Two-phone standoff after cop stops man for 'walking with hands in pockets'

In Michigan, a police officer stops a man who apparently was doing nothing wrong. They both pull out their mobile phones and film each other.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

An officer films as the man he stops films him. The future is now. B McKean/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

We once thought that, in the future, we'd all be filming each other.

That future is now. And sometimes we're doing it to prove that what happened to us really happened.

In the latest cell phone footage of an encounter between a police officer and a citizen, both parties decide to pull out their phones and record for posterity. What will the future make of it?

The footage shows a police officer in Pontiac, Mich., stopping a man for apparently suspicious behavior. What was the man doing? Walking with his hands in his pockets.

The man instantly pulls out his phone and starts recording the encounter.

Uploaded originally to the Facebook page of Brandon McKean on Thanksgiving Day, it's yet another bracing reminder of what sometimes goes on between authority figures and those they deem suspicious. African-American men, for example.

There is no evidence that McKean did anything wrong. However, the officer explains: "You're making people nervous."

When McKean wonders what he's done, the officer replies: "Yeah, they said you had your hands in your pockets."

As he's saying this, the officer pulls out his own iPhone and begins to film McKean. A bystander must have looked at this scene and wondered. Two men pointing cell phones at each other in the middle of a cold street, as they talk.

As McKean expresses outrage that walking with your hands in your pockets on a cold day is cause for people to call the police, the officer insists: "Well, we do have a lot of robberies around here."

McKean explains that he's making sure to get this on camera. "Me too," replies the officer.

Once it's established there is no cause for McKean to be stopped, the officer and he high-five, with the hands that aren't holding their phones. McKean says he's mad less at the officer than at whoever called the police.

The action happened on Thanksgiving Day and since it was posted, it has enjoyed more than 2.7 million views on Facebook -- plus more than 200,000 on YouTube.

Would the encounter have proceeded any differently if McKean hadn't begun to film? Perhaps not.

Recently, an Iowa police officer stopped a driver and tried to accuse him of being a pot smoker because he played frisbee golf. Even though he knew he was being filmed, the officer continued his questionable line of questioning.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told me that McKean's video was an edited version of what actually occurred. He said:

The 911 call received by the Oakland County Dispatch Center originated from a nearby business that had been a victim, as well as its employees, of seven robberies. The caller and his employees were concerned about the individual who had walked by the front window of the business five or six times, while looking inside with his hands in his pockets. Fearing for their safety, the business dialed 911 and the Deputy responded. In the unedited version of the event, the individual stated that if he had called the police on a suspicious person, he would expect the police to respond, check the area, and talk to the suspicious person being called about. The Deputy did not detain or pat down the individual and considering the nature of the call responded in a very restrained and professional manner.

Bouchard added that the deputy had fully explained why 911 had been called with reference to him.

Clearly, the videos that gain more attention are the ones in which one party or another is acting unusually.

However, it seems that it's becoming the norm to film every encounter with the police, just as some police departments are considering whether to equip all their officers with bodycams.

Is this progress? Or does it show how little trust there is left in society today?

(Via Raw Story)

Update, 1:06 p.m. PT: Adds comment from the Oakland County Sheriff.