh, God.

Taya:

I mean, something that absolutely drives me crazy in our Maryland courts is that we can’t record. I mean, it’s terrible.

Stephen:

You know what’s a perfect example of that? James, is that you were broadcasting Eric’s sentencing-

Taya:

Oh, that’s right.

Stephen:

… and that judge went down some passive illogic, that had just still astounds me to this day, when I listened to that. Had you not done that, it would not be out there-

Taya:

That’s right.

Stephen:

… accessible to people to hear the audacity and the absurdity of his logic, when it came to sentencing Eric. You know? I appreciate that.

James Freeman:

Yeah.

Taya:

Absolutely. It was really important, in particular, because that judge, Judge Hoffman, who also wrote a book called The Punisher’s Brain-

Stephen:

That was just bizarre.

Taya:

… who went into this entire speech about how there’s four different types of justice. There’s retributive justice, and all this, rehabilitative justice. Then he says, he’s talking about it, and he’s talking about how he doesn’t want to give retributive justice, and then he immediately gives vengeful retributive justice. It was astonishing to me.

Stephen:

Right, on top of that, the whole thing is on Zoom, and then he’s like, “But don’t publish it. Don’t let anyone hear it,” even though it’s already on freaking Zoom. Which to your point, James, is the lack of… the actual cognitive dissonance of the legal system and judges. Yeah, I’m on Zoom where anyone can join, but God forbid you put it on YouTube, so the general public can hear it? That makes no sense.

James Freeman:

I think what it is too, is it comes down to controlling the narrative.

Stephen:

Yes.

James Freeman:

I can publish it on my channel, but you can’t publish it on yours.

Stephen:

Right.

James Freeman:

It’s about controlling the narrative, I think.

Stephen:

It is so much about controlling the narrative. It is so much about self-justification, and I think Eric and James had brought up, we focus on police accountability. But my God, the judiciary operates, as you said, and you’ve already said this, so I’m repeating it, but I want to say, with emphasis, that I’ve witnessed so many things in courtrooms, that are far worse than a traffic stop. You know what I mean? I’ve seen judges put people in jail for absolutely nothing.

Taya:

You’ve seen drunk judges on the bench.

Stephen:

I’ve seen drunk…. all sorts of stuff. It’s shameful, because judges are just so empowered, and are so imperious when you’re in court. I think, James, you’re right, but it’s a much harder branch of government to fight, because they really have archaic methods. You can’t have a camera in a courtroom. I’ve literally been almost arrested for opening my cell phone, when I’m trying to report on a case.

Taya:

Right.

Stephen:

The judge is like, “What are you doing with that cell phone?” The bailiff comes over, and they’re all so pleased with themselves that they’re controlling you, to the point where you can’t really cover what they’re doing.

Taya:

Yeah.

James Freeman:

Yeah, and I think, I usually don’t… actually, I really never like looking at government for a solution to a problem. But I think the problem though is that the legislature has essentially granted the court’s power to make their own rules in their courtroom, but it’s gone too far. I think it’s going to need to come down to the legislature writing something, saying, “No, these are some things that you can’t restrict, in setting some boundaries.”

Stephen:

I agree.

James Freeman:

I mean, I thought that was the whole point of a system of checks and balances, that the different didn’t work together, but quite literally worked against each other, and said, “Wait a second. You’re wrong. We’re going to step in and kick you in the butt.”

Stephen:

I mean, I agree, because usually an administrative judge can say… as you know, in your fight with New Mexico courts, the administrative judge has all this power to do all sorts of crazy stuff, that without proper oversight, or checks and balances, can just get out of control.

Taya:

Yes. Absolutely. James, I had another question for you, and I know it’s somewhat broad, but I wanted to know what you’ve learned about American policing, over your years of covering it from your viewpoint, your unique viewpoint, what stands out to you? What are the lessons James Freeman learned from covering police, in the unique way that you have? I know it’s a big, a broad question. I’m sorry.

Stephen:

Yeah. Sorry.

Taya:

I’m sorry.

Stephen:

Sorry, we’re putting you on.

James Freeman:

No, no, no. That’s all right. I’m trying to think. I think that some of my best videos that have exposed, to other people as well as myself, how police really are, is that it seems that once a man is told that he has power or authority over other men, that he just does things that are completely unnatural. That video that you showed, for my intro, of me walking up to this guy, I don’t know who he is. I’ve never met him in my life. I’ve got no reason to interact with him, at all. If I do, as a normal human, I should just say, “Hey, hello, how’re you doing?” But to walk up to another man, and just start demanding things, and trying to take control over that person, it’s sick, it’s wrong. But these people have been told that… they’ve got it in their head, that they literally have a right. They have the authority to just arbitrarily control everyone around them.

The whole point of asking someone to disarm themselves, or trying to disarm someone, it’s all about gaining power, being the most powerful person in the room, and establishing that dominance over everybody, the moment you walk in. In doing it, honestly, it’s a character that I play, but man, I’ve gone back, after doing it going, “That is sick.” I was even disturbed by the fact that this cop let me do it. Most of the people in the comments are like, “Man, this is the nicest cop ever.” No human should tolerate that from another human. It’s wrong.

Stephen:

That is profound. That is truly profound. I think, I mean, because James, what you point out is we take police power for granted, and we pretty much have all been indoctrinated into accepting the fact that an individual can walk up to us and say, “Stand over here.”

Taya:

Absolutely.

Stephen:

“Tell me this. Give me your ID,” that kind of stuff. I think that’s why your videos are so important, and vital, in many ways, because you really do bring that… there’s not many people who have been able to so starkly illustrate the effect of police power, and especially police overreach. We appreciate you, and thank you for coming on.

James Freeman:

Thank you.

Taya:

Yeah, absolutely. I just wanted to make sure, James… do we have to go to our next guest?

Stephen:

We really do.

Taya:

We do. James, I hate letting you go, because I want to pick your brain, and especially you know me, I really want to have a follow-up conversation with you. When you say you don’t like to look to government for a solution, I really want to have a follow-up conversation with you about alternative solutions.

Stephen:

That would be for-

Taya:

We’re going to have to have that conversation sometime.

Stephen:

Yes, we will.

Taya:

Okay?

Stephen:

But we appreciate it. Thank you for coming on and celebrating our fifth anniversary with us.

Taya:

Yes, we appreciate it so much.

James Freeman:

Thank you guys, and congratulations, and thank you for everything you’ve done for this five years. I’m happy for your guys’ anniversary. Thanks.

Stephen:

Thanks.

Taya:

Thank you.

Stephen:

Thanks.

Taya:

We really appreciate that. Oh, that’s great. It’s always good to see.

Stephen:

Absolutely.

Taya:

Now our next epic cop watcher, our guests are continuing one, by one, by one.

Stephen:

This is amazing, that we’ve talked to, and we have still legends to come.

Taya:

I know. We have more to come, more legends to come, you guys.

Stephen:

We’ve talked to legends. It’s amazing to me, it really is.

Taya:

Now, our guests, honestly, they really don’t need an introduction. In a world where cop watching can sometimes become almost too over the top, the Battousai stands out for his measured, and almost understated approach, but is one that sure gets results. Let’s take a look. Okay. Hey, Philip, best known as the Battousai. Thank you so much for joining us.

Stephen:

Thanks for being here.

Otto:

Hi. Thank you for having me.

Taya:

We really appreciate it, and I know you’re always asked this question, but I just want to make sure, for the people who might not be familiar with you. One of the reasons why you are so well respected in this community, is because you have actually made case law to protect people’s right to record, to actually protect people’s First Amendment rights. It was a decision that’s known as Turner v Driver, I believe a cop arrested you. I think for maybe trying to film a police station. We know what the decision is, but can you just talk a little bit about it, and how you’ve had to keep fighting to protect that right?

Otto:

This all started when I was actually in college. I was in college, worked a part-time job, and I learned about my rights. They don’t teach you this stuff in high school, of course, they don’t want to teach you this in public systems. But I actually ended up learning this, because the State of Texas made it mandatory, that in order to get your degree, you needed to take US government, and Texas local state government. Over the summer when I took those classes, I learned how to pretty much stand up for your rights, exercise, those rights. One book, in particular, really pushed me over the edge, and it was called Convicting the Innocent. I had to do a book report on that for my US government class, and that really stood out to me.

I started digging, digging, digging on YouTube, and then that’s when I discovered the whole cop watching room. This is where I came across channels like Tom Zebra, Jeff Gray, PINAC News, like Sean Thomas. These are some of the guys that’s been doing it for a long time. I’ve been watching and just learning from these guys, and I’ve decided that, you know what? I want to do this same cop watching activity in my city. Before I knew it, things just took off.

Stephen:

Well, one of the things we had talked about, when we had you on the show before, was that even though you got this ruling, you still… police didn’t really seem to abide by it. Is that my understanding, that they created laws that didn’t totally go to the heart, or the letter of the decision that was made, that you won? I mean, is that right, in some way?

Otto:

Well, not in Texas. Texas, I think they’re being very careful here. They’re saying you can record, but you’ve got to do it from back over there. There’s some things that you can do to test the limits here. Most times they’ll tell you to stand back, but I guarantee you, if you put the camera there, and you take a step back, they’ll be like, “You can’t leave your camera there. It’s interfering.” It’s just those type of things that you have to think of on the fly, things to improvise the situation. For instance, even though Turner v Driver has established a right to report police officers in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, I do believe that there are officers who are undermining that. They get away with things by shining the light in your camera, blocking your view by positioning themselves in front of your camera, and the action that’s going on, or playing copyrighted music, to try to see if they can get your videos taken down, so you can’t monetize it.

Stephen:

Oh, my gosh, so devious.

Otto:

There’s different steps that officers are doing, and if only they put this much effort into doing their job correctly, they wouldn’t have to worry about the camera, in the first place.

Stephen:

That’s a really good point. I mean, and that does make me question though, for example… one thing I wanted to ask you is, the Fifth Circuit has a reputation… which is Texas. The Fifth Circuit has a reputation for being very pro-cop. How did you even win that case? I’ve been meaning to ask you this question, because I’ve had people who we’ve reported on, they say, well, they go to a lawyer, and they say, “Well, you can’t win in the Fifth Circuit, so I can’t sue on your behalf.” How did you actually win, in the Fifth Circuit?

Otto:

This is what I try to tell a lot of people, and this is what makes me a little successful, is because you’ve got to study the game. Unfortunately, it’s just all one big game. Once you learn how to play the game, you can use the rules against them. That’s pretty much how I stepped into the scene, because once you realize what to do, and how to do it, there’s a lot you can do, going forward, to get things established, and get things set, right away. One of my philosophies is, “Give the officer the shovel, let them dig themselves a hole.” Ask the right questions, record it, and you never know how far that video’s going to go. I try to do it from a professional standpoint, but I love the different styles of cop watching out there. I think there’s a lot to learn from everyone. That’s what I enjoy watching a lot of people.

But unfortunately, when you’re dealing with the courts, you have to play the game, and then you have to beat them with their own rules. That’s something that I have to live with my life, even before cop watching, it’s just growing up. You’ve got to learn how to play within the rules, and then use the rules to get your way. You know what I mean?

Taya:

You know, Battousai, I just wanted you to know there was this great comment that said that you could survive a bear attack, cool as a cucumber. Michael Willis, hi Michael Willis, we appreciate you, said, “This guy’s awesome. He’s doing it the right way, to my taste, making case law in the process. You guys want change? This guy has the combination to unlock change.” Just to let you know, you are very much appreciated. The way that you have fought for our right to record, and our first amendment rights, is really appreciated.

But to go towards what Stephen was talking about, in relation to the Fifth Circuit, even here in Maryland, attorneys have shared with me that it’s very difficult to sue, because the judges are so pro-cop. There are people I’ve spoken to, across the country, who can’t even find a civil rights attorney who’s even willing to help them sue, because they know that they’re just going to get slapped down by the judge, or the attorney is worried about alienating themselves from the larger judicial community. I mean, have you found this to be the case? Have you found it, that attorneys have said that it’s difficult to sue, or that judges are particularly pro-cop?

Otto:

Yes. Yes. I remember this very well, even when I first started recording. Just trying to… I think I talked to at least maybe 10 to 15 attorneys to take my cases to begin with, and it was just an uphill battle. Most of the times, attorneys would not take my cases, because there was no damages. There was nothing there to make money off of. In fact, it was just more of, “If I can’t make a decent chunk of change out of this, then I’m not interested. It’s not worth my time.” I’ve heard that from many attorneys. Then that’s when I met Kervyn Altaffer and I met Kervyn Altaffer through Brett Sanders. When I spoke with Kervyn Altaffer, we talked for about two hours, the first time we met. From within those first two hours, I mean, we became really close. He took all my cases, and I think after that, I believe TML started putting me on their radar, because we were just suing, getting settlement checks.

Then as soon as our case went to the Fifth Circuit, those settlement checks were used to fund Turner v Driver. It wasn’t just a, “Oh, he’s settling to get money.” But keep in mind, when I was doing all this, I was in college, part-time. Where am I going to get 35K to fund an appeal? You know what I mean?

Stephen:

Yeah.

Otto:

From my settlements, I used that to fund that, and even though the officers got qualified immunity, the overall battle was lost, but the war was won, when we got Turner v Driver. Because a lot of people were able to use that case law to prove that it’s been established, so these officers don’t get qualified immunity. I think yes, it’s a win, but I think now you have to position yourself as in, “Okay, now you get to the point to where judges are super pro-police, and that pretty much any ruling, or any situation that gets presented in front of a judge, are going to side with the police.”

Well, whenever you think about it, you have to think that… you’ve got to try to make the officer look bad, and you just look like an angel. Just to put it in a nutshell, that’s just how it’s going to be.

Stephen:

That’s interesting.

Otto:

Unfortunately, it has to be like that, in order to get any movement in a court. Otherwise, even if you’re on the same level as a cop, if the cop’s being rude, and you’re being rude, they’re going to side with the cop, because he’s a cop. But if the cop’s being rude, and you’re just being as nice as a 76-year-old lady, who just came from a Sunday night service in the church, they’re probably going to side with the lady.

Stephen:

Okay.

Otto:

But it’s unfortunate that you have to go that far, to that link, just to get any movement with the courts, to be honest.

Stephen:

I thought it makes you a master of the cop-watching universe, that you thought, stylistically, how your style would translate into a court setting, into a higher court setting, into an entire process. That’s pretty freaking amazing, to think that far ahead-

Taya:

I know.

Stephen:

… and say, “Hey, I have to look sympathetic, if I’m going to win legal precedent-

PART 3 OF 5 ENDS [01:27:04]

Stephen:

Hey, I have to look sympathetic if I’m going to win legal precedent. I’m impressed.

Taya:

I mean, I have to ask. I mean, you’re noted for your deliberate style, how you do not allow yourself to get ruffled, how you don’t slip into profanity. Because you’re thinking long game, you’re playing chess. But are you still sticking with that formula? I have to wonder sometimes, don’t you just want to get loud? Don’t you just want to put that bird?

Otto:

You have no idea. Oh, man. You have no idea. There’s been so many times I have been test, I have been pushed to my limits. But I just like, “You know what? This is pretty much what they want.” And it’s like, I can’t do that. There’s a bigger picture here at play, and I have to stick to my convictions, and I have to keep pushing forward.

And there was one thing that I do want to say because this was part of the clip that you played with Corrigan, where they had the illegal signs posted on the side of the building? Well, we went to mediation for that. So, during the mediation we had a retired federal judge, and we can’t really talk about what happened during the mediation process, but what happened afterwards was something that really shocked me.

Because as soon as we were leaving, the retired judge, she shook all of our hands. But then whenever she shook my hand, she’s like, “Hang on, Mr. Turner. I read a lot about you, and I’m very impressed, and I’m very proud of you.” And it’s like, “You have no idea how many people actually support some of the things you guys are doing.”

So that kind of just hit a light switch for me. It was like, “Yes, we are actually making a positive impact.” And even though that there are judges that are pro-police, there are judges who are pro-Constitution.

Taya:

That’s so good to hear.

Stephen:

That’s an amazing story.

Taya:

That’s so heartening.

Stephen:

Wow.

Taya:

That’s a beautiful story. That helps renew my hope. It really does.

Stephen:

Truthfully.

Otto:

Yeah. It’s going to be uphill battle. And I don’t know if you knew, but that Corrigan situation, I got them to sign the signs that they took down from the building. I got all the defendants to sign the back of it.

Taya:

Wait, you got the defendants to sign the back of it? Was that part of the-

Stephen:

Whoa, really?

Otto:

Yeah. It was part of the settlement.

Stephen:

That was part of the settlement. I love it.

Otto:

Yeah. So, we told them, “You know those signs that you had on the building? Can you take them down and have all the defendants sign it?” And then they agreed to it, and we were surprised that they agreed to it. So, I kind of got it up there on the back wall. I don’t know if you can see it.

Taya:

That’s diabolical. I love that for you.

Otto:

I’m going to [inaudible 01:29:33] with you real quick. Give me a second.

Taya:

I love that for you. Yes, please let us see it. I love that.

Stephen:

I mean, the thing that’s amazing, just talking to Battousai, James Freeman and… Think of all the change that these individuals, just working on their own, no newsrooms, no-

Otto:

So this is the sign here. I know if you can see it. Oh,

Taya:

That’s incredible.

Otto:

And they signed the back of it, so it was no joke. And then one thing I did find out later on, because I did some open records requests, I think whenever they wrote me the citation for filming when they dismissed it two days later, TML, which is like the insurance for the city, required the officers to take constitutional law.

Taya:

That’s wonderful.

Otto:

Yeah. So it was two days after, so they knew the lawsuit was coming.

Stephen:

Wow. Which begs the question is why they hadn’t done that before they became police officers or-

Taya:

That’s an excellent point-

Stephen:

Out in the streets.

Otto:

It was probably more just like a revisit.

Taya:

Maybe a refresher course.

Stephen:

Yeah, of course.

Taya:

Hopefully.

Stephen:

It’s always good to brush up.

Taya:

Except Steven, didn’t you have a particular experience on what you saw? You knew that was written in a police academy Blackboard, about the Fourth Amendment?

Stephen:

Yeah, the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to us. We got a picture from a group of cops called VICD, Violent Impact Crimes Division, and they were doing training retraining on the amendments the fourth, fifth, and sixth. And they wrote on the Blackboard, fourth Amendment does not apply to us. And of course a lot of those guys-

Taya:

In the academy, in the academy on the Blackboard.

Stephen:

Just to show you how important Battousai work is, a lot of those officers ended up being part of the Gun Trace Task Force, which was a group of 6, 7, 8 officers who robbed residents, stole over time and-

Taya:

And dealt drugs in our city.

Stephen:

Dealt drugs. Congrats to you because that’s great to hear because if we can at least teach police officers that their whole occupation relies upon the constitution and those rights are important, that’s a victory.

Taya:

Absolutely.

Otto:

I think if people found a real reason why the police are here, I think everybody would blow their lids. And people are like, “Oh no, that’s not true.” But police are here to serve their masters. That’s pretty much all it is. They’re there to serve the wealthy and the people in position of power. That’s their true purpose.

Taya:

Yes, well said.

Otto:

And we should not forget that.

Taya:

And we can never forget that.

Stephen:

It’s an important thing to remember.

Taya:

Absolutely. They are the front line to protect the interest of capital. Corporatists, those oligarchs who are corrupting our society and corrupting our government process. They’re corrupting our democracy. Crony capitalism, I believe it’s called.

Stephen:

Go ahead. You say it, thank you.

Taya:

Well, I just wanted to ask, are there any new ongoing fights with the police departments or is there anything that you want to share with us? Any new legal front that you’re ready to share? I know sometimes you can’t always share something that you’re working on, and if you can’t, I totally understand that. But is there anything else coming up?

Otto:

Oh, I’ll say, so I had a couple of people respond to, email me, saying, “Hey, we didn’t know you were the guy for Turner V Driver.” And I was like, “Yeah, I guess it’s been some time. I haven’t been really active.” And then I had a couple of people from, Martha [inaudible 01:32:52] was actually one of them. He said, “I think it’s time for you to return to Fort Worth.” And I said, “Why do you say that?” And they said, “Oh, the Turner V. Driver case. They’re pretty much saying that, oh, that means nothing. And yeah, that white guy is not going to come back here anymore.” And I said, “Wait a minute, white guy?”

“Oh yeah, yeah. I didn’t tell you? They think the guy from Turner V. Driver was white.” And I was like, “Really?” I said, “Okay, yeah, I guess I already got a good disguise, so I’m going to go back up there.”

Taya:

You can be totally undercover now. They’re going to be looking for the wrong guy. That’s some bad police work.

Stephen:

That’s some very bad detective work, absolutely.

Taya:

That’s pretty sloppy.

Stephen:

We really appreciate you coming on the show for our fifth anniversary. So kind of you to take the time to join us.

Taya:

I really, really, really wish I could keep you for longer, but I promised everyone I would do five questions to make sure that I don’t trap our friends in the studio here all night. But would you please agree to come back and spend some more time with us? I think we just need to give the Battousai his whole hour. I mean, I think that’s what has to happen. You just need your own hour. Would you be able to come back?

Otto:

Oh, I got a lot of fun stories for you. Yes, I’ll come back. But I got a lot of fun stories for you guys.

Taya:

Okay. All right. I’m looking forward to them. Thank you so much for joining us and there is a lot of love in the chat for you, as I’m sure you’ll see.

Otto:

Thank you for having me and happy anniversary.

Stephen:

Thank you, Battousai. We really appreciate it.

Taya:

Thank you so much. It’s so great to see him.

Stephen:

It’s amazing. I was just saying, you think about all the changes that have been effectuated by the people that we’ve had in our show who had done this all on their own initiative. It gives you hope.

Taya:

It really does.

Stephen:

It gives you hope in democracy.

Taya:

It really does.

Stephen:

I know the internet is fueled by cynicism, but this is not a place for it, because if there are individuals willing to go out there and risk their neck and get arrested or just confront cops or create videos or tell people’s stories just on their own with no prompting, I can’t be a cynic all the time.

Taya:

All the time.

Stephen:

All the time. This is nice. I feel it’s pretty nice.

Taya:

You feel warm and fuzzy, aren’t you?

Stephen:

It’s a great gift for our fifth anniversary to really talk to people who have made a difference. You can make a difference.

Taya:

Absolutely. Because I have to admit, when I first started working with Steven, and he was a bit cynical and understandably because he had been a lone voice.

Stephen:

Oh, I cynical?

Taya:

He was a lone voice pushing back against police misconduct that he saw, violations of civil rights of community members, deaths that were being under investigated and literally covered up. He saw this, he listened to the community and reported on it, and he received retaliation from the police department. He had people from the medical examiner’s office call to try to get him fired. As a matter of fact, they tried to get me fired too, which is sort of ironic because at the time we were doing a podcast that we weren’t getting paid for. But just all these different forms of retaliation that you experienced. So you were getting a little cynical. So to see people do this, I really think makes a difference to you.

Stephen:

After I got laid off from my newspaper, I worked for a couple years on my own website, and then I got a job at a TV station. The first thing that happened was a police spokesman sent an email to my boss saying, “Steven Janis is a jerk, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Fire him.” That man actually-

Taya:

And a cop hitter, and a cop-hater-

Stephen:

That man right now is actually the head spokesman for the Secret Service. So yeah, Anthony Guglielmi, I think his name is, yeah. And so he decided that the best thing to do was take a reporter who had lost his job when his newspaper closed, because he had provided honest coverage of the police department-

Taya:

Exactly, all of it is honest-

Stephen:

And try to take away his job and his health benefits, because I hadn’t seen a doctor in three and a half years. So really wonderful people. I really have a lot to say about their character.

Taya:

You have some not-friends in some very high places.

Stephen:

But think about it. Think about, this was in 2011. This is four years before Freddie Gray and five years before. So was I right? Or was I wrong?

Taya:

You were right.

Stephen:

I was right about the Baltimore Freaking Police Department.

Taya:

Yes, you were.

Stephen:

But they tried to take my freaking job.

Taya:

That is absolutely right.

Stephen:

I’m sorry.

Taya:

And that’s why I thought you should share that. So when he says it affects him and makes him feel hopeful, this man had all the reason in the world for cynicism. So it means something when he says that.

Stephen:

Well, I’m very thankful that there are people who are willing to go out there and do this difficult work and all on their own. And it just gives me a lot. It makes me feel good. But anyway, that’s what I’ll say, but we’ve got to get to the next guest.

Taya:

Okay. Yes. So I’m just, thank you for letting me have you share that. So, our last guests are actually kind of a duo, and they have been unrelenting in their coverage of some of the most vexing police departments in the country. They’re a special team that have been involved in high profile cases that have led to a major settlement with the Los Angeles County Sheriffs, all due to the footage caught on their cameras. They also include one of the, so-called OGs of Cop watching, Tom Zebra. Tom’s uncompromising coverage of cops in LA has made him a legend in the world of YouTube activists. Also, the fact, I think he’s been doing it for almost 20 years. I think some of his early cop watches are actually on VHS. That’s how long Tom Zebra has been doing this. And they also made one of my favorite clips ever where they did a bit of an imitation of a show that I’m kind of fond of. Maybe we could just take a little peek at it. A little peek.

Stephen:

Okay.

Taya:

Good to know.

Stephen:

Thank you.

Taya:

I’ll tell people that.

Stephen:

Okay. I got to say something. Oh, Taya, just let me say something, that is good reporting because knowing that the Coke price was low or a good price, that’s the kind of detail, that separates the regular reporter from the top-notch investigative reporter.

Taya:

That lets you know that reporter hit the streets. And that’s what we respect around here.

Stephen:

I mean, I’ve been doing Stand-ups for five years, but Tom just knocked me right out of the park.

Taya:

He did. He knocked you out of the box on that one.

Stephen:

I’ve never had that kind of detail in my reporting, mad respect.

Taya:

Also, his sweatshirt was cool.

Stephen:

Mad respect for that man.

Taya:

And I liked Laura’s Bookshelf. And before we get started, that sounds really familiar. I’m not sure why it sounds so familiar.

Stephen:

I told Laura she needed more books though.

Taya:

She needed more books on her shelf. She even had the glasses. It was so awesome. Okay, just for any folks that are here, they did a version of the show we do. And we thought it was basically the best thing that we’ve ever seen.

Stephen:

We did.

Taya:

So you should go check it out on our channel, because it’s kind of great. And it also has really good reporting in it. So, I have to welcome Tom Zebra and Laura Sharp.

Stephen:

Hello.

Taya:

Thank you so much for joining us.

Stephen:

Thank you for being here.

Laura Sharp:

Bye. That’s, [inaudible 01:40:20].

Taya:

We appreciate you.

Laura Sharp:

My four books. It was like one of those last things. I’m like, “Oh, I need books.”

Stephen:

Tay and I have plenty of books. If you need something, we can ship them out to you.

Taya:

That’s right, we can ship them out to you.

Laura Sharp:

No, actually I have a lot. And if you notice, I don’t know what the… I don’t know. It was so random. I was like, “Oh no.” I just grabbed Egyptian books or something. I do have books.

Taya:

We just wanted to also say that Thomas has been having a little bit of an issue with his video. So at some point we might have the technical difficulty of just having his audio instead of his visual. So just to let you know, we’re not doing it on purpose. It’s just one of those technicalities.

So, to both of you, first, I just wanted to give you guys both a chance to comment on Eric’s recent indictment. You were there when we were out in Colorado spending time with Eric, checking in-

Stephen:

Prior to sentencing-

Taya:

To what was happening. Excuse me, we were there prior to sentencing. So we certainly know that you Eric well. I just thought maybe you’d like to have a chance to comment on his recent indictment and any concerns that you might have about it. And either one of you can take this question first.

Tom Zebra:

I’ll go, hopefully you can hear me okay.

Stephen:

We can.

Tom Zebra:

Everything you guys said is true. It’s not surprising in the least bit that they’ve retaliated against him and they’re going to do everything they can to keep him in jail. And if you think about it, I think that’s probably why Eric Brandt is the person he is anyways. It’s because of how unfair they are and the fact that that’s what they do every chance they get. They retaliate against people they don’t like instead of doing their job. So it’s not surprising to me one bit, but hopefully that’s going to light a fire under his butt. And when he gets out here, hopefully he’ll go right back to cop watching.

Stephen:

I hope so too.

Taya:

I hope so too. But I have a feeling he may retire to a quiet life-

Laura Sharp:

He might be taking a break.

Stephen:

I think, yeah… I think Eric is ready to retire.

Laura Sharp:

For his own mental health.

Taya:

Laura, did you want to comment on Eric’s recent indictment?

Laura Sharp:

He definitely covered everything. We talked about it at length and I mean, honestly, it just breaks my heart. Just there’s a lot that you risk when you do what we do. I mean, especially him. I’m almost at loss of words, just how that turned out.

Taya:

No, understandably.

Tom Zebra:

If I can add, I’d like to say something about the Judge Morris Hoffman.

Taya:

Please do.

Tom Zebra:

I know a lot of people have criticism about him. But one of the interviews I watched, he was explaining how if you are in the shoes of the defendant, if anybody else would’ve done what they would’ve done, then that’s not a crime at all. And I don’t think very many of us have been in the shoes of Eric Brandt, where he spent so much time in jail as an innocent person. And I mean, he’s got how many laws are in his name? He set precedent repeatedly. So, in the overall scheme of things, he’s the one that is righteous. And the judge said elsewhere, if any other person would’ve done those things, like in Eric Brandt’s shoes, and I think anyone else would have, I can’t imagine being locked up for so long as an innocent person.

Stephen:

I mean, Eric-

Tom Zebra:

At the very least, under those circumstances, of course, you’re going to say something that isn’t nice about the judge.

Taya:

Yeah, absolutely.

Stephen:

Yeah, and it’s true. Eric had set precedent in the 10th Circuit for filming police.

Taya:

Yes. With Liberty Freak, Irizarry.

Stephen:

Liberty Freak Irizarry. So that is very true. Among other things that he’s done-

Taya:

Among other things-

Stephen:

There’s many other lawsuits he won.

Taya:

I just meant, right… Also, there was a lawsuit that he participated in that resulted in the Englewood Police Department receiving body cameras about 18 months before any of the other police departments as well as guaranteeing them, certain retraining as well, certain constitutional retraining, which is good for everybody. I even want constitutional training.

Stephen:

So Laura, let me ask you, what’s it like out on the streets now? How are cops behaving? Are they responding to your work? How are things going up? How’s cop watching?

Taya:

Are they like, “Oh no, it’s Laura Sharp.”

Laura Sharp:

They’re running. They run from the camera.

Stephen:

They run from the camera?

Laura Sharp:

We go out. Yeah, no, no… We go out quite a bit and as soon as we get out or walk up, it’s like suddenly it’s over. It’s like, wow.

Stephen:

Really?

Laura Sharp:

Yeah, no, it’s almost annoying. It’s like, “Come on guys, please.”

Stephen:

So they’re ruining your videos. You can’t even make a video.

Laura Sharp:

We’re having to chase them to the department, their little substation or the… Come on please.

Taya:

That’s so funny.

Laura Sharp:

I mean, they’re basically [inaudible 01:45:24].

Taya:

But honestly though, in a way that’s great because what you’re doing in that process is there’s someone who might’ve been harassed, who might’ve been having an unconstitutional arrest or having their rights violated, and the officers decide, you know what? It’s not worth it.

Laura Sharp:

They’re still doing it.

Taya:

They’re still doing it?

Laura Sharp:

They’re still doing it. It’s just a matter of… It’s just a matter of there’s a new crop. I kind of see it as they obviously… I mean, they have so many departments like Sheriff for instance, and they have new rookies coming in. And at certain points there’s, right now I feel like there’s a brand new one for the last year that we haven’t figured out their places yet. Their path, the way that they get to each location kind of a thing. We don’t got that down the way we had prior. We could find the same guys in the same places mostly, but not anymore. And a lot of them, they’ve made a name for themselves. Sabatine has had a whole thing because I think he threatened the rapper. He said he was going to put one in his chest just like a whole… And I miss them, I don’t know. It was a little entertaining. Now these guys literally just don’t say anything. I’m like, this is no good.

Taya:

Let me ask you something. Because there’s a case that you worked on that really stood out to me and was absolutely life-changing. And this was the case of Christopher Bailey. You recorded some of the… I mean, I’ve witnessed a lot of police brutality, but this was truly terrible. And you were there live on the scene. And can you just talk a little bit about how your video footage helped him and the lawsuit that followed, and maybe even some information about the officers or detectives who were involved, if you don’t mind?

Laura Sharp:

Okay. So I mean, to make a really long story short, I mean, we did show up in the aftermath. We were directly after it. I mean, they must have just done their last strike on him or something. And initially when we arrived, I didn’t see him. And we did hear a deputy involved in a fight. So I was aware, I’ve come to these scenes before and maybe they have, they’re a little roughed up and they’re getting in an ambulance or something. But when we first got there, we didn’t see him. We could kind of see where the deputies were around. And then we heard him and he said, “I want to live.” And it was like, “Wait a minute. Oh, they have him on the ground.” And it was just this whole, it was in slow motion after that where it was like, we recognize all these, most of the deputies, and at this point, we know them all now.

But it was almost like, I don’t know. I could say I was shocked. I was not expecting when they sat him up and the condition of his face, it was horrific. And it really just could not bother, just even the most critical person of what we do. It was horrific. And so for almost a year to the day, I did not know this man’s name. And I started to resolve to the fact that I probably never would, because a lot of the times we don’t see, I mean most of the time, sorry, we don’t see these individuals again after they have their contact with law enforcement.

So I had almost become like, I had to accept that. And his lawyer made a comment on the video. I mean, she quickly took it off. But just that contact, and I have to say what we saw was pretty bad. But hearing it in detail, to the extent that what they did to him, it was almost, I don’t want to say it was worse, but it was just as horrific to hear the details of how many times they struck him or hit him and kneed him. And I mean, his injuries were his eye socket or his eyeball was dislocated from his orbital bone. They fractured his orbital bone. I mean, what we saw was just what looked like, he didn’t even look human. It was just something that I kept saying in the video. And they played a news clip, and you can hear me say, “He doesn’t even look human.” I mean he didn’t. And I think they referred to me as a bystander with a cell phone or something. And I was probably offended.

But Daniel and I just, Daniel has, we both have our own way of responding to these situations. And he had currently had a situation with a deputy that he was kind of asking about. But everything that we thought in the moment was very true. Daniel was calling it, before we knew the facts. And it sucks to be right. And I mean, we met him over Zoom. He is still, to this day, afraid to set foot in California. He took off to Texas as soon as he was medically able, because he was hospitalized for quite a bit after that. He still was, he’s still getting surgeries because he’s, he’s basically blind in his left eye. There was a clip from Eric’s trial where the judge said, “Who in the world thinks that that’s okay?” And literally, I could not have put that perfectly in this instance. But that one, it didn’t feel, that wasn’t even with Eric, it didn’t fit, but with this, it’s like, who in the world thinks this is okay? It’s just not.

Stephen:

Well, thank you for sharing that.

Laura Sharp:

I don’t know, you want to add something?

Stephen:

And I wanted to ask Tom, not just about this situation, but Tom, you’ve been out on the streets for 20 years. How have things changed for you and with your relationship? Have police changed at all in the 20 years you’ve been doing this? I’m just kind of curious.

Taya:

Good question.

Tom Zebra:

I’m going to say since I started having more people helping me, like Laura joined me, Jody Kat joined me. There was a few of us in the same area that I was working regularly. And as far as how things changed, the police don’t even come out of the station anymore. Like the Lawndale sheriffs, any of the areas, those productive feeding grounds, if it was like fishing, those were the areas that I would go because there was plenty of police instances to record.

Well, now I could drive through these areas every night all night long, and you won’t find a cop unless they’re responding to a call. They stay inside the station, they respond to a call and they go straight back to the station.

I don’t know how many millions people spent to put these police on the street, but for free, I come back off the street and put them in the station with the help of my associates. And to be honest, if anything, the crime rate has probably gone down because it seems to me like the most serious crimes are committed by the police, at least the ones that I see.

Taya:

Wow.

Stephen:

Well, yeah, it’s true. The crime has gone down over the past year from the pandemic highs. And that has been amid a police officer shortage.

Taya:

Exactly… Exactly.

Stephen:

Difficult to explain when you say the police are the key to public safety. But currently right now we have a really record drop in violent crime and also record low employment in many police departments, including ours in Baltimore, where we’ve had a 20% drop in homicides and we’re pretty much record low staffing. So really difficult conundrum for police partisans who want to say…

Taya:

It’s interesting you should say that, Steven, because it’s almost as if you two are drawing the conclusion that policing doesn’t necessarily stop crime, that’s a cleanup crew. By any chance, are you familiar with a book called You Can’t Stop Murder? Are you familiar with that book?

Stephen:

Yes, I wrote that book. I wrote that book.

Taya:

Yes, that’s right. And you actually… It’s interesting…

Stephen:

That was the thesis of the book, that proactive policing does not reduce crime and it only causes more, as to Tom’s point, causes more problems than it solves. And that is, I think borne out in Baltimore and I think in Los Angeles too as well, because as Tom and Laura were covering it, there was that report by the ACLU about the Los Angeles County Sheriff, and it was insane what they concluded. You guys remember that report, right?

Taya:

Incredible.

Laura Sharp:

Yeah, there was actually the investigation that they had put out is what I sent my video of Christopher Bailey. I sent my video in with several others, and that’s what I think the lawyer said that the district attorney said that she, that’s how she found out or something for their investigation.

Taya:

Let me just respond to MSTAR Media.

Tom Zebra:

Oh, I think-

Taya:

Oh, I’m sorry, Tom, go ahead. I don’t want to interrupt you.

Tom Zebra:

I think if I’m correct, you guys were talking about the investigation where like 90% of their time is spent on traffic stops, right? Is that what you’re referring to?

Taya:

Yes.

Stephen:

Yes.

Tom Zebra:

And our videos not only prove exactly that, but probably 90% of those traffic stops are fake traffic stops. They’re profiling where the person did nothing wrong, and at the end of the search, the police can’t even come up with the reason why they made that stop in the first place. And if you take that all into consideration, we’re wasting $4 billion to be pulled over for no reason. And I’ll let you get back to what you were, I just want to make that point.

Taya:

No, Tom, I’m so glad you’re making that point.

Stephen:

No, it’s a good point. Thank you for making that point.

Taya:

It’s really important. No, I just wanted to mention to MSTAR Media, and I really appreciate you bringing it up. She said, what are we getting our stats from about crime going down? Just in my case-

Stephen:

Well, the New York Times, FBI UCR.

Taya:

Well, just very specifically, the Uniform Crime Report is where various police agencies send in their data. Unfortunately, not all the police agencies do, but that’s where they’re supposed to send in their data about whether homicide, murders, et cetera, carjackings, theft, all the different varieties of crime. Something that we saw in particular in our city, Baltimore, is that although carjackings are up quite a bit, one of the things that we’re most concerned about is homicide in our city and shootings. And very fortunately this year, we’ve seen a precipitous drop despite the fact that we’re, what, maybe like 600 police officers short?

Stephen:

Yeah, 600 or something.

Taya:

And so there are other cities that are also experiencing this. If you have a chance, you can, the data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report is actually accessible. You can also get it through-

Stephen:

Go online, just look it up.

Taya:

Get it through the Bureau of Justice Statistics. There are a couple of different ways to access it.

Stephen:

It’s all broken down by locale. By municipality.

Taya:

Right, so you can take a look. And so we are speaking from our personal experiences in the areas that we’re in, but-

PART 4 OF 5 ENDS [01:56:04]

Taya:

So we are speaking from our personal experiences in the areas that we’re in, but there have been journalists who’ve done really solid work to show that this is an overall national trend. So it may be in relation to specific crime that we’re very concerned about like homicide, and it may be like in our city, things like carjackings are high, so maybe you’re looking at a particular crime stat and we’re looking at another, so maybe that’s where the disconnect is happening.

Stephen:

Well, let’s ask one last question because we’re almost at two hours. So we have got to-

Taya:

Can I please ask about the cannabis.

Stephen:

Yes.

Taya:

Oh, okay.

Stephen:

Go ahead.

Taya:

All right, so-

Stephen:

Last question.

Taya:

Tom and Laura, I loved this piece that you did and because to me, in every aspect of it showed how important a cop watcher is. So Tom and Laura arrive on the scene, a young man and his girlfriend, his girlfriend’s a passenger,

Laura Sharp:

Darius Dandy.

Taya:

Say the name again, [inaudible 01:56:51].

Laura Sharp:

Darius Dandy.

Taya:

Darius. So Darius is driving, they’re pulled over, they’re harassed. I think it’s originally about window tint, and they see that they have some legally purchased marijuana. And so they start recording this and Laura can talk a little bit about what a strange DUI test they gave. But what really jumped out to me, which just touched my heart so much, is that the police, after taking away her boyfriend and taking away the car, just left the passenger standing on the road without her phone, without ID, without-

Laura Sharp:

No, they took her.

Taya:

They took her too. I thought they’d left her on the side of the road.

Laura Sharp:

So they took her too to the station. Essentially did. They took her phone, everything that she had in the car. When they towed the car, they took all her [inaudible 01:57:38]. And I was repeating to them like, “Are you going to let her get any of these things?” These are the obvious things that you’d need to be able to carry on with your evening while the car’s… Yeah. No, they took her back to the station. She actually refused to get out of the car.

Taya:

So you actually went to the station with them to help? Which is wonderful.

Laura Sharp:

Yeah, so we followed them to the station, and then they basically set her on her own. But luckily we were there and I offered to give her a ride to the impound lot. Mind you, mind you though. Sorry. The show that it was after that is just, it was raining. So technically if we weren’t there, she would’ve had to walk, what was it, Daniel? The miles to the tow.

Tom Zebra:

It would’ve been a couple hour walk to get to her stuff, but then without a release, they tried to send her without a release. She would’ve had to walk all the way back and then-

Laura Sharp:

And then it was after hours-

Tom Zebra:

… for her to have so. She would’ve had to walk for eight hours and she would’ve never accomplished getting her wallet, her keys, anything.

Laura Sharp:

Yeah, she had to pay, well, she didn’t even have the money because she didn’t have her wallet or anything. So I loaned her money so that she could pay the after hours cost to be able to get these most obvious items of her. Okay, so the worst part of this is that they did the, what was it, Daniel, that they, it was under the, what was it? It was like a DUI investigation, he claimed.

Tom Zebra:

Yes. The whole thing was just a charade because apparently we caught him too many times. They’re trying to not admit or let on when we catch him doing illegal searches. So they just were framing the guy for a marijuana DUI. And I think you know about marijuana DUIs, they’re bogus on their face.

Stephen:

Wow.

Taya:

Excellent.

Stephen:

Well, I think-

Taya:

Excellent.

Stephen:

We appreciate you guys. I think Tay, we are almost up to two hours.

Taya:

I don’t want to let them go. We barely even got the chance to really talk to them.

Stephen:

I know. But we’ll have them back. We’ll have them back.

Laura Sharp:

We love you congratulations.

Taya:

Can I at least-

Tom Zebra:

Let me just say, I want to congratulate you guys. I have a ton more things to talk about, but we’ll save that for another time. It was a great show. I enjoyed watching it and I hope to see you guys soon.

Stephen:

Absolutely.

Taya:

All right. I will defer to my partners. No, you’re right. I’m sorry. It’s so rare to have Tom and Laura at the same time, and between the two of them, they have amazing stories and just so much to share.

Stephen:

Could you guys keep making fake police accountability reports, oh please? Because we like to watch it.

Laura Sharp:

We’re actually working on another one I was telling you about earlier this week, but I didn’t have time to-

Taya:

I would love that.

Laura Sharp:

Oh yeah, for sure. For sure.

Taya:

At least by the 6th.

Stephen:

Yeah. No, they’re working on one now.

Laura Sharp:

No, no, no. For sure. I’m working on it now, so yeah.

Taya:

Okay. Awesome.

Laura Sharp:

I was hoping to have it ready.

Stephen:

Thank you so much.

Taya:

We appreciate you so much.

Tom Zebra:

Good night everybody.

Taya:

Thank you so much.

Laura Sharp:

Love you too.

Taya:

Bye Laura. Bye Tom Zebra.

Laura Sharp:

Bye.

Taya:

Hey, if you guys haven’t already subscribed to their channel, that’s Laura Shark CW, you’re seeing right there. That’s how you find her channel. You might not realize this, but the world of cop watchers, there aren’t a lot of females out there, so please make sure to support them like Laura Shark CW, and of course you’ve got to honor the OG Tom Zebra, so make sure to go check out his channel as well. And all the other wonderful cop watchers that we’ve had here tonight. I think most of them already knew [inaudible 02:01:03] streaming in like [inaudible 02:01:04] and out of the watch dog. But please make sure you go.

Laura Sharp:

It’s great to see.

Taya:

Sub to Laura’s channel for me.

Stephen:

Isn’t it amazing that the cops are afraid to come out because Tom’s out there.

Taya:

I know. I love that.

Stephen:

Just a guy with a cell phone and a-

Taya:

I know.

Stephen:

… camera on his head-

Taya:

… that they’ve done that to him. I have to ask. Okay, I won’t. Can I just have one little question of Laura? One little question.

Stephen:

One more question quickly.

Taya:

One more. Okay. Laura, while you’re still here because you’re not done yet, I have to ask. Okay. You guys have gotten a lot of attention on YouTube question. You’ve had a lot of impact. Do the police treat you differently? When you show up are they like, “Oh no, it’s Laura, oh no, it’s Tom Zebra.” Or do they just act like they don’t see you? What happens when the cops see you?

Laura Sharp:

I [inaudible 02:01:42] know Daniel, what do you think?

Tom Zebra:

Definitely. I think a lot of them are, they’re scared of Laura it seems like, or if she asked more serious questions. I’m more likely to put things off and just say hello and be social. She’s not as nice to them. So there’s a lot of them that try to-

Laura Sharp:

[inaudible 02:02:03]. I’m just factual. I’m just real. I have passion. And he says a lot more in his own, when he posts videos, he gets to the point in that [inaudible 02:02:13]. But me, I am quite like, “No, no, no, I know what you did.” Or, “Wait, wait, wait, come back.” No.

Taya:

That’s great.

Tom Zebra:

If I could add one last thing. I know we’re ending the show, but after working with these guys for so many years, it’s hard to not become friends with them. So despite the awful…

Stephen:

Oh, I think we just lost him.

Taya:

Oh, no.

Laura Sharp:

Oh, no, no, no. He says he’s friends with us. I don’t claim such just silly thing. That’s so ridiculous. Good night.

Stephen:

Good night. Good night.

Taya:

Good night.

Stephen:

Thank you so much.

Taya:

It was great to have you both. And we definitely want to see you again soon. Thank you so much.

Stephen:

Cool.

Taya:

Okay.

Stephen:

That was amazing.

Taya:

Absolutely amazing. I love the idea that they’re scared of her like she’s mean to the cops. I’ve met Laura in person, she’s not-

Stephen:

We met Laura in person. She’s the kindest person.

Taya:

She’s a petite person. She’s not intimidating in any way. So to imagine her being mean and standing up in that way is amazing.

Stephen:

Absolutely.

Taya:

And I just have to thank all of our guests, for just their insight, being willing to spend their time with us and just for your patience to stick with us and talk to us individually. And I want to thank all of you for the amazing work that you do. You each have your own styles, you have your own way. And what’s even better is that you always find a way to somehow support and help each other. You’ve created an amazing community and I’m so glad to be at least a small part of it. So Stephen, I have a question for you. As I was talking about the theme of the show, I mentioned a phrase that is very familiar to you, a community that has something in common, but it’s actually a play on words on a book by a philosopher, Alphonso Lingis who wrote a book called A Community with Nothing in Common. So you spoke to this philosopher, you wrote about him. Can you talk a little bit about that book in relation to cop watchers?

Stephen:

Well, and to be really quick, because we don’t have a lot of time, but you brought up something that really struck me. Really, it almost made me upset because I was reminded of things that happened to me when I started covering police 15 years ago. And we were in the midst of zero tolerance and things police were crazy and they were shooting people in the back and all these horrible things were happening and I was trying to cover it, report out and in truth. And they tried to destroy my life basically. They pulled me over like 40 times. They would always harass me. My editor said I was a cop hater. The things that would happen to me were really horrible. And there was other things they did wrote about me as if I was some sort of crazy freak.

But then in 2016, when the federal government comes in and says unconstitutional, racist policing and all this stuff, it was even more painful for me because in many ways the damage had been done. But it affected me deeply. It made me a paranoid person and a person who doesn’t trust people much and a person who feels isolated. But the whole wonderful thing about talking to these people, the whole amazing thing is all these people who I really have very little in common with on a regular basis, that I don’t even live in the same cities I do, make me feel like I’m not alone in this effort to hold power accountable. And as painful as it was for me, when I know the people like Otto have gone through so much, James Freeman, I know Eric Brandt is in prison right now. I know all these people have suffered.

And so I feel like I have some connection to something that in many ways makes it all worthwhile. Because truthfully, I’ll tell you this, you can write all these things about police and about how bad policing was in Baltimore, but when the Justice Department comes around and no one says, “Hey, you did a good job. We appreciate what you did. We understand you suffered.” People like Anthony Guglielmi, don’t apologize to you for calling you Jerk, or some of the other stuff they did to me. I could just go on and on, on what happened to me. Dragging me into a trial board and screaming at me and subpoenaed me all the time to go into court, all these really things when all I was doing was writing. I wasn’t dealing drugs, I was just writing the truth. And so I feel connected to the people that we report on because they have been through this too.

And I understand the impulse. The people who we talk to, but [inaudible 02:06:53], these people aren’t doing it. Even though people say, “Well, it’s all about YouTube clicks,” or something. They are doing it, because they believe in this process of holding power accountable. And so in that sense, we have nothing in common and everything in common. And it’s helping me a lot personally because I just feel angry sometimes when you bring that up. I just don’t understand it really. I don’t understand. But I think I read once about, I think it was a woman who was a reporter, I can’t remember her name, but she said, “You think when you cover the truth and you say the truth, that everyone’s going to come running and say, ‘It’s the truth.’ That’s not what happens.” And as one of our guests pointed out, police don’t really serve the public, so to speak. They do, they serve this great inequality machine. And that’s part of the reason. Anyway,

Taya:

Yes. No, well said.

Stephen:

Anyway, thank you.

Taya:

No, very well said.

Stephen:

I just wanted to say that.

Taya:

No, and you should say that. And what’s interesting, someone said, “Does Stephen know former Baltimore cop Michael Wood?” I remember him from-

Stephen:

Yes, I do.

Taya:

Yes. We both interviewed Michael Wood and he went on to do some-

Stephen:

What happened to him?

Taya:

He went on to do some interesting things like, like rob veterans of campaign, allegedly.

Stephen:

Allegedly.

Taya:

Allegedly mismanaged some donations.

Stephen:

Let’s put it this way. Initially, he was very revealing in talking a lot of truth but then he became muddled in controversy. But yes.

Taya:

I’m sorry.

Stephen:

We are aware of it.

Taya:

Allegedly.

Stephen:

Allegedly.

Taya:

Allegedly mismanaged these funds. Let me be clear. So just once again, I want to thank all of the wonderful cop watchers and activists who joined us tonight, both on the channel and in the live chat. I’ve seen you, I might not have been able to put up everyone’s comment, but I really did try to at least put up some of them and read them. And thank you. Thank you, Russell. You’re my favorite too. Thank you. That’s a very sweet comment. So I just wanted you to know I was looking at all these great comments. I’m going to be in the comment section. Excuse me, in the chat, I’m going to be in the comment section later.

As always, I do a PAR comment of the week and I try to pick out a comment. So I’ll be doing that later as well. So I just wanted to say thank you for everyone who is participating, and I just want you to know how lucky we feel to be able to cover this vibrant and eclectic and fascinating community. And it is a thought-provoking collection of people to say the least. And we are so grateful to have been able to tell their stories. Stephen, I’m about to give my 5th year anniversary rant.

Stephen:

Happy anniversary.

Taya:

Happy anniversary to you too.

Stephen:

Thank you.

Taya:

You were a member of the mainstream media and now you’re in a very different world.

Stephen:

Yes, I am. But I wouldn’t be anywhere else, then here next to you, as Jay-Z said, “You could have been anywhere else in the world but here.”

Taya:

Oh, that’s great.

Stephen:

Yeah.

Taya:

Nice quote with Jay-Z.

Stephen:

Yeah. Thank you.

Taya:

Well done. You’re in a different world. Is there anything you want to share about covering this phenomena or?

Stephen:

Well, as I said before, I feel kindred spirits here, and it’s been a great 5th anniversary gift for me to hear from people who have struggled with the same things I have. And it makes me feel good that we are together in some ways, a community though not together in the same space, but by the same ideals. And that feels good. So I’ll say that.

Taya:

That’s beautifully said.

Stephen:

Thank you.

Taya:

Okay, now it’s my turn. As I’ve discussed at the beginning of the show, all of our work on the police accountability report is driven by a community, people who care enough to watch and share and comment, and even film cops. It’s driven by something we would call an audience, but I would characterize it more accurately as a collective of people focused on a single idea. Self-governance requires participation and good governance requires even more active involvement. And what I mean is that what I see is I report on the variety of people who watch or simply watch us, is a movement tied to more than an ideology. That is, it’s a group of people acting within their individual capacities to facilitate something more important than their own needs. A collective good, a common good. Think about it, when a person appears on our show to discuss an encounter with police, it’s more than simply an opportunity to tell their story. It’s an affirmation that standing up and pushing back and participating is more than what philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre would call a useless passion.

It is, at its core, an acknowledgement that democracy freedom and our essential rights require work to maintain them. Meaning if we don’t fight each and every day for self-governance, we will lose it. And that’s what this show, my show, Stephen’s show, your show has taught me. It has forced me to look beyond the past implications of a dystopian future where our personal agency has been rendered impotent. And it has inspired me to comprehend the real meaning of a single individual coming forward and standing up for themselves when police and the mainstream media would brand them as criminals. And it tells me that despite the cynicism that pervades social media and the apathy of the internet, there are people who believe that fighting back really matters.

Is there anything really as profound as an average citizen whose rights have been trampled by police bravely coming forward on a Zoom call to tell their story? Is there anything more inspiring than the premise of a single person story, a story that can be painful, and even embarrassing to tell can actually change all of our lives. But this is exactly what I’ve witnessed, and I’ve literally watched it unfold in real time. This community and the people who are part of it, you are changing the world for the better. And you who are watching the live stream who are in this live chat right now are part of it too. How do I know? Well, let me count the ways, so to speak. Let me tell you now and show you what I mean. Let me just go back five years to one of our early guest, Michelle Lucas.

Michelle had been forced to plead guilty to a crime she didn’t commit, namely passing a counterfeit bill. The fake money was given to her by a fellow employee to purchase liquor at the store, but the police didn’t believe her. And while she was awaiting sentencing, she told her story to us. After our story was published, which exposed the flaws of the case, the head public defender stepped in and withdrew her plea and dropped the charges. And I want you to know it is nearly unheard of for someone to have pled guilty and then have the public defender’s office step in to have it overturned. And then there’s a story of an Ohio car driver named Lufty Salim. Mr. Salim was parked outside of a pharmacy during the pandemic when an off-duty cop approached him, told him to move. And when Mr. Salim tried to explain that he was waiting for a patient, he started to drag Lufty out of the car and then tasered him multiple times. After telling his story, Lufty sued and a court tossed his suit due to, you guessed it, qualified immunity.

But Mr. Salim persisted. And just recently a circuit court panel overturned the decision, giving him another chance to fight to hold police accountable. Or I could talk about Caleb Dial. Caleb was charged with resisting arrest and felony escape by Milton police. They posted his mugshot on Facebook and hinted that he had been involved in domestic violence, all of which was untrue. After telling his story and showing the ring camera video that proved the officer was lying, Caleb obtained a lawyer, sued and won a major settlement from the Milton West Virginia Police Department. Or I could tell the story of one of our very first guests, Erica Hamlett, whose sixteen-year-old son was confronted by an off-duty Baltimore cop who pointed a gun at the teenager while he was waiting for a bus. The officer was never charged, but Hamlett fought both the department and the city to hold them accountable.

And just a few weeks ago, a jury awarded the family $250.000. These are just a few of the stories that we have been told over the past five years. Tales of malfeasance that all started with a simple idea you, meaning you, the people will not tolerate the diminishment of our rights or government that feels free to violate them. And this is what it’s really about. It’s not just police, or law enforcement, or laws, or legal precedents. What this battle really amounts to is to fight to preserve the most precious right we have, the right to self-governance. What we’re really witnessing when we report on these stories is a collective act of faith. That these rights not only matter, but are worth fighting to maintain that the phrase, “We the people,” means something tangible. And that to live in a free nation governed by equality and respect for the voice of the citizenry, means we have to speak up.

And speaking up comes with risks, and speaking out is often met with retaliation. Just consider how much jail time Eric Brandt is serving for doing so, even though what he said was offensive. His goals, his objective are not only worth considering, but debating so we can understand the limits of free speech and the price of imposing constraints upon it. So I guess what the show has taught me is that courage lies with the people who take the risk to stand up. Why else would Eric, and Abidy, and Monkey 83 stage protests around Denver over the rights of the homeless, get arrested for it, and then win settlement after settlement with the city of Denver? Why else would James Freeman turn his attention to the court system of New Mexico? And what other motivation could Otto have in mind to continue to fight the system that tried to force him to plead guilty and denied him the right to see his children?

It’s all an act premised on the idea that our world can be made better, that our rights are worth protecting, and that our freedom is non-negotiable. Believe me there days when I despair, moments when even I have doubts. But what always inspire me to double down and keep moving forward is you, the people who care. The people who not only want better, but demand better. The community that uplifts us all and the community that I’m so proud to be a part of. And it’s a community that most definitely has something in common, and it’s our humanity and our love of our constitutional rights. So I would like to thank all of you again, and I want to make sure-

Stephen:

[inaudible 02:17:19] applaud your 5th anniversary. You need applause for that. Was quite [inaudible 02:17:23]. That was-

Taya:

I don’t know if I deserve applause.

Stephen:

Sorry, I didn’t mean to interject there, but I was stunned. I was moved.

Taya:

Oh, well thank you Stephen. I hope other folks, oh, someone said, this is not the comment of the week. I just want to make sure to thank the amazing folks who helped make the show special. First, my dear friend and my very first moderator, Noli D. Hi, Noli D. and my second moderator, but no less appreciated, the kind-hearted Lacey Ard. And I have to thank the gentlemen behind the scenes who helped make the show possible tonight. Cameron Grandino and David Hebden. Thank you, gentlemen.

Stephen:

Thank you so much you guys.

Taya:

And hats off to our editor in chief who’s a great supporter of our work. Max, thank you.

Stephen:

Thank you Max.

Taya:

And I have to thank each and every one of you who shows up to our live streams. We appreciate you and I hope that you know it because we did this crazy live stream for you. That’s why we did it so we could interact with you and you guys when we don’t have the Thursday night live chat. I really do miss you. I honestly do. I hope you miss me too. Okay, so just to let everyone know, this is the time when I think my amazing patrons. Okay. I saw a Matter Of Rights down here. Okay, so this is when I thank them. So please make sure to listen up for your name. Please forgive me if I stumble or mispronounce something. And I just want to say thank you so much for your support. Are you ready for the Patreons?

Stephen:

Yes.

Taya:

Patron Patreons?

Stephen:

Yes.

Taya:

Okay. So first, for our PR patrons, first coming up, our amazing, loyal, and exceptionally intelligent associate producers, Lucida Garcia, David Keeley, John ER, Louis P, and then of course our wonderful PR super friends who are so generous and help us fight for justice with their donations and their moral support Matter Of Rights, Chris R, Kenneth Lawrence K, Pineapple Girl, Shane B and Angela True. And of course, people with wonderful and great taste in YouTube videos are official patrons. And I’m only saying the first letter of the last name because I don’t accidentally want to reveal too much information about someone. So Gary H, Michael W. Joseph P Dur Devil, Nope. Patty, Kemi, XXXX, Libit, Dante, Kipi S, John M, Joe Six. Six Estate AZ, Kyle R, Calvin M, Stephen D, Rod B, Celeste Dupy S, PT, Just M 2 Cents. Talia B, Tamara A, John K, True Tube Live.

Liz S, Gary T, and last but not least, are loyal, kind, and most certainly good-looking friends of PAR. Are you ready?

Stephen:

Mm-hmm.

Taya:

Okay. Ryan Pantilla, Sean B, Ronald H, Hugo F, Social Nationalist, Marcia E, Tim R, Justin P, Conrad B, Wingate B, Bill Ding, Ninding N, David W, Regina O, Jodes, Frank FK, Mary M, Mike D, Linda Or, and Linda, I got your card. I love that picture of Alaska you sent me. That was so sweet. You’re an absolute sweetheart. I’ve saved your letter. You’re awesome. Chris M, Dean C, Shannon P, Cameron J, Farmer Jane USA. Marbin G, Kimmy Cat P, Kurt A, Daniel W, William TG, DBMC, John K, Pot Shot, Stephen B, Cindy. K, Seskel S, Keith Bernard M, John M, Janet K, Mark William L, Noli D, Guy B, Ron F, Alan J, Trey P, Julius Geyser, Omar O, Umesh H, John P, Ryan, Lacey R, Douglas P, Andrea JO, Siggy Young, Stephen J, Michael Stephen L, Default Urine, Peter J, Joel A.

Larry L, Artemis LA. Jimmy Touchdown. He was our very first patron. Kenny G, David B, [inaudible 02:21:24], I’m A Lot To Unpack, Marlin, Cool Raul 07, Soulja, the Self-Care Maven Cat, Negrita, Gary B, Dan F, Eric G, Lorelai, W, Luis, S, Thomas C, Arvin N, Steve MC, Carson W, Twila M, Brad W, Cynthia Corrine, D, Mike K, Loretta S, Marciana, Brian M, Glen R, Mike K, I Is Circle of the Quantum Note, Philonius Punk, Betty R, Byron M, Graham Brigg W, Zira M, and RBMH. That’s it. Those are our beautiful Patreons. Those are our beautiful patrons. And I want to thank everyone that spent time with us in the live chat tonight. Like I said, I’m going to be in the comments for a little while later so you can say hi to me, share what you thought of the show.

And of course, I’m going to be looking for my PAR comment of the week. So if that’s something that you’re interested in, I’ll be taking little snapshots and putting some aside so I can have some nice comments of the week for this week and next. We’re not going to be back for two weeks, but we are working on one heck of a report for you, and it’s going to have in it a cop watcher that you know well. You might’ve seen him in the comment section today. He was fortunate to not be incarcerated this week. His name is Manuel Mata, and he’s going to help elucidate some of the larger problems with policing in this country. So I want to thank everyone. And of course, if you have any tips that you want to share with us, please reach out to us at PAR at therealnews.com. And of course, you can always reach out to me directly @TayasBaltimore on Facebook and Twitter. Stephen, is there anything I should allow you to say before I go?

Stephen:

Happy anniversary.

Taya:

All right, happy anniversary to you too.

Stephen:

Take us with your…

Taya:

Okay, and happy anniversary to my awesome mods, Noli D and Lacey R, and to anyone who I didn’t get to say goodbye to, I’m sorry, but I’ll try to make it up to you everyone. Thanks for joining me, and please be safe out there.

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