Once in a while if you're driving down the road, you might see a motorcyclist wearing a small camera on his helmet. It's not too common, but it's not out of the ordinary. And being a rider myself, the practice seems to be an increasing suggestion on message boards. But if you're a rider in Dallas, TX, you might want to rethink the idea. At least if you're in the area of Dallas Deputy Sheriff James Westbrook.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Westbrook pulled over rider Chris Moore, who was with a large group of about 50-100 riders. Why? Not for speeding, or failing to yield. Instead, Westbrook noticed Moore was wearing a helmet cam, and he wanted to see what was on it. Naturally, Moore's camera was rolling, and he picked up the exchange:
MOORE: "Was I doing something wrong? What am I being pulled over for?"
WESTBROOK: "The whole group of you guys."
MOORE: "No. I was not, individually. How can you pull me over?"
WESTBROOK: "The reason you're being pulled over is because I'm gonna take your camera and we're gonna use it as evidence of the crimes that have been committed by other bikers."
MOORE: "I have not committed any crimes, and you cannot take my personal property from me, sir."
WESTBROOK: "That's fine. Need to see your license and registration."
Eventually Westbrook returns, and when he does he has a reason:
WESTBROOK: "You're under arrest for your license plate being obstructed. Place your hands."
MOORE: "Are you kidding me, dude?"
WESTBROOK: "Place your hands behind your back."
Westbrook eventually tells Moore to "shut up" and seems to slam him on the hood of the squad car. Moore continues to utter responses in disbelief, and Westbrook goes on to try and remove the helmet cam, which leads to a small altercation. A frustrated Westbrook eventually shoves Moore in the car and slams the door.
After the incident Moore spent eight hours in jail and, as promised from the beginning, the video from his camera was turned over to the gang unit as evidence (it's unclear how, then, Moore is able to release his own version of the footage).
And here is that video (Moore is pulled over at around 2:45 and arrested at about 6:30):
But the story doesn't end there. Local station WFAA-TV caught wind of the story and aired it. Now the sheriff's department has launched an internal investigation over the matter. The department, however, has said that officers that day were being taunted by large groups of riders, and has released video of that (riders also shut down the freeway last year with their antics). WFAA explains:
In response to this case, the sheriff’s office also released a dash cam video showing how stunt bikers taunted and antagonized officers by slamming on their brakes and blocking the squad car’s path.
Then, when a truck traveling with the pack of bikes gets pulled over by officers, a female passenger is seen handing something off to a rider. Moments later, that same woman hops on the back of a different bike and rides away, all while other bikers drive the wrong way on Stemmons Freeway.
Though none of that happened to Deputy Westbrook, Shook said the deputy likely felt that afternoon's frustration when he pulled over Moore in order to seize Moore's helmet camera.
"Well, I think in this particular case, you did need a warrant to get that piece of evidence,” Toby Shook, a former Dallas prosecutor, told the station.
He added later, "The Constitution wins out over frustration every time."
Ironically, the department says no dash cam video exists from Westbrook's squad car.