An internal Redmond Police Department investigation revealed Tuesday that an officer violated department standards when he stopped a cyclist in downtown Redmond and threatened to arrest the cyclist for using a cell phone to record the traffic stop.
Officer Bill Corson told the cyclist, Stephen Kent of Seattle, that he was violating state law by recording their interaction and that he would arrest him if he didn’t immediately turn off the recording. But according to the RPD investigation, Corson wrongly interpreted the state law and violated a department standard that requires all officers to “maintain a working knowledge of laws and ordinances which apply to their job function.”
State law, RCW 9.73.030, does restrict the recording of private communication when the parties have not given consent, but the law does not apply to recording police officers in public places, according to a Tuesday statement issued by Redmond Police Chief Ron Gibson.
Gibson said Corson’s statements to Kent were “not consistent with Washington state law and Federal court rulings concerning the video and audio recordings of officers conducting their duties in public.”
Gibson went on to say that “the Redmond Police Department acknowledges the public has a right to record the activities of their police and that we are subject to public scrutiny as we carry out our duties to the citizens of Redmond.”
Gibson also said Corson acted outside of the law — a second violation of the RPD’s Manual of Standards.
“Officer Corson’s direction for the citizen to stop recording him during contact was outside the scope of his authority in this situation,” Gibson said in the statement.
Corson pulled over a group of three bicyclists, including Kent, for impeding traffic along Cleveland Street on May 25. Kent began recording the interaction with Corson with a cell phone application called Qik and Corson threatened to arrest Kent if he did not stop recording.
Kent posted a YouTube video of the interaction and Corson is heard saying, “if you record me, I’ll arrest you…if you do this one more second longer, you’re violating a law in this state.”
Kent filed a complaint to the RPD, triggering a 30-day internal investigation.
Corson continues to work for the RPD, but “has been sanctioned for his actions,” Gibson said in his statement. Gibson told the Reporter in an email that Corson, who has worked for the RPD for more than 20 years, received a written reprimand for his actions and that Corson has “no other sustained allegations of misconduct in his disciplinary record.”
In addition, RPD employees have received additional training concerning the rights of citizens to video and audio record officers, Gibson said.
“The Redmond Police Department recognizes that citizens may record or photograph police activities in public as long as they remain at a reasonable distance, don’t interfere with the employee’s duties and responsibilities and do not create a safety concern the employee, person detained or other persons.”
Gibson said the incident has enabled the RPD to provide a “better service to our community” and that the department is “committed to protecting the individual rights of all of our citizens.”