Technically Incorrect: A YouTube video shows a Northern California police officer first try to film a resident filming him and then pull his gun. The incident is now being investigated.
Whenever I watch a YouTube video featuring a police officer and a member of the public, I always wonder what happened beyond the footage.
I confess, though, to being baffled by the events portrayed in a video posted by Don McComas, as it seems to tell a whole but utterly bizarre story.
Here we have a police SUV driving around his neighborhood in Rohnert Park, California. McComas films it coming to a halt outside his house. The police officer sits inside for awhile.
"He clearly didn't like the fact that I was pointing my camera to videotape him," says McComas as he films.
Next, the officer points his own cell phone out of the driver's side window and appears to film McComas. This is like some very strange Western being brought up to date by a neo-realist director.
The officer then gets out. The dialogue is pulsating.
"Hi, go take your hand out of your pocket," he says. This is a curious request as nothing seems to have happened to suggest a threat.
"No, sir. I haven't done nothing," says McComas.
The officer then pulls a gun out and begins to call in to, presumably, his HQ.
"Put your gun down, really," suggests McComas.
The officer advances, still clutching his gun. "You don't touch me," McComas keeps repeating.
"When I tell you to take your hand out..." begins the cop.
"I've done nothing," repeats McComas. To which the cop, perhaps not fully grasping the irony, says: "Now you need to relax."
The cop advances as McComas retreats. This seems so utterly without sense or foundation. McComas wonders what he's done.
The cop replies: "You're taking a picture of me; I'm taking a picture of you."
Said by a latter-day John Wayne, this might have enjoyed some gravitas. Instead, this seems like bauhaus in the outhouse.
Then the dialogue reverts to McComas: "This is going all over YouTube." To which the cop responds that he doesn't care.
A clue to some sort of trouble between authority and McComas comes when he says: "You guys have done enough to my family." He then suggests that the Rohnert Park police are corrupt.
"Are you some kind of a constitutionalist, a crazy guy or something?" asks the officer. By now the Hollywood studio making this is surely asking for new writers.
The police officer finally goes away, but the odor surrounding this video has not.
The mayor and city manager of Rohnert Park issued this statement: "We've been made aware of this matter and we are taking it seriously. We understand the concerns that have been raised by our community and others and we want the public to know that your trust in law enforcement in our city is a top priority. As a result, we will conduct an internal review to verify that appropriate protocols were followed. We will also review our protocols because we want to make sure we are using the best practices for the highest level of safety for both our officers and the community."
The problem with internal reviews can be their very internality. The results can end up beneath floor-coverings. The issue might be soon forgotten, the result being made immaterial. What's external here is that no charges were filed against McComas.
McComas told the Los Angeles Times that he began to film the events because the SUV seemed to be loitering and then the officer stopped outside his house and pointed for no obvious reason.
As the totally televised future unfolds, video will increasingly be used to declare people guilty or innocent. It will also increasingly inflame, as well as exonerate.
Many police officers behave impeccably. More often than not, the videos that create debate are those in which an officer behaves badly or even inexplicably. This incident reflects another YouTube video, in which a Long Island police officer tried to stop a man from washing his car in his own driveway.
He didn't pull out his gun. The Rohnert Park officer clearly did. But why? No, really, why?