An Oregon cop named Taylor Letsis illegally snatched a woman’s camera from her hand as she was video recording an arrest, telling her that he had the legal right to seize it as “evidence.”
He was dead wrong, of course, but the Gresham police officer obviously believes he is above the law.
“He assaulted me,” said Carrie Medina, the 29-year-old woman who was video recording.
“He twisted my arms back. I had nail marks on my arm.”
The entire exchange was captured in the above video beginning at 4:15, showing that Medina remained professional and cordial, but firm about her rights, before Letsis turned aggressive.
In a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime, Medina said that once the camera was turned off and in his possession, Letsis demanded she show him how to view the footage.
“He said if I did not show him how to use it, he would take me to jail, so I showed him,” she said.
“I asked him if I was free to go and he said no, so I was being detained.”
After viewing the first 30 seconds of the clip, he was satisfied that she had not recorded two other officers tackling a teenager in the middle of the street.
“I started recording after I saw two huge cops slam a teenage boy to the ground,” she said.
It is understandable that Letsis is a little paranoid around cameras because he was one of several cops caught on citizen video for beating and tasing a man for not having a ticket on a transit system.
In the latest incident, Letsis obviously wasn’t too concerned with his own behavior being caught on camera but that might not be a bad thing considering he was one click away from deleting the footage as he fiddled with her phone.
“I was live streaming but I had not uploaded it yet,” she said, explaining that Ustream requires users to upload the footage in order to save it or else it will just vanish after being visible to only those watching the live stream.
A live streaming alternative to Ustream is TapIn, which records directly to a server without having to click anything, but that only works with iPhones.
The incident took place on Tuesday in Portland. While the officers making the arrest were from the Portland Police Department, Letsis is a Gresham police officer, a small municipality just east of Portland.
After Letsis returned her phone, she recorded a follow-up video where she explained what just happened.
Medina plans to file a complaint against Letsis with his superiors. She said she is uncertain as to whether pursue legal action against Letsis because she has no confidence in the system, which is understandable, but maybe an aggressive lawyer will step up to the plate because he clearly violated the law.
In a set of guidelines issued last year, the U.S. Department of Justice stated that police are only allowed to confiscate phones under “exigent circumstances,” which is mainly when police fear the video evidence of a serious crime will be destroyed.
Otherwise, they must obtain a subpoena, which is what Medina told him prior to him snatching the phone from her.
Yet we can clearly hear him tell her that “I don’t need a subpoena to search your phone for evidence of a crime.”
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Unfortunately for Letsis, the only evidence of a crime that she recorded was his own doing.
In fact, a Portland police officer walked up to them after he had snatched her phone and shook his head at him as if to tell him he had crossed the line.
“That was when he let me go,” she said. “I noticed he became extremely nervous after that. He started shaking.”
So what is the Greshan Police Department going to do about this considering they state the following on their website?
Respect for the Individual
We will respect and protect the constitutional rights of all citizens, treating them with courtesy and respect, using force only when necessary. We are dedicated to protecting the rights of our employees by providing equal employment opportunities and enhancing their work lives through fair and equitable treatment. The dignity of each individual is central in the way we conduct our business.