OAKLAND, California – An Alameda County Sheriff’s sergeant who played Taylor Swift on the steps of the Oakland Courthouse will be investigated by superiors as it appears he was trying to avoid his interactions being recorded and uploaded to social media platforms.
Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesperson for the department, said the actions of Sgt, identified on video as Sgt. Shelby, “is not something we condone or endorse. We have a code of conduct that all officers must follow,” adding that the matter will be referred to Internal Affairs.
Kelly said the sergeant was told not to engage in this behavior again.
“We have a code of conduct that governs how we are to act in public,” Kelly said. “This video challenges that behavior. It is not acceptable. We have never seen this before.”
He added: “It’s not a good look for us.”
Kelly said the sheriff is already contacting all sworn members of the department to make sure they don’t engage in what he described as “First Amendment rights censorship.” Members of the public have a First Amendment right to register police.
The issue revolves around what members of the Anti Police-Terror Project posted on YouTube on Thursday, following an interaction at the courthouse two days earlier.
Sheriff’s deputies had asked members of the group to remove their banners in support of Steven Taylor, the man killed by San Leandro cop Jason Fletcher in April 2020 while holding a bat at a Walmart.
Fletcher now faces manslaughter charges over Taylor’s death and Tuesday was his preliminary hearing. The band members were there to support Taylor’s family.
WATCH THE RAW VIDEO: Sheriff plays Taylor Swift to avoid being posted on YouTube
The group’s policy director, James Burch, and the staff sergeant can be seen discussing the banner issue on cellphone video filmed by one of the group members.
In the middle of the conversation about where the banners might or might not be placed, the sergeant pulls out his own cell phone and plays Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”. He slips the cell phone between the buttons of his shirt so that the music plays as they chat.
Are you organizing a dance party? Burch asks.
Another protester asks: Are you trying to drown the conversation?
The sergeant replies, “You can record anything you want, I just know it can’t be posted on YouTube.”
His comment referred to YouTube’s policy, as well as other similar policies of other social media companies, of removing videos that violate copyright laws. Instagram also has these copyright filters, which stop feeds and videos based on background music.
This problem isn’t unique to this Alameda County Sheriff’s Sergeant.
In February, VICE News first reported that a Beverly Hills police officer played Sublime’s “Santeria” in an apparent effort to avoid being broadcast live, using the copyright protection policies of Sublime. ‘Instagram to keep from being filmed.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is not a fan.
“At the end of the day, YouTube’s automated copyright removal systems are easily misused, including for official censorship like this,” said EFF staff attorney Mitch. Stolz.
“The police are an official,” he said. “And as you can see, it’s not effective. This gives the sergeant a lot more publicity for himself than if he hadn’t.
Taylor Swift did not immediately respond to the issue on her own social media accounts.
Kelly, the sheriff’s spokesperson, said the sergeant was not put on administrative leave because he believed it was a one-time affair.
He added that there is no specific policy prohibiting what the sergeant did, but that there is a code of conduct that governs the application of the law in the performance of his duties.
“It’s not going to happen again,” Kelly said.
Ann Rubin of KTVU contributed to this report.
Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at email@example.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez
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