By Danny Watson, City of Darlington Chief of Police
There are times when officers come and speak to me about what they endure on the street that for the life of me I just can’t figure out what people are thinking. You know I truly just can’t imagine many other professions having to endure the indignities that seem to be all too often the meal of the day in which officers are forced to consume. The even bigger issue with that is the fact that no matter how bad it tastes we are expected to eat it with a smile on our face. Our agency videos every interaction with the public; it is our policy. The fact a person feels it necessary to tell us that they are videoing us while we are videoing them is quite comical. First and foremost, I don’t mind being watched at all. Second if you feel it is your absolute desire and compelling need to video the police then by all means, please, go ahead. It is entirely possible that while you are watching us and videoing us your time will be constructively spent in such a way you are not getting into trouble yourself.
What mystifies me to no end is that people think it is perfectly acceptable to interfere while an officer is conducting business. I wonder how many times a plumber, a carpenter, a mechanic or some other profession are treated the same way. I can almost visualize it now. A passerby sees a carpenter using a saw to cut a board. This passerby who has nothing to do with the construction of whatever is being built stops and interjects themselves into the project. The passerby says, “You aren’t doing that right”. Not only do they tell the carpenter they are wrong, they make alternative suggestions as to how it can be done. This is done even though they have no idea what a carpenter does nor have they ever been a carpenter. The carpenter continues to do their work while at the same time trying to split their attention between the job and the person inquiring.
The work continues with a number of distractions taking place. The carpenter says in a firm and polite voice, “Please could you just go over there until I’m done I will speak with you in a moment”. This request falls upon deaf ears because the person who interjects feels it is their right to be heard at that very moment. Nothing else will do but for that person to get out their concern, complaint or etc. The carpenter loses focus for just a second, the saw slips and four of his fingers now lay detached on the ground. Sobering thought isn’t it?
Here’s an idea though. If you have a question about what happened, go to the headquarters of the agency and speak to a supervisor. If you feel it necessary to video, please do so. Do it from a safe distance and do not interfere with the officer as they are trying to conduct business on the side of the road. If an officer were to tell you that you need to step back a safe distance, then you need to do so immediately. In a situation such as this it is a demand not a polite suggestion. It is for your safety and for the safety of the person that is being detained, as well as that of the officer conducting business.
We are transparent and have nothing to hide. Do we make mistakes? Sure we make mistakes, just like every other profession does. Carpenters, plumbers, doctors, lawyers, politicians and every other kind of role or position in life occasionally don’t go as planned. In the interest of everyone going home safe, and that includes the people who want to video, let the officer complete their task. We have at least two kinds of video that was being used at the time and we don’t mind a bit comparing it to yours.
A final thought for you folks who are interested in this type of adventure. Remember we video the entire time. We don’t just video certain parts or cut things out that are not to our benefit. There is an audit trail for every video that is taken. The video that we have tells the entire story from when we get there until we leave. It will also show unflattering things you do and say as well. We don’t mind being held to a higher standard of behavior and in fact we embrace it. When you put yourself in that position, I hope you don’t mind being held to that very same standard.
Chief Danny Watson MPA FBI NA # 228, Chief of Police for City of Darlington, has been on the Darlington Police Department since 1994 and Chief since 2011.You can keep up with the department on their Facebook page: Darlington Police Department.