Jean-Jacques Gabriel’s attention was drawn to an arrest scene involving two Black guys by white Philadelphia police officers as he biked home.
The famous saying “Police is your friend” isn’t a common statement within the Black communities in America. Their experiences with the law enforcement have been and continue to be very displeasing ones. This situation has made African-Americans become each other’s keepers as the police cannot be trusted with that responsibility. Jean-Jacques Gabriel, a Black guy biking home exhibited bravery as he took out his phone and video recorded an arrest of two Black people by two white Philadelphia police officers despite the threats he received from them. Explore the details of the story as put together from carefully selected reliable sources:
Jean-Jacques Gabriel was biking home Tuesday night when a pair of strangers stopped by Philadelphia police called out, urging him to record the scene on his cellphone.
Two white, plainclothed officers had stopped two black men, whose hands were on the back of their heads, along Kingsessing Avenue, between 48th and 49th streets, in West Philadelphia, Gabriel said. It was sometime after 11 p.m.
Gabriel obliged with the request, opening a live video stream on Facebook. He had recorded police activity in the past and figured his presence would de-escalate the situation and ensure the safety of everyone involved. But this situation did not play out as the others had.
Within minutes, the police partly shifted their attention toward Gabriel, the video shows. One officer approached Gabriel, demanding he hand over his cellphone, saying the video he was recording contained evidence of a disorderly conduct arrest. Gabriel repeatedly refused, requesting to speak with a supervisor. But after arresting one of the two men, the officers eventually left without confiscating Gabriel’s phone.
The incident raises questions again about the rights of citizens to videotape law enforcement officers. Gabriel correctly asserted his constitutional rights, according to Temple University law experts, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Police Department’s own policy directive. But the confrontation spoke to the contemporary state of police relations in the United States, where police shootings of black men have placed law enforcement under greater scrutiny.
Across the country, demonstrators have accused police of biased treatment toward minorities, decrying a swift use of lethal force and stop-and-frisk policies judged by many to be racist. And bystanders, like Gabriel, have pulled out their cell phone cameras to document the interactions.
Thanks to Jean-Jacques Gabriel (one of awesome teachers here!) for stepping in, stepping up in our community…. https://t.co/He2Gs9uOgY
— Studio 34 (@Studio34Philly) October 20, 2016
“It’s not the first time that I’ve pulled over and done video,” said Gabriel, a native of Haiti. “Just because I know what is done. This is something that happens every day in the lives of black people and black men in the city. There’s no one there to see it. There’s no one there to make it known.” Read more.
The incident appears to show a clear attempt to violate Gabriel’s right to record police officers. He said as the cop was walking away at one point during the interaction, he had threatened to take him to jail if he didn’t comply with the illegal seizure.
“I wasn’t giving it up,” Gabriel said. “I was like, ‘No, this isn’t happening until a supervisor explains to me. The way you’re treating those guys and me already just reeks of illegality. I’m not going to listen to you. Somebody else has to explain to me why I have to give up my property.’”
“Theoretically, if I was using my cell phone camera to capture a drug sale, or a murder, it’s a little different (than recording an arrest),” civil rights attorney Jules Epstein said. “Then my phone camera has evidence of a crime. Hopefully, they would ask cooperatively. Technically, they could probably seize it. But then they have to get a warrant to play what is on it.”
Footage of officers detaining individuals or making an arrest is not evidence of a crime, according to Epstein, who said Gabriel stood his ground like he should and refused to be bullied into relinquishing his rights and property.
“It sounds to me like the cops realized this was somebody they couldn’t buffalo,” Epstein said. “They backed down. But the real points here are citizens may do this. They should do it in a way that’s not aggravating a situation. If they have evidence of a crime, hopefully they’ll be good citizens and cooperate.” Read more.
The dauntless move made by Gabriel in the situation is worth applauding. In times like this in America when a simple traffic stop can end up in fatality there is the need for Black people to keep the police under strict scrutiny. But for the intervention of Gabriel, no one would be able to imagine the extent of brutality those Black people might suffer in the hands of the Philadelphia police officers. We must unite and support each other as we fight against this menace of police brutality in our community.