On July 1, James Burch, policy director of the Anti Police-Terror Project, stood outside a courthouse where a hearing was being held for former San Leandro policeman Jason Fletcher in the death of Steven Taylor. Fletcher was charged with manslaughter last year after shooting Taylor, a 33-year-old black man, at a Walmart.
While outside the Alameda courthouse in Oakland, Calif., Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy David Shelby approached Burch and told him he had to move a banner he had hung, according to to a video of the interaction. At one point in their discussion, Shelby pulled out her phone and started playing Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”.
“Are we having a dance party now?” Burch asked Shelby.
“No sir,” Shelby replied.
The person who recorded the video then asked Shelby if he was trying to “drown out the conversation” by playing music.
“You can record anything you want, I just know it can’t be posted on YouTube,” Shelby said.
Burch then asked Shelby if playing music was a new protocol among officers, to which he replied, “I’m just listening to music, sir. ”
Despite Shelby’s attempt to thwart the recorded interaction, the video was successfully uploaded to YouTube and as of Tuesday it was still live. From YouTube rules and policies, users cannot upload videos that contain content “someone else owns the copyright, like music”. YouTube will remove any video that violates this policy and send the user a copyright notice. Other social media platforms such as Instagram and its parent company Facebook have applied similar policies: users are only allowed to post short video clips containing live music on their pages.
Video evidence of police altercations has become critical in recent years, particularly following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, which was recorded by teenager Darnella Frazier and widely shared on social media. Floyd’s death and the video sparked a massive civil rights movement against police brutality and systemic racism. Many people have since recorded their interactions with the agents and posted them online as they could be decisive if the situation escalates violently. Seven states now require police officers who interact with the public to wear body cameras when on duty, as part of an effort to hold police officers accountable, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some counties and police departments in many other states have adopted their own body camera warrants.
Earlier this year, a Beverly Hills, Calif., Police officer used a similar tactic when an activist in the area began recording him. Sennett Devermont began live streaming to his more than 300,000 Instagram followers in February as he drove to the police station to get body camera footage. Officer Billy Fair pulled out his phone and played Sublime’s “Santeria” after realizing Devermont was recording.
“I believe Sergeant Fair aka BILLY FAIR is using copyrighted music to prevent me from being able to play these videos on social media,” Devermont wrote on Instagram. “He’s not alone. I have a video of what is happening with another officer who played music while I was talking. Is it an order from above? “
According to Vice News, Devermont recorded another video a few weeks earlier of another officer playing “In My Life” by The Beatles as he attempted to speak to the officer.
As Deputy Shelby continued to play music in the APTP video, Burch turned to the camera and explained that the officer was trying to trigger copyright violations on social media, adding: ” he is also proud of it ”.
“The officer was trying to be a little smart, and it kind of backfired on him,” said Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Ray Kelly said Le Washington Post. “Instead of censoring it, it made it go viral.
The YouTube video now has more than 683,000 views and Kelly told The Post that the incident was under investigation by the Department of Internal Affairs.