On April 12, 2014 I was a passenger in a friend’s vehicle when she was pulled over by a Houston Police Department officer for speeding and following too close. Upon noticing the flashing red and blues my friend began pulling off the highway. The officer, however, pulled up real close to her vehicle’s left side and began aggressively tailing her until we were off the highway and on the side of the road.
At this point the situation began to escalate so I decided to start filming. My friend, admittedly, was upset and nervous. She began talking to the officer as soon as he walked up, attempting to explain that the person in front of her stopped suddenly when they saw the cop car.
She argued that this made it appear as if she was riding the bumper of that vehicle. Once my friend finished explaining that the officer asked for her license. She explained to him that she was waiting to receive a new license in the mail and did not have a paper identification card.
As soon as she finished speaking Officer Perez asks, “Can I talk?”, and then proceeds to say, “You’re under arrest, get out of the car. For not having a drivers license.”
At that point I stepped out of the vehicle to film for safety. The Houston Police Department does not have the best track record when it comes to dealing with citizens (see this, this, this, and this) and I know that filming the police can often equalize the situation. The officer tells me to get back in the car and I decided to comply. For me, that was the safest choice I could make at the time. I did not stop filming and kept myself available to my friend.
From my experience, driving without a license in Texas is not an arrestable offense. Officer Perez explained that according to the transportation code she could be booked for not having a license. I searched the Texas Transportation code and found that for the first offense a fine of no more than $200 can be given. Chapter 521, section 0.25 of the code actually states if someone was to get caught driving without a license three times in one year then they would face a minimum of 3 days and up to 6 months. Not the first time you are pulled over for the “offense”.
However, as many of you know, the police are the final authority when it comes to these situations. According to law professor David Gonzalez, “In Texas, other than speeding or having [an] open container of alcohol, every other thing is an arrestable offense, and it’s the police officer’s discretion as to whether to arrest you or to give you a ticket.” That’s a sticky situation to say the least.
Officers often knowingly make arrests that will not and do not stand up to judicial scrutiny. When you know you are being arrested for something false it is safer not to resist and instead to ask others to film and fight them in court.
Despite this the officer says she will be arrested for no license and, he adds, for speeding and following too close. Again I attempt to tell the officer that these are not arrestable offenses. I must clarify that at that time I was speaking based on my experience and limited research. If Texas officers are operating under the assumption that they can arrest anyone at any time then we as individuals need to be cautious and aware every time we deal with them.
One of the most disturbing aspects of this event was the fact the officer said, “Every time I stop someone I plan on arresting them.” This is a ridiculous way for an officer of law enforcement to conduct themselves. Again, caution and awareness are necessary.
By the end of the interaction the officer decided not to arrest my friend but rather write her a ticket. The officer told me off camera that the reason he had this change of heart was because of the way I communicated with him. There are moments in the video where I wish I had chosen my words more carefully but overall, I believe me maintaining my composure, and speaking confidently to the officer showed him that we were not going to cower to his demands. We forced him to show us respect and communicate to us as fellow humans.
This, of course, will not always be the way these situations play out. We see plenty of examples where cops are much more aggressive than Officer Perez was. Use your own common sense and analyze the situation and the officers demeanor to decide what way to handle the situation. Generally, I strive to give respect when it is given. When I am spoken down to by a police officer (or anyone) I make it clear that they are crossing my boundaries and that I will not tolerate disrespect.
This does not have to be done with force. At the end of the video we take a moment to reflect on the lessons learned. Quite simply – fear is the mindkiller. When you allow your fear of police to paralyze you into blind obedience authority wins and freedom loses. If your awareness of police violence allows you to prejudge every officer and assume that they will cause you harm we are also doing the cause of freedom a disservice.
In the 8 months since that incident happened the video has garnered over 110,000 views. I hope everyone watching the video and sharing it to their friends and family will recognize the empowerment that waits to those who choose knowledge. Knowing your rights can help you educate yourself, friends, family and even the police. Finding your voice and choosing to use it will help inspire others to do the same. Little by little, the hearts and minds are changing and freedom is growing.
Video Credit: Derrick Broze
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist, community activist, gardener and promoter from Houston, Texas. He is the founder of The Houston Free Thinkers, and The Conscious Resistance Network.
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