Deputy breaks video camera, arrests activist

10:17 AM, Feb 3, 2012   |    comments
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Clearwater, Florida -- A Pinellas Sheriff's Corporal is being investigated after a confrontation with an activist who tapes law enforcement officers doing their job.

The incident took place early Saturday morning when William Kilgore, a member of a group called Cop Watch, was taping a traffic stop by Corporal Mike Smalley. Kilgore, who was standing on the sidewalk on U.S. 19 near Alderman Road in Clearwater, walked away from Smalley rather than explain what he was doing.

Smalley got into his patrol car, stopped Kilgore and said, "Hey buddy, I'm going to tell you one more time to give me your I.D."

"Before I can say anything and you can hear it on tape, he's on me and got his hands around my arms and he grabs the camera out of my hand and throws it on the grass and handcuffs me," said Kilgore. "It was shocking at the time and I didn't know what to think about it. It was like, 'I can't believe this is happening and then he throws my camera.'"

Even though the camera landed in the grass several feet away, it still picked up Smalley's audio.

"I don't know what kind of game you are playing. This might be a game to you, but it's not a game to me," Smalley is heard saying on tape. "Do you have anything illegal in your back pack?  Are you guys trying to get arrested, is that what it is?"

Kilgore was detained and placed under arrest by Smalley.

This isn't Kilgore's first questionable confrontation as part of a Citizens Cop Watch program. He was arrested last year for doing the same thing in Tarpon Springs. In that case, the Pinellas State Attorney refused to prosecute him.

"We're a cop watch organization. We go out and film the police while they are doing their job to keep them in check," said Kilgore.

"If a citizen wants to tape a law enforcement officer, as long as it is done from a public place and done lawfully, nobody should have a problem with that," said Smalley's boss, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

While Gualtieri can't talk about this specific case because it's under investigation, he maintained the agency policy is clear and if the investigation shows that Smalley's acts were wrong, the sheriff's office will repair or replace Kilgore's equipment and Smalley will be disciplined.

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