Oregon state trooper Dessa Deforest admits she didn’t like cops very much when she was young, so when she became cop six years ago, she vowed not to be type of officer she didn’t like.
But last week she was caught on video ordering a citizen to stop recording her in public, lying about the state’s wiretapping law, claiming it was illegal to record her without her consent.
Did Deforest genuinely believe it was illegal to record her in public? Or did she become the type of cop she once vowed she wouldn’t become?
Either way, she ended up backing down when Chris Ponte of Oregon Cop Block asserted his right to record her in public.
Fast forward to 2:40 in the video to view the exchange.
Like in most states, Oregon’s wiretapping laws are outdated, not written for today’s technology-driven era when almost every citizen is armed with a digital camera.
However, because the law states that it is legal to record without consent at “public or semipublic meetings such as hearings before governmental or quasi-governmental bodies, trials, press conferences, public speeches, rallies and sporting or other events,” it has since been interpreted to mean that citizens can record openly where there is no expectation of privacy.
In 2010, after the city of Beaverton dished out a $19,000 settlement to a man who was arrested on wiretapping charges after recording cops arresting his friend, that city’s attorney issued a memo to police explaining that citizens have the right to record cops in public, an excerpt which I posted below.
As expected, the memo fell on deaf ears to police, including the Beaverton Police Chief, who said his officers would continue arresting citizens for video recording them in public.
As stated in the memo, the modern interpretation of the wiretapping law states that citizens merely have to openly record to inform officers that they are recording as Ponte was doing.
It is why Deforest noticed him in the first place.
But a bill introduced earlier this year was hoping to further clarify that citizens have the right to openly record cops, but as far as I can tell, that bill has gone nowhere.
A newspaper article from December 2012 stated that Deforest had volunteered for years at an annual program that pairs cops with at-risk kids during Christmas time to “Shop with a Cop” in an effort to build bonds and reduce stereotypes.
“You never know what kind of background the kids are coming from,” said Deforest, who has taken part in the event for three years. “Sometimes it’ll surprise you. The kids who seem the strongest have had the most negative encounters with police. I think they have a genuine interest in getting to know us.”
Deforest recalled her own disdain for police as a teenager. When she decided to become a state trooper five years ago, she promised herself not to become the kind of officer she once disliked.
Learning about Deforest’s past left a big impression on Ahumaba, who said she now might be interested in a law enforcement career.
“I feel better knowing that she came from the same attitude toward police officers as me,” Ahumaba said. “That makes me think I can help kids out too.”
So perhaps Deforest’s actions last week were simply a result of poor training from her superiors.
Thankfully, Oregon Cop Block is there to provide the needed training.