All Jesse Bright wanted was an apology from the North Carolina police officer who told him it was against the law to record cops in public.
But the cop refused to take his calls in the week after Bright proved him wrong.
So Bright went public with the video, where it quickly went viral, picked up by news sites throughout the world.
Now Wilmington Police Sergeant Kenneth Baker is “under investigation” for his actions caught caught on camera that day, showing he not only lied about the law, but lied about having probable cause to search Bright’s car.
It doesn’t take much of an investigation to determine that. All one has to do is view Bright’s videos posted below.
Then there is the New Hanover sheriff’s deputy who also lied to Bright, affirming what Baker said about a newly enacted law in North Carolina that turned photography into a crime.
The two law enforcement officer likely assumed that as a fresh-faced Uber driver, Bright would not know any better.
But he is also a licensed attorney working for the public defender’s office, working extra hours at Uber to pay off school loans.
So he continued recording, knowing there was no such law banning him from doing so.
He also did not consent to the cops searching himself or his vehicle, knowing they did not have probable cause.
But Baker was angry at being rebuffed, so he had another cop walk a police dog to the car where it began sniffing around, but not giving any visible indicator that there were drugs in the car.
And that was enough for Baker to search the car.
“It’s funny how he was real interested in your car,” Baker told Bright seconds after the dog showed little interest in his car.
As Baker was searching the car, finding nothing stronger than some over-the-counter melatonin pills left behind by Bright’s mother, other cops kept telling Bright that the dog “indicated” on both sides of his car, which gave them probable cause to search the car.
But the video shows the dog never gave such a sign. At least not on the passenger’s side where we can clearly see on Bright’s video the dog giving no such indication.
According to Barry Cooper, a former drug enforcement cop turned police accountability activist, a police dog needs to give two clear indicators to give cops probable cause to search a car, including a change of behavior in the dog’s body language followed by the dog scratching at the surface.
An alert includes noticeable behavior changes triggered by odor interest, followed by a scratch near the odor source. Behavior changes include a sudden “head jerk” in the direction of the odor source, slowing or speeding of a wagging tail, body posture changes and changes in breathing patterns. If the K-9 detects the odor of a narcotic during a search, the dog communicates this to the handler by scratching near the source. Behavior changes without a scratch are not enough to announce an alert, just as scratching without behavior changes is not an alert. Both must be witnessed by the handler in order for contraband to be considered detected.
None of that took place on February 25 when Bright was pulled over shortly after taking a rider to pick up a paycheck from a residence.
The cops claimed the residence was a “drug house,” which they were investigating, so they figured Bright and his rider had just purchased drugs.
The truth is, Bright’s passenger is a dog groomer who grooms dogs at the house in question, so he was only picking up a paycheck. The cops discovered that after the passenger consented to a search and found nothing illegal.
While they were searching his passenger outside the car, Baker noticed Bright was recording him from the driver’s seat, so he ordered him to turn it off.
Here’s how the Washington Post described the exchange:
“Hey, bud, turn that off, okay?” Becker said.
“No, I’ll keep recording, thank you,” Bright responded. “It’s my right.”
“Don’t record me,” the police sergeant said. “You got me?”
“Look,” Bright said, “you’re a police officer on duty. I can record you.”
“Be careful because there is a new law,” Becker said. “Turn it off or I’ll take you to jail.”
“For recording you?” the video shows Bright asking Becker. “What is the law?”
A tense exchange followed, with Becker telling Bright to step out of his car, calling him “a jerk,” then warning him that he “better hope” officers didn’t find something in his vehicle.
Bright continued to record, saying, “I know my rights.”
“I hope so,” said Becker, the police sergeant. “I know what the law is.”
“I know the law,” Bright said. “I’m an attorney, so I would hope I know what the law is.”
“And an Uber driver?” Becker asked.
When Baker realized that Bright was not going to stop recording, he brought the K9 officer over with the police dog, which a few sniffs of the car before looking for something else to do.
But that was enough for Baker to search his car.
Bright asked another cop what are the indicators that dogs give to allow them to search the car, but he could not get a straight answer.
He was, however, accused of not “cooperating” with the cops, which is their way of saying, not willing to give up his Constitutional rights.
The cops allowed them to leave after finding nothing illegal.
Bright then contacted the Wilmington Police Department to ask to speak to Baker, but the cop never returned his calls, which is why we went public with the videos, drawing attention from the local media, then the national media.
Both the Wilmington Police Department and New Hanover Sheriff’s Office have released statements that there is no law forbidding citizens from recording cops, but the sheriff’s office has not even released the lying deputy’s name.
The one law that did pass recently in North Carolina made police body cam footage exempt from public records requests, so even though these cops were likely wearing cameras, it is unlikely we will ever see the videos, which may reveal them conspiring to violate his rights.
Although Bright has a solid grounds to file a lawsuit on how they searched his car without probable cause, he said he does not plan to sue because he has to work with these cops daily at the courthouse.
As he explains in the video interview with Photography is Not a Crime posted below, all he wanted was an apology, but liars rarely apologize.
Also below are the three videos he recorded, including from when he was first pulled over, when he was told it was illegal to record cops and when they searched his car after claiming the dog indicated there were drugs inside.