Arkansas Cop Rips iPhone Out of Man's Hand, Claiming He Couldn't Tell it was a Smartphone

The trend of police claiming ignorance over smartphones, insinuating that they could be weapons, continued last week when police in Arkansas ripped a phone out of a man’s hands as he was recording before the cop pulled out a Taser and threatened him with it.

The incident took place Wednesday as two men were trying to access an area outside Little Rock where an Exxon pipeline ruptured last month, spilling 5,000 barrels of oils in a subdivision called Mayflower.

Exxon has hired local police officers as security guards, which creates a huge conflict of interest, as Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, pointed out in this article.

The NPPA has also been protesting against other instances of restricting photographer access to the oil spill.

In the latest video, the two men, who were recording with the smartphones, said they had permission from the property owners when they were confronted by two police officers ordering them to leave for their safety.

The cops referred to the phones as “devices” and ordered them to turn them off. The first man did but the second man kept recording, which is when one of the cops became aggressive.

“Put your device down.”

“Why do I have to put my device down?”

“We don’t know what it is. Put your device down.”

According to the Youtube description:

Rod and I had just been speaking with property owners along the edge of the lake. We had permission to be there. These officers forced us to stop filming. Literally. The officer on the right ripped my iPhone from my hands and drew down on me with a taser. As of this day, April 17, 2013, I have uttered the words, “Don’t tase me bro.”

After a 20 minute lecture about the dangers of snakes, ticks, various and sundry other warnings about spending the afternoon in jail, we tried to leave. That’s when a Mayflower police officer issued Rod a citation for a) Parking in a Prohibited Area and b) Interfering with a Government Operation.

A government operation? That pretty much takes the cake. The only posted sign anywhere NEAR this section of Lake Conway is a red tape between a few trees which reads: “DANGER”

Funny way for the government to cordon off its “operations”. Maybe it’s just me, but concerned citizens documenting an oil spill are being fined. What will Exxon’s fine be for the wholesale destruction of wetlands vital to the Lake Conway ecosystem?

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

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  • lyle

    I am fearful police are using a new tactic to escape being photographed by using the term: “Device.” As in… “We don’t know what that thing is” — when it is clearly a smartphone. The saddest part is non-tech judges and prosecutors will back them up, because they are ignorant.

    The incident in Boston only makes this more difficult. Shit. We have got to come up with a away around this problem.

    • Batman

      What person doesn’t know what an iPhone is? Where I would agree with you if it was something more obscure and that looked off, an iPhone is the most recognizable phone in the world. It is specifically marketed at ignorant people who don’t understand technology. If they get backed up it is only because they are officers and our court system is skewed in their favor.

      You can’t get around this problem, that’s the issue. The guy showed the iPhone all around to the officer, the officer could clearly see the Apple logo on the back of it, and the other mans phone in the video clearly showed the Apple logo. The way to deal with this is to raise hell, until there’s a court decision that gives demands for an officer to be able to say a cell phone is a weapon or that he does not recognize it. It’ll just be everyone trying to prove that the officer knew what their phone was.

      It’s completely ridiculous since everyone knows the iPhone and the other guy in San Diego had a Samsung Galaxy S2 or s3, who the hell doesn’t know that phone too?

      • Kyle

        You make great points, Blake. But the answer to your first question is rather easy: “A judge who wholeheartedly believes the prosecution and police, and not the accused.” These folks exist in damn near every courtroom.

        That stupid video of a smartphone gun that doesn’t even exist is going to have officers ripping phones out of people’s hands for “officer safety” fear. True or not doesn’t really matter.

        • Batman

          I mentioned that at the end of my first paragraph. ” If they get backed up it is only because they are officers and our court system is skewed in their favor.”

          • Kyle

            Sorry, Blake. You are correct. You made the point. Sadly, we are both right… judges are skewed in their favor more and more each day.

  • ExCop-Lawyer

    Do we know what agency or agencies they are from? Mayflower PD has navy blue uniforms, and the Faulkner County SO has a star badge, which the officer on the right doesn’t have.

    • Rod Bryan

      The cop in the hat was from Greenbrier.

      • ExCop-Lawyer

        Refresh my memory, but isn’t Greenbrier on the other side of Conway from Mayflower?

        I would say make a complaint to both Greenbrier and the SO for prior restraint, but based on what I know of Arkansas, you would be wasting your time unless you are going to sue.

        • Rod Bryan

          Yes. Its North of there. The cops detained us until the Mayflower cops got there. They gave me a ticket for “prohibited parking” and “Interfering with Government Operations.” – I suspect the judges there are as dumb as the cops. Court date is May 22. I might defend myself. Can’t afford a lawyer.

          • Difdi

            A ticket is a court summons; Paying it is essentially a guilty plea. It’s a minor offense, but it can still follow you around on your record.

          • Rod Bryan

            There is no chance of me pleading guilty to this.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            The parking I don’t know about. For obstructing, they have to show that you:

            “Knowingly obstructs, impairs, or hinders the performance of any governmental function…”

            It provides that the section does not apply to:

            “(3) Any means of avoiding compliance with the law not involving affirmative
            interference with a governmental function unless specifically set forth in this section; or”

            “(4) Obstruction, impairment, or hindrance of what a person reasonably believes is a public servant’s unlawful action.”

            I don’t know enough about the matter to offer an opinion, but will throw out these questions as food for thought.

            Did the officers have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, and if so what activity? Note that if the area was taped off, and you went past the tape (i.e., under or over it), that could be reasonable suspicion, especially if on private land or easement.

            Why did the officers want the video off? What did they have to hide? Why did they suppress your First Amendment rights to record the actions of public servants in a public place? A citizen has the right to video record public officials in a public place.

            A lot of times, a citation is heard in a lower level court that has an automatic right of appeal to a higher court. Be prepared to appeal, and let the prosecutor know that you intend to fight this as far as possible.

            Contact the local ACLU or local attorneys involved in this type of case. See if they would be interested in representing you pro bono, or in combination with a contingency agreement for a 1983 suit.

            Above all, at least talk to a local attorney. They are the ones that can advise you properly.

          • Rod Bryan

            All good advice. The parking is total bullshit. Its a dead end road with no shoulders. I parked in the only logical place. No signs anywhere on the road. We did go past a flimsy tape that said “danger” on it. But we were in plain view of two workers who were on their lunch break. They saw us coming and we asked them if we could take pictures and they said they didn’t mind, just didn’t want to be in the pictures. We filmed for about 10 minutes. Then two EXXON supervisors showed up and told us to get out. We never encountered anyone from a government agency. We walked back out and were invited to look from another angle by a landowner. As we were walking back, the cops engaged us. I’m talking to some attorneys and I’ve contacted the ACLU. This is not my first run in with rogue cops in Arkansas. In fact, it happens a lot. We have a lot of thick skulled, agressive cops here. Thanks again.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            No problem. It would help if you can show that it was being filmed for dissemination to the public. The lawyers would be able to advise you. Good luck.

          • Tijuana Joe

            For reference, check out the similar youtube with the BP-protecting cops
            telling a journalist he can’t dig in the sand near Pensacola.
            Keywords “Florida sand police dig” should work.
            These goons are just looking out for Big Business, not for the People.

          • Rod Bryan

            We were broadcasting the whole thing live here:

  • Guest

    Looks like officers in Arkansas love to use “Interfering with Governmental Operations” like they did in Fort Smith only to drop all charges as covered by PINAC:

    Read the official complaint filed in Federal Court:

    I say stand your ground and get the story out. Maybe even talk to an attorney to see if you have a case?

  • Jeffrey Marcus Gray

    This pisses me off so bad that i think it best to reserve my comments till I cool off!

  • NorthoftheBorder Gold

    Well they know that they can’t legally stop you from recording, but if they say it is a “Device” then they can claim self defense. cops are just adapting.. like a virus.

  • steveo

    Just remember what Mahatma Gandhi said: “peace, non-violent protest, love and truth has always won out. Tryanny and murderers have seemed invincible for a time, but they have always fallen. The important thing is exposing government tyranny to light. ”

    “Always work toward exposing the truth, and showing the rest of the world that there is injustice through exposure, but never, ever violently fight the tyrannical forces. “If they want to take your camera, let them, if they want to arrest you, let them, if they want to beat you, let them, if they want to break your bones, let them, if them want to kill you let them, because now they will only have your dead body…… But they won’t have your obedience. “

    • Difdi

      During an interview, Gandhi was asked why he chose the path of non-violence. His response was that he believed the British people had consciences, and that he believed appealing to those consciences had the best chance of success. He went on to say that had he believed they had none, he would likely have been one of the first to pick up a rifle and use it.

      Peaceful civil disobedience only works if the people you’re appealing to have a better nature. If most people get their news from media outlets that are fanatically authoritarian and never doubt those sources, peaceful is another word for suicide.

  • Rod Bryan

    The more aggressive cop was from Greenbrier. I’m the guy in the video (not the one filming). I’m looking for advice for what to do next.

    • Kyle

      Get a hold of The DOJ’s letter discussing the use of phones to record interaction with police. Second, pay to get a lawyer, or if you cannot afford one, meet with a public defender.

      I guess the answer comes in two parts: First, you need to fight the charges and possible conviction. Second, you can hire a private lawyer after everything is through, and sue the department for violating your rights. It’s the only way LEOs will understand your rights.

    • Nostromo526

      If you are thinking about defending yourself, you might want to check out RuleOfLawRadio. Specifically, Randy Kelton has a lot of experience in dealing with crap like this. Check out the archived shows and see if you can pick up any useful info. Calling into the show when Randy or maybe even Eddie is on could be helpful. If you do, let us know when you did as I would be interested in listening to the exchange and advice. Don’t wait to take action because if you make certain mistakes early in the process you could really screw yourself especially if you are going pro se on a criminal case.

      • ExCop-Lawyer

        Actually, that is the last place you want to go if you want to win. None of the individuals are lawyers, and the information that they present is sovereign citizen BS. If you’re not aware, sovereign citizens are those that think the law does not really apply to them, and are not completely there – two of them, a father and son team, killed two West Memphis police officers with an AK47 several years back.

        If you use their advice, you will be more likely to receive a guilty verdict, based on the general track record of their loony-toon movement.

        • NoOne Danger Marshall

          Yep. A family member of mine is a PD for LA County and I tagged along to court with him one day while I was in town. One of those sovereign dorks got up there and started reading his shpiel, the judge just sort of laughed at him and told him he probably should have consulted an actual lawyer. You will not get far with such a “defense”.

        • Difdi

          Sovereign citizens are libertarian extremists. Like most extremists, they are not really in contact with reality, and some of them can’t even see reality from where they are.

          If reality actually worked like they think it does, we’d still be hunter-gatherers, because all of the compromises we make as part of civilization are what the sovereign citizens consider to be artificial law not natural law. Sovereign citizens want all the benefits of modern society (clean food and water, not having to worry about being murdered by everyone they see, medical insurance, being able to trust that your doctor won’t sell your organs on the black market, etc) without any of the obligations.

          There are ultimately only two natural laws, despite what the sovereign citizens would have you believe. You can observe those two laws by watching any animal. The first is that anything you are strong enough to take is yours. The second is that if you are not strong enough to keep something you can give it up or die. Sovereign citizens like to claim that all sorts of things (usually things to do with property rights) are natural laws, but it really comes down to them liking laws they benefit from and trying to opt-out of anything they dislike.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            I’m going to save this explanation and use it in the future. It’s one of the best I’ve seen on the sovereign citizen ideology.

          • Difdi

            Go for it. I’d describe myself as a libertarian, but sovereign citizens are embarrassing.

            One thing I’ve noticed about sovereign citizens is they almost never have any respect for any one else’s “natural” rights. What’s theirs is theirs and what’s mine is negotiable.

            A good example (not just limited to the sovereigns, all libertarians wrestle with this one) is the smoker. Sovereigns who smoke are usually pretty militant about their “right” to do so whenever, wherever they like. Anti-smoking laws are artificial, to use their terminology…as if sticking burning vegetation in your mouth is natural. Leaving aside whether second hand smoke is dangerous, we still have the fact that quite a few people dislike the odor. By smoking near other people, the inconsiderate individual spoils their ability to enjoy life. This ignores those with respiratory conditions who might be in considerably more distress than merely a lack of enjoyment.

            As a psychological experiment, I used to carry a little lip balm tin of concentrated skunk spray and uncork the thing whenever an inconsiderate smoker took up station next to me out in public. I’ve always had a very high resistance to getting sprayed by skunks, and I find the smell of it more pleasant than tobacco. Oddly enough, I have yet to meet a militant smoker who will defend my right to my noxious chemical of choice. Usually, they went to considerable lengths to stop me from “polluting” their air.

            No, they didn’t see the hypocrisy of their words or actions. Sovereign citizens tend to react to society in general the way those smokers reacted to my skunk tin. They want all the benefits of civilization and call those natural. They dislike any obligations or compromises, and call those artificial, to be disregarded by any “right thinking” individual.

        • Nostromo526

          Sorry for the late reply to this post but I have to say that you obviously haven’t listened to the show at all. It is called “The Rule of Law” after all and that is exactly what they are all about. Due process defense as written in statute and backed up by case law. NOT based on some clap-trap “sovereign citizen” BS. These guys often criticize much of “patriot mythology” as useless and counterproductive in court.

          None of the individuals are lawyers? Are you a lawyer? Isn’t is sometimes to your advantage not to be a lawyer? As in, you don’t have to worry about losing your bar card if you don’t have one. The poster stated he was thinking about going pro se. Considering that, I thought he should talk to some successful pro ses. However, I expect their first advise would be for the poster to get a lawyer because of the criminal charges. I have heard them advise such on the program. But along with that advise is also advise on how to ensure your lawyer is doing his or her job properly to your benefit.

          You made an incorrect, knee jerk assumption about what these guys advocate. Listen to a couple hundred hours of archive programming from the shows and then tell me what’s so wrong about what they have to say.

          And associating the guys from the show with murders was totally uncalled for and vile.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            I went back and listened to a clip again.

            If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck … it’s probably a duck.

            I stand by my assessment, and I’m not going to waste my time by listening to “a couple hundred hours” of their crap.

          • Nostromo526

            Fair enough. If these guys are espousing sovereign citizen movement garbage then I would really like to know and maybe rethink my listening habits. I have listened to several hundred hours of archived shows and I really don’t know what the hell you are talking about as far as the content of their shows being related to the sovereign citizen movement law theories and practices. Can you please cite for me the archive show date and timestamp of the part of the show you think makes them look and walk like a duck and I will go and listen and determine if I had these guys all wrong.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            It will be awhile before I can do that. I’m in the middle of finals right now.

          • Nostromo526

            Oh man, does that bring back memories 😎

            Good luck! And if we are going to continue on this topic at a future date we might want to move it to the forum section now that Carlos has provided it. Thank Carlos.

  • Phred

    Ate they being trained to do this, like they are trained to shout”stop resisting!” even when there is no resistance?

  • $22798478

    Stand your ground with these cops. You WILL win ! The courts will decide your case and then SUE. It’s the only way.

  • tiny

    fuckUpig, i love your name, dont know why, but i do. FUCK POPO FUCK POPO!! ROD fight it, may/22 i will be 60, fight it and you will win! if anyone builds a working model of a camera/gun, we all in deep shit!or a camera/gun, or a cigarette lighter gun, oh ya, they already have those dont they! all pigs are fools working for the MAN! and fact is, they havent a clue! war on drugs, war on terror, war on any one filming! it will end when there is a WAR on WARS! ”
    and i have nothing else to say about that!”.

    • tiny

      Kyle_ which VIDEO? i didnt see it, and the rumor that there is such a thing as a cellphone/gun is not true? well, i hope that it is a lie. seems there was a suitcase gun, and didnt 007 have many items that could shoot a bullet? those PIGS should and need to be scared of anything and everything, with the tech we have today, ya never really know what can or is made into a gun! that was of course bullshit, those PIGS are the most stupid i have ever seen, and what is going on is they creating everyone to be scared of PIGS, PIGS are becoming and have become today’s terrorists in 2013!

    • PhenomAnon6

      local liquor store has gun lighters. :(

  • Hojo Hominygrits

    Once again, LEO’s in AR might never go to Police school. Barbers, hair dressers, etc. have to have 2048 hours of classroom training, job hopping cops may never go at all. I know the small town turds can almost, but not quite, finish HS, but most are able to distinguish a fire arm immediately. It’s essential for deer hunting here. Personally, if it were me, I’d sue, and if I were to win, give the clown his choice of jail time or 40 lashes in public. Jail time costs the non-guilty public, 40 lashes would not only leave an impression on his back, it might make the next a$$hat think about his actions first. Then again, maybe not……….

  • Josh Zytkiewicz

    If a police officer seriously believes a person is holding a weapon why would the police officer not draw their own weapon?

    It seems to me that if an officer is not taking defensive measures they did not actually believe there was a dangerous situation.

    • ExCop-Lawyer

      Because he didn’t feel threatened physically, he was threatened by the video.

      • Difdi

        Yes, but implicit to the claim of not knowing what a “device” is, is the assumption of threat. A Hershey bar is not threatening, neither is a garage door remote, both of which are things a cellphone could be mistaken for and neither is an illegal object for a citizen to possess. An officer could not justify confiscating either or knocking them out of a citizen’s hand.

        In order for an officer to act, lawfully anyway, in such a way that deprives the citizen of property (whether by confiscation or smashing it on the ground) the officer must reasonably believe that a crime is being committed or that he is being threatened with unlawful violence.

        If he saw the camera, truly didn’t know what it was and reacted to confiscate or smash it, then he felt threatened since none of the non-threatening things a cellphone MIGHT be are illegal to have in your hand around a police officer. At which point the proper action would be to draw his sidearm and respond to the active threat, not do what he actually did.

        His actions make it clear that he knows it’s harmless, he just doesn’t like people exercising rights.

  • JdL

    Every time I think that cops can’t get more cowardly, they prove me wrong.

  • Phred

    I guess this thug with a badge doesn’t realize that if it wasn’t for cameras his colleagues in Boston would still be looking for last week’s bombers.

  • stk33

    Regarding this new trend, I think, here’s good counter-measure: “Officer, I understand you are concerned about your safety from me and “the device”; feel free to use your right to briefly frisk me for weapons, and to inspect the device if you believe it’s dangerous, then give it back to me once you see it’s not. All of this will be recorded. We will consider this a Terry stop. ”

    In another episode from this page, “”, the officer later says that now he can see that it’s really phone, so it’s ok. So proactively offering such an inspection will probably destroy this tactic.

    • Phillip D Breske

      The instant you give that phone to the officer, you’re immediately unable to walk away (because he now has your property) and you won’t get it back until he’s done with you. That could be twenty seconds or it could be three weeks.

      • NoOne Danger Marshall

        I agree with Philiip. Do not give your property to the police under any circumstances. I think a better tactic would be to turn the phone around so that the camera is facing at you and the touchscreen is facing the cop, keeping a firm grasp on the phone, and look directly directly into the camera and say something like, “As you can see by the screen, officer, this is a standard smartphone that I am using to record this encounter.” Once that’s out of the way, the cop has almost no room to try and say he feels endangered by your phone.

        • stk33

          OK; how about this variation: inspect the phone as close as you want while I’m still holding it.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            No, for two reasons. First, many officers will try and grab the phone. Second, if you react, at that distance, they’ll have grounds to claim that you assaulted them.

          • Phillip D Breske

            Or, how about this: Ask only if you’re being detained or if you’re under arrest. Anything else you say can be used against you, either in court or by the officer as he determines whether you’re a threat.

      • Rod Bryan

        He didn’t give it to him. He took it. Then he gave it back.

  • Guest

    In the 2nd video from the San Diego “smoking on the boardwalk” incident, the officer mentions converting a cellphone into a .22 pistol. A .22 short has a case length of 10.7mm. A Galaxy S 3 is 8.6mm thick, so it can’t fire in the same direction that the camera faces. You also need room for a hammer behind the cartridge.

    If you want to fire the long way, it does have only a 5.7mm diameter, but .22 barrels are thicker than 1.5mm. The cell phone gun we’ve all googled up by now hid the barrel in the old-school cylindrical, external antenna.

    A pinfire cartridge is struck from the side, so could fire on the same axis as the camera. At 2mm caliber, in the words of one Redditor it might be able to dispatch an “overly agressive cockroach” at point-blank.

    Stun gun improvised from a camera (!), but a recyclable film camera with a gas discharge flash and energy-capacious capacitor to run it:

    A real Taser ™ with projectiles is not tiny. Nothing as thin as a contemporary cellphone is useful as a ranged weapon.

    • Guest

      “A spokesman for the Brady Center To Prevent Gun Violence was also dismissive.” –discussion of an actual “credit card” gun.

      It fires .17 BBs and is still pretty damned thick

      • ExCop-Lawyer

        It is also likely to require an ATF tax stamp as a class III firearm, the same as pen guns, wallet guns, and cane guns. As far as a threat, it’s a joke.

        • Difdi

          Exactly. It’s a glorified zip gun, and not a terribly impressive one either.

    • Difdi

      A cartridge primer can be electrically-detonated, which eliminates the need for a hammer, but it’s still not the most plausible way to conceal a weapon.

      So-called stun guns mostly aren’t guns and don’t stun you. They’re compact cattle prods. They cause pain, maybe some burn injuries, but they’re really not dangerous to anyone unless they’ve got a pacemaker (and get zapped right over the pacemaker). TASERs on the other hand can stun you, but civilian models throw out confetti that makes it really easy for the police to track down the owner.

      I’m an electrical hobbyist, and I’ve been playing around for years with trying to make a TASER that doesn’t need the darts. With a bigger budget than I’m willing to spend, I could build it into a smartphone sized casing, but … range on the thing is VERY limited, it won’t work if there’s ANY breeze, and you have to aim the thing at someone for several seconds before firing the electrical charge…all of which make it a really cool-looking toy, but not a serious weapon.

  • Ron

    LOL, the cop nearly slipped up and called it a phone before correcting himself and saying “device”. They know fully what they are doing.

  • Robby Griffin

    fuck him,its a free country

  • Barking Dog

    That phone as a weapon thing was 20 years back when phones were big enough to have bullets hidden inside of them. But smartphones are thinner than any bullet and since the don’t come apart as easily or held like a weapon, that’s a clown telling you that.

    You show up and point a phone like this and it should be suspicious.. Too bad nobody has a phone like this nowadays

    You tube: watch?v=xd1SRtkhh-U