To protect themselves in dealing with the police, some NFL players have taken aim at officers during traffic stops — with smartphones.
After getting pulled over, they activated their phone's video function and started filming.
"I've actually had cops let me go after they found out that I was recording them," Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt said.
Britt, who is black, says he does it because he thinks authorities sometimes engage in racial profiling. He has been arrested or faced charges from at least four traffic stops since 2010, resulting in one acquittal in a drunken-driving case, one dismissed case and two paid fines.
"One time (when police) saw me recording them, he started asking me questions that had nothing to do with the stop," Britt said. "Another time the police told me to take the keys out of the car with my wife in the car. They said I was speeding, and then all of a sudden six cop cars came for this one traffic stop. And I had done nothing wrong."
Rich Roberts, a spokesman for the International Union of Police Associations, says any recording of a traffic stop doesn't tell the entire story because it probably doesn't show how the suspect responded to the officer. Roberts questions if suspects film traffic stops for hostile purposes instead of to prove their innocence.
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"Also, there's a serious question about whether the individual doing the filming is actually interfering with the officer's duties," he said.
Black players who think they've been unfairly targeted view the technology differently. Like Britt, Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett says he learned about racial profiling incidents during his youth. Then, in 2011, Dockett was driving a Cadillac Escalade when he was stopped in Maryland. He didn't think there was cause for the stop, so he turned on his video recorder.
"I had picked up my phone and put it on video," Dockett said. "I let it sit there and said loud and clear, 'I don't drink; I don't smoke; I don't have a weapon in my car. You didn't tell me why you pulled me over. I asked if I was under arrest. You said no. I don't see anything I did wrong or why I'm sitting here. I gave you my license, my registration; everything is legit.' He knew I was talking to the camera."
Dockett said an officer wanted to search his car but he insisted the officer get a search warrant. In the end, he was released without a citation.
"I said, 'The only way I'm stepping out of the car is if you are going to place me under arrest, and at this point you'd be arresting me for no reason,'" Dockett said. "He knew the video was going. They stayed there for about 30 minutes, and I guess they had to go. He said, 'You can leave.'"
Filming the police during traffic stops has been controversial. In 2011, a white driver in Illinois was stopped for speeding and then arrested for felony eavesdropping after police said he tried to record the traffic stop without their consent. The charge was later dropped. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal regarding the law, leaving in place a federal appeals court ruling that said it violated the constitutional right to free speech.
"Yes, there is a First Amendment right to film police in public," Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, told USA TODAY Sports. "While police and prosecutors continue to arrest people or seize cameras, the courts have been fairly uniform in recognizing that right. As for filming your own stop, the police can take steps to protect themselves or stop actions that obstruct an arrest. Otherwise, this is a public area subject to such filming."
Contributing: Kent Somers, Jim Wyatt