The Saturday night Arlington police arrests of three people from a group taking video of a traffic stop should have been avoidable.
The problem is, based on a seven-minute video of the incidents posted on YouTube, it is not easy to say which side is more responsible for what escalated into the jailing of, and charges being filed against, two men and one woman for interference with public duties.
Both sides seemed a bit over-aggressive at times.
The three arrested individuals reportedly are connected to Texas Cop Watch and the Tarrant County Peaceful Streets project, which typically records police officers exercising their duties. Two of those charged also are part of Open Carry Tarrant County, a group that advocates openly carrying firearms.
Late Saturday night as several people from the group of about 17 were recording a traffic stop with their cellphones, a large number of officers showed up at the scene after receiving a call for backup, Sgt. Jeffrey Houston, Arlington police spokesman said.
“No one was arrested for videotaping, they were arrested for interfering,” Houston said. “We get videotaped on almost every call.”
What is unclear is how the so-called “cop watchers” interfered with the traffic stop.
The video shows one man near the scene with his phone camera being motioned by an officer to move back, something the spectator was slow in doing. By the time he decided to move, two officers approached, handcuffed him and placed him in a police car.
A good distance away, other group members expressed their displeasure, some using profanity. When several officers approached them, one ordered that they move farther away, shouting, “If you don’t follow my command you will be arrested.”
Two people, including the female, apparently did not move quickly enough.
There is no doubt that regardless of the police actions, the group members should have been more respectful of the officers by avoiding the foul language and following their orders.
But it seems with the number of officers on the scene — at least a dozen — the situation could have been defused without making arrests.
Arlington police have reached out to these “cop watch” groups, offering to have a dialogue about best safety practices during these video encounters. It would be wise for these groups to accept that offer.