A Killeen videographer who was arrested for allegedly interfering with a police investigation was protected by the First Amendment, according to the ACLU of Texas.

While filming a police interaction in north Killeen on Dec. 18, Kevin Butler, also known as No Question Abaudit, said “police cannot ID passengers” at which point a Killeen Police Department police officer told Butler he was interfering with an investigation and would be arrested. Butler was booked in the Killeen City Jail for breaking a city code ordinance — obstructing or interfering with a police officer/investigation.

View video of Butler’s arrest here: https://bit.ly/3qfycv0. KPD is conducting an internal affairs investigation into the officer who initiated Butler’s arrest.

After watching a video of Butler’s arrest, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas said Butler’s interaction with police seemed to be well within his rights under the First Amendment.

“He was at least 10 to 15 feet away, if not more, from what was happening,” ACLU attorney David Donatti said in a phone interview with the Herald last week. “There’s no question that physically he wasn’t interfering. As to whether he can speak, I think it is our position as well that that is a First Amendment right. He is just a citizen on a public street in the city where he lives. Whether he was speaking to the passenger or to his YouTube followers, he was speaking on a matter of public concern which is: what are people’s rights when they are confronting a police officer.”

Donatti said in an ideal world the charges against Butler would be dismissed.

“The police overstepped what appears from the video to be a plain exercise of a constitutional right and these charges should be dropped,” Donatti said.

Donatti recognized the challenges faced by police officers, but said public recording of officers in the line of work shouldn’t be cause for alarm.

“I think that we as communities in Texas can expect a lot out of our police officers — it’s a hard job,” he said. “I think we all acknowledge that it’s a hard job. The people who do it have to be really well-prepared to deal with those stressful situations. It’s hard to be filmed at your work. It is hard to perceive that the people around you are perhaps hostile towards the work that you’re doing. But I think that fundamentally it’s really important that police officers are respecting free speech rights and welcoming that accountability. I think it’s an important part of their relationship with the public that they welcome that accountability and that they respond to it in a way that is not hostile or authoritative but that sort of acknowledges their unique function in society.”

From a legal perspective, Donatti said the public has the right to film anything that is in the public view.

Police departments, he said, may want to remind their officers of the public’s right to film their interactions.

“We’re very adamant that police officers should be trained and kept up to speed on the constitutional norms,” he said. “I think every police officer in the state of Texas should know that the public has a right to film them. I also think that in this case, the video is a good example of the limitations of that knowledge.”

ldodd@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

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(4) comments

Texasmajik

A policeman who is distracted by ambient noise is a threat to public safety and shouldn't be a policeman. It is perfectly legal to both record and talk during a police stop occurring on public property. The policeman tried to overreach and was corrected promptly by a concerned citizen. All facts no opinion.

Imagine patrolling the streets and arresting everyone you 'think might be a distraction'. They need to start paying these civil penalties with the officers retirement fund money. Every citizen of Killeen will now have to shoulder the weight of this crooked decision.

Wayne Jefferson

He could have stood there and kept his mouth shut but he had to inject himself into the investigation and distract the officers. How did the officers know that he wasn't going to pull a gun and assault them. Police have enough work to do with the thugs in Killeen already without one walking upon them in a investigation. I'm with the police on this one period

dailymajor

So the liberal, left ACLU is supporting the so called "activist". No surprise there. ...The guy playing "gotcha"was NOT talking to his video audience he so strongly needs, he was talking to a passenger in the car that the police had stopped. That is interference with a police investigation, which is against the law.,,,One thing for sure, this guy is loving all the attention he apparently needs so much.

Alvin

Copy: 'A Killeen videographer who was arrested for allegedly interfering with a police investigation was protected by the First Amendment, according to the ACLU of Texas.'

Continuation of copy: “He was at least 10 to 15 feet away, if not more, from what was happening,” ACLU attorney David Donatti said in a phone interview with the Herald last week. “There’s no question that physically he wasn’t interfering. As to whether he can speak, I think it is our position as well that that is a First Amendment right. He is just a citizen on a public street in the city where he lives. Whether he was speaking to the passenger or to his YouTube followers, he was speaking on a matter of public concern which is: what are people’s rights when they are confronting a police officer.” End of copy.

But in my opinion, the police officer 'was distracted by his verbalization and as such it was an interference by a police officer in his, or her, performance of duty'. In my opinion, he had no right to distract an officer, any officer, in the performance of duty. It is as simple as that. This individual, in my opinion, did not have a need to verbalize in any way the instruction that he did, it was not in any way a performance of duty such as a safety instruction of any kind.

Copy: 'A healthy democracy requires a healthy First Amendment atmosphere. When corners of the society get comfortable with squelching the expression of alternate views, oppression and authoritarianism necessarily follow. That sort of community censorship is bad enough, but when some citizens want to greenlight the government to crack down on nonconformist or unapproved perspectives, a nation is on the road to despotism. Evidence of such warning signs is found in the Knight report, which surveyed over 4,000 American adults across the nation.' End of copy.

Now this is an excerpt of what the First Amendment says, and it says that the First Amendment encourages the discourse of popular AND unpopular discourse, nut notice that it does not reflect any speech that would interfere with an officer 'doing his duty'.

No I am of the opinion that the officers involved were conducting a legal stop and by the admission of this individual, his discourse, he committed an illegal act and that was verbalizing to an extent that he interfered with a police officer in the performance of his duty, and therefore 'broke the law'.

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