Cops want to turn cop watching into organized crime, but can they get away with it?

Are Texas police laying the groundwork to thwart cop watchers by sending them to jail for simply using cellphone cameras to film them? This is the serious question raised by a series of charges that accuse a group of Texas cop watchers of engaging in organized crime. In this episode of the Police Accountability Report, hosts Taya Graham and Stephen Janis investigate the basis for the accusations and possible consequences for the First Amendment, YouTube activism, and the future of citizen auditing, and speak to one of the men facing decades in jail for filming police to understand just how far police will go to evade accountability.

Pre-Production: Stephen Janis
Studio/Post-Production: Stephen Janis, Dwayne Gladden


Transcript

Taya Graham:     Hello, my name is Taya Graham, and welcome to the Police Accountability Report. As I always make clear, this show has a single purpose: holding the politically powerful institution of policing accountable. And to do so, we don’t just focus on the bad behavior of individual cops. Instead, we examine the system that makes bad policing possible. And today we’re going to achieve that goal by reporting on the efforts of Texas police to charge cop watchers with organized crime.

That’s right. Police in a small Texas town have charged several YouTube activists with felony criminal conspiracy for reasons that you might find disturbing. But before I get started, I want you watching to know that if you have evidence of police misconduct, please email it to us privately at par@therealnews.com, and please like, share, and comment on our videos. You know I read your comments and that I appreciate them. And of course you can always reach out to me directly @tayasbaltimore on Facebook or Twitter. And of course, if you can, please hit the Patreon donate link pinned in the comments below because we do have some extras there for our PAR family. All right, now we’ve gotten all of that out of the way.

Now, as you know, on this show we have covered both the accomplishments and the controversy surrounding the phenomena known as cop watching. Activists and sometimes provocateurs who use cell phone cameras and YouTube channels to fight against police overreach by recording their actions. That’s why when we received word that Texas police had charged a group of well-known auditors with felony counts of organized crime we immediately decided to put our other reporting on hold to find out what was going on and how this was even possible.

First, some background. The cop watchers in question work in and around Laredo, Texas, a small group of suburban communities outside of San Antonio. A group that included cop watching channels HBOMatt, Blue The Blue Line Watcher, America First, and Corners News, who occasionally drive around the area looking for officers to catch on camera and publish what they find. Sounds like journalism to me. But that is not what these sworn affidavits say, which were submitted to a judge to obtain an arrest warrant for all of them. Statements that are curiously constructed to make the case that the activity you are seeing right now meets the requirements of charging them with organized crime.

Now, I know most of us are used to thinking of organized crime as it’s depicted in movies like Goodfellas or the actions of a lethal drug cartel: organizing and coordinating their activities to maximize profits. But this group of cop watchers observing the police appear to have very little in common with their more aggressive counterparts. In fact, as you can see in one of the videos depicting the same moments police used to justify the charges, there’s simply a verbal exchange. Let’s listen.

[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]

Speaker:           [inaudible]

Officer:                  [inaudible] Do you have a weapon on you sir?

Speaker:             I don’t care if he has a weapon, but why are they following the police around? Why are they acting suspicious? Who are they?

Officer:                   [speaking Spanish].

Speaker:                 [speaking Spanish] I want you to tell me what is suspicious. Have I broken a law?

Officer:                     [speaking Spanish] Are you sure you don’t speak English?

[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]

Taya Graham:           So is it just me or did speaking Spanish suddenly become illegal? I mean, did anyone in the car make a specific threat or even an aggressive move? Let’s watch some more.

[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]

Speaker:                [speaking Spanish]

Officer:                – Suspicious.

Speaker:                  [speaking Spanish].

Officer:                        I can stop anybody that’s acting suspicious.

Speaker 5:                  [foreign language 00:04:01].

Speaker 2:                 Well, who makes up what’s suspicious?

Speaker:                 Texas Wallace says, [crosstalk] if you’re acting suspicious in a suspicious place, I can get your ID. I can ID you. I can stop you. I can find you out, what you’re doing. So again, give me…

Speaker 2:               3802, only must give ID when under arrest. So you’re about to commit a felony, officer.

Officer:                   Let me tell you something. [crosstalk] so obviously you’re not going to tell me what the law is. I know what the law

Speaker 2:              3802 failure to ID requires an arrest.

Officer:                Okay. And that’s what I’m about to do.

Speaker 2:              For what?

Officer:                   For being suspicious. For failing to ID.

Speaker 2:             Failure to ID is a secondary charge.

[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]

Taya Graham:         But even more curious are these videos released regarding a 911 call police, again, attributed to the group of cop watchers as they knock on doors and deliver messages of intimidation. Let’s listen,

[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]

Female speaker:       [inaudible].

Officer 2:                  That’s not gonna be good… [inaudible]… I can get the manager over here.

Officer 3:              Come out here and talk to us.

Speaker 3:              [inaudible].

Officer 3:               …Weird, because I’m pretty sure they shouldn’t be open here.

[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]

Taya Graham:           So what exactly are we witnessing here? First, it’s important to note that all the charges were filed after the videos of the encounters were published. Second, a cursory look at the Texas code defining organized crime requires underlying crimes like human trafficking, drug dealing, or coordinated theft as the basis for the charges. But do a bunch of cop watchers driving around filming police rise to that level of felonious activity? Do these collected First Amendment-related activities fit the statute, so to speak, or is something deeper going on here?

Have police found yet another way to avoid transparency and to quash dissent? I mean, all four defendants were locked away with a $105,000 bail. People who have not committed a violent crime or are threatening to. From what I’ve seen their only crime was watching and interacting with cops.

My concern is that if these charges of organized crime are affirmed in court this could lead to any gathering with two or more people with YouTube channels being charged with felonies for uploading videos. This could impact protesters, cop watchers, auditors, journalists, and implies guilt by association which could have a very chilling effect on freedom of speech and freedom of association. But for more on the odd legal theory being used in this case I’m joined by my reporting partner Stephen Janis, who has been looking into this. Stephen, thank you so much for joining me.

Stephen Janis:         Taya, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Taya Graham:             Stephen, you’ve been reviewing the court documents and you’ve been researching the law. What do you think?

Stephen Janis:        Taya, I’ve been looking at the law and I’ve been looking at the statements and the affidavits. What’s really interesting and curious is some of the extraneous information that is purported to be fact that is introduced. Like for example the cop says, out of fear of officers being ambushed, but of course there’s no direct allegation that any officer, anyone attempted to ambush an officer, or otherwise do so, or has any history of violent actions against officers.

What it reminds me of is in Baltimore, police used to say, this suspect was walking in an area known for narcotics distribution, and thus imbued that person with all the guilt resonant from that particular claim. And that’s what we see here. There’s a lot of inferences to things that have nothing to do with the suspects, nothing to do with their behavior, but actually ways to sway. And I think it shows some of the weaknesses of this idea of a statement of probable cause or even, as we said before, reasonable articulable suspicion. The fact that you can conjure just about anything. I mean, the ambushes a police officer, of course concerning, but has nothing to do with this case nor has anyone in any of these incidents ever threatened a police officer or threatened to shoot a police officer. So why is it part of the case?

Taya Graham:       Stephen, what would be the next step for the case?

Stephen Janis:          Well Taya, the next step is the approval of these charges by a prosecutor and in some cases an indictment from a grand jury. So we’ll have to see what happens in that process. I mean, the evidence here is flimsy. There’s nothing really that speaks to the actual statute which requires some serious underlying crimes like drug dealing or murder or whatever. You know, there’s nothing really here in any of the evidence that shows that a serious crime was committed to rise to the level of organized crime. But that’ll be up to a grand jury and a prosecutor to decide. I would be very surprised if a prosecutor approves these charges, they seem completely outrageous and well beyond the scope of the law.

Taya Graham:         It’s interesting here that police use search warrants, which technically are supposed to be a check on police power. But what does this case say about the way these checks are being used to create balance? I mean, it seems pretty heavy-handed.

Stephen Janis:      Yeah Taya, that’s a great point. I mean, who cannot conjure a reasonable articulable suspicion? It happens all the time. What it really is is an erosion of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. You know, the Fourth Amendment. Which, remember, as you pointed out in our livestream, professional policing did not exist when the Constitution was written. The Constitution is skeptical of power, skeptical of the human abuse of power, and our inherent capability to abuse it.

So who can’t articulate reasonable suspicion? It’s really simple to do. A probable cause, again, is extremely simple and often misconstrued as guilt. And I think in this situation police officers are using the limits of their imagination to conjure something that is clearly not a crime and to abuse the people and to give them horrible bail and really punish them in a way that they really can’t refute. The problem with this whole system is that adjudicating it later, saying this was an unfair charge or these charges were unfair, only comes after the impact to the people. And that is a big problem. There needs to be a higher bar for people to charge someone with something. Especially this serious felonious organized crime. That’s a serious, serious charge. There needs to be more safeguards and boundaries and also a more enlightened interpretation of the Constitution to favor the rights of the people and not the rights of police who take them away.

Taya Graham:          And now for more on these unusual charges and what they mean for them and for the entire cop watching community, I’m joined by HBOMatt. Matt, thank you for joining us.

HBOMatt:                 I appreciate you being interested in what’s going on.

Taya Graham:          So Matt, you were performing a cop watch, which should be a protected First Amendment activity. Tell us what you were doing?

HBOMatt:                We were there in Livingston. Wasn’t actually the city we were planning on doing anything with but nothing happened earlier in the day. So we decided to do a little bit of cop watching around the city. Usually I use a scanner radio to listen for calls but we weren’t picking up anything on the scanner. So either I set it up wrong or they were encrypted, we’re not sure. And we decided the best thing to do then is just patrol the city, see if we can find anything on our own. Follow a cop to a call if we see one go somewhere. And just pretty much do circles around the entire city and around downtown.

Taya Graham:         Tell us what happened when the police approached you.

HBOMatt:                 Okay. We had done a couple circuits around downtown and the police station, and pretty much they gave us some funny looks when we drove by. There’s a public road cut through close to the police station. Eventually we parked once, Ismail needed to get something out of the back of the car, and one of them started approaching us. We decided we didn’t want contact so we got back to moving. A couple minutes later we parked at the police station, but pretty close. And about a minute later the second officer who was staying at the police station saw us and he drove around, parked behind us, blocked us in, turned his lights on.

Taya Graham:        Matt, how did this escalate? How did this go from you leaving the scene to charges, arrest, and a $100,000 bail?

HBOMatt:           Apparently the second officer, we were behind him for maybe a minute somewhere earlier in the evening, because like I said, if we see somebody who looks like they’re going on a call we’ll follow him. But after about a minute we realized he wasn’t on a call so we just parked and it’s in his report. He thought we were stalking him by following him for a minute. So apparently, we didn’t know at the time that it was him, but I guess that’s what was in his mind when he pulled up behind us, because the first thing he was doing is, what are you guys doing? Why are you following us? Why are you watching the police station? Give me your license. He was very adamant. Give me your license! You’re suspicious. And I think his exact words were in the state of Texas being suspicious means I get to demand your ID.

Yeah. That’s not how it works. Nobody was arrested that day. Both incidents, there was another one earlier in the day. The cops left. The first incident, a detective apologized for this incident. They pretty much just backed off after they realized we weren’t going to surrender our rights. What happened is my video was live and the incident earlier in the day we posted the behavior of the police, Livingston police, was just deplorable and possibly illegal. And they didn’t like it when the videos were posted and they started an investigation into all of us. And about five days later we find out we’ve got felony warrants. Well actually we didn’t find out. They showed up at Mel’s apartment and talked her into coming outside voluntarily and arrested her for felony conspiracy.

They did the same thing to Brandon later that night when he went to her apartment to take care of her kids. As far as me and Ismail, they were playing pocket warrant games. We asked a lawyer to help turn ourselves in. They refused to talk to our lawyer for a week. They wouldn’t produce the warrants. We can’t turn ourselves in on warrants we don’t know exist. So after about another week they finally turned over their pocket warrants. They still never published them in the NCIC, any of the public systems. And we turned ourselves in in the San Antonio area, the Comal County Jail.

Taya Graham:            So wait, they didn’t charge you and arrest you until after you posted the video?

HBOMatt:                Yes. A couple days after the first incident they went back into the neighborhood around Mel’s house and started interviewing neighbors who, I guess, are the ones that called 911 for that incident. And they didn’t do any investigation as far as the felony organized crime charges. They never asked anybody any questions, they never asked to interview us. There’s no work besides they watched our videos and we’re an organized crime group because we were all in the same car together. That’s the amount of investigating they did.

Taya Graham:         So what exactly were you charged with?

HBOMatt:            False 911 call and organized crime. The false 911 call was from earlier in the day. We weren’t doing any cop watching or activism. I’m a member of Open Carry Texas, I’m a Second Amendment rights as well as a First Amendment rights activist and journalist. And Mel and Brandon’s car had broken down so I was going to their house to pick them up. And I open carry a handgun whenever I’m in Texas, and somebody or somebody called 911 for me walking from my car to Melanie’s front door and back.

And we’ve been, all four of us that were in, well, three of four of us were in the house, three have been charged, were charged with making a false 911 call. It’s the new swatting law that was passed last session in Texas. The funny thing is that the law requires that you call 911 or that you tell someone else to call 911 to make a false report. So you either lie in the 911 call or you tell somebody else, hey, there’s a fire, call 911, when there’s not a fire. They’ve literally charged all of us, even the people who were just sitting inside in the apartment, with swatting ourselves because somebody made a false 911 call. They blatantly ignored half of the statute to charge us with that.

Taya Graham:          How did organized crime come to be a charge? What was the reasoning here?

HBOMatt:               I will say we haven’t had contact with them so the only thing we can go off is what they wrote in the affidavits, which is pretty ridiculous. Their theory is that we were committing crimes but there’s no crime actually listed in the affidavit. To make, to get attention so we could make money on YouTube. And you read the affidavits, they don’t actually state any actual crime committed. They claim that following behind the police officer for a minute or two is stalking, which it’s not. There’s lots of case law on that. And also just that they were in fear for their lives that we were about to attack the police station.

Yeah. Kind of contradicts that when Simmons says during the video while he was interacting with us, I don’t care if they’re armed I just want to know why they were following me, and I want a license. The thing about organized crime, the statute in Texas, it requires an underlying crime. So assaulting somebody, murdering somebody, money laundering. Stalking isn’t one of those and also we didn’t do stalking. So we don’t know how they actually charged us with organized crime because there’s no underlying crime for us to organize around. There isn’t one in the affidavit and nothing actually took place. No crime took place. So organized crime is an enhancer, a secondary charge.

Taya Graham:          The charge of organized crime for having a YouTube channel definitely seems like this could have a very, very chilling effect for people who post their videos of cop watching or really any journalist who receives remuneration for their videos.

HBOMatt:                It already has. Some other police stations have tried to do the same thing. Leon Valley tried to do the same thing against James Freeman and the other auditors that were caught up in the mass arrest press conference. But over there in San Antonio the judges and DAs didn’t want to be part of that and neither did the FBI. This police station, I guess, decided they could try to get away with it. As far as the chilling effect, it’s been instant as far as us asking for support and trying to get people out there. A lot of people are afraid they’re going to get arrested. The one guy who was in the house with us that wasn’t charged, he thought he was going to jail too. And so all of us spent a week deathly afraid that we’re going to have felonies put on us and we’re just going to get picked up somewhere random and not at a bail bondsman that we can work with to actually get ourselves turned in.

The chilling effect is going to be… I can’t even explain how far it would go if this was actually allowed to go forward, if there were actually convictions. Even if this was allowed to go to trial the chilling effect is going to be enormous. This is Polk County, Livingston, Texas. We don’t think the prosecutors actually touched this. As far as the affidavits go it’s just detectives at the Livingston police and a judge for Polk County who signed off on the warrants. Interesting story that’s going to be. We haven’t even talked to the DA, we haven’t heard anything from the DA. So we’re not sure if this has even gone above just the detective level at Livingston.

Taya Graham:             So exactly how high was your bail set and are your fellow cop watchers still in jail?

HBOMatt:                  Yeah. The false 911 call that was put on three of us, that’s a $5,000 bond. The felony organized crime, $100,000 bond, surety bond, on all four of us. Melanie and Brandon are still in jail. They’ve been in for about three weeks now. They do not have a friendly bondsman to work with. So somebody would pretty much have to put their house up as collateral to get them out at this point. Ismail and myself, we are free right now because we had a friendly bondsman who’s not asking for a house. But we still have to come up with $8,000 as bond fees and we’ve got another week to do that. So he’s given us a great deal. He’s working with us but we got to come up with a big chunk of cash if we want to stay out of jail.

It’s just, that’s the reason we decided to turn ourselves in in San Antonio because we could actually be free. Mel and Brandon, they don’t have a chance. This is an unconstitutional bond. The judge who put it in the first place is crazy. Some second judge has to have signed off on it after they were arrested now, too. They don’t have any money. Literally they’re section eight housing, multiple kids, just barely getting by. So that some judge has signed off on a $105,000 bond for somebody who has absolutely no means whatsoever to pay for it on charges that have no legal basis. The affidavits, the warrants are, they’re not just deficient. They’re… I’d say they’re unlawful. They don’t meet any of the elements of the crime. It reads like a hurt feelings report.

So we’re doing what we can to try and get them out of jail because I don’t think nobody has $100,000 just to pop down. But if anybody out there would be willing to show up in Polk County and file motions or actually take them on as clients that’s the only way we’re going to get them out of jail. If not, when San Antonio and Leon Valley went after James Freeman and everybody else they took two to three years to dismiss blatantly false charges that were perfectly contradicted by case law. So we could be looking at two or three years of them sitting in jail waiting for trial if we don’t get this taken care of as fast as possible.

Taya Graham:            How has this impacted you emotionally and financially, and what is the state of mind of your friends who are still incarcerated?

HBOMatt:            Well for them, we got our first phone call from Melanie a couple days ago. She’s just not doing too well. She’s away from her kids, she’s not able to actually see they’re taken care of. Her extended family is doing everything they can but they want their mom back and she wants to make sure she’s back home taking care of them and not losing her home or her kids over this. Brandon, probably going to lose his job. Yeah. If we can help out, we’re getting Melanie out first because her kids, that’s the first priority and Brandon agrees with it. As far as me, I spent two weeks not knowing if I was going to be spending the next couple years in jail because we didn’t know if they were going to do ridiculous bond conditions. We didn’t know if they were going to try.

It’s purely retaliation from what we can tell. And a lot of times when this kind of thing happens the police do everything they can, or the prosecutor does everything they can to put every pressure on your life they can. We’ve had a lot of that happen in the San Antonio area [inaudible] the auditors around there, where blatantly false charges were put down, and the prosecutor knew they were going to dismiss it. But for the next year they’re going to hold you on your bond conditions, and they’ll set some kind of crazy bond condition. Right now, I’m free, I’m able to go back to work. I lost about two weeks worth of work. And now I’ve got to deal with going back to Livingston however often they’re going to be calling me back.

Taya Graham:               Now what we see here in this case is not only a threat to peaceful cop watching across the country, but just another example of how flimsy the notion is that we are a nation of laws. That’s because, as we’ve seen in this case, the law itself is subject to the whims of human nature. Meaning it is circumscribed by words, and thus is malleable and easily abused through careful and studied manipulation.

What that means is that the law is a set of possible constraints, incentives, and disincentives, all subject to the ability of the practitioner to take advantage of both. Meaning the intent of the law can often be wildly divorced from its implementation and easily abused by circuitous logic. Well, consider the ongoing conflict in one of our favorite counties to report on, San Bernardino, California. The home to roughly 1 million residents was a place where a cop gave one of our viewers a major ticket for following too close to another vehicle.

But the reason I bring this department up today is another controversy brewing that speaks volumes about how the law is easily manipulated by those with the power to do it. The conflict is over a series of seizures of $1 million in cash from armored trucks. A drug task force made up of San Bernardino police is accused of illegally taking the money, which was generated by legal marijuana sales in a state where the sale of pot is completely lawful and actually booming. The San Bernardino sheriff’s office has argued that the cash is illicit because, as we all know, federal laws consider pot to be one of the most dangerous substances. It is a schedule one controlled substance. In fact, pot is considered so bad it is on the DEA list of harmful substances as highly addictive and with no medical value.

Well, setting aside the fact that marijuana is nothing short of a miracle plant that can treat anything from chronic pain to psychological trauma, how on earth can a nation of so-called laws countenance two completely different legal categorizations of a simple plant? One that is both dangerous and subject to the most stiff punishments conceivable, and the other that is profitable, and it should be available to anyone who wants it.

How do the legal scholars, who treat our nation of laws like a well-thought-out and justice-affirming system, explain that? Well, maybe they can start with the lawsuit brought by marijuana dispensaries in California who are suing the San Bernardino county sheriff, claiming the seizures of the armored trucks are nothing short of highway robbery. They note in their case that every dollar confiscated by police was obtained through the legal sale of pot, and they also note that the legal sale included paying the taxes and fees to the state that authorized it. Setting aside for the moment that the San Bernardino sheriff’s office is slated to receive roughly 80% of the proceeds of the roughly $1 million seized during the van stops under a federal program called Equitable Sharing, and ignores for a moment the fact that no one in the van or associated with the affected businesses have been charged with a crime, the fact remains that, despite all of these mitigating circumstances, the sheriff’s office has decided to use the law as a vehicle of unchecked and irrational power, setting aside the nuance for the rest of us to sort out.

Well, my point is here, is just like the case of cop watchers being charged with organized crime, the intent of the law can be easily perverted by the self perpetuating incentives which make American law enforcement so problematic. Meaning that the law in their hands can just as easily be used as a tool for oppression as for liberation. And as we see in this case, it is easy to toss aside intent or inherent contradictions if the people with power are intent on doing so.

It’s funny, because as we’ve continued to explore this topic we keep running into so-called Constitutional scholars and legal analysts who seem to imply that this manipulation of law is not just legal, but inevitable. What I mean is that the legal precedent and case history, which allows this flagrant violation of the spirit of the law, is okay because, hey, they just took the law to its logical conclusion, no matter how reductive and absurd it might be.

But what I would argue is something entirely different, a radical revision of this way of thinking that makes the Constitution a biblical text, and that any law intended to expand the rights of people actually gives law enforcement a million chances to legally violate them. Remember, as Stephen mentioned in our livestream, the people who wrote the Constitution were skeptical of concentrated power and the ability to abuse it. They were experimenting with governance that could prevent tyranny, not slowly litigate it into being. They were writing a starting point from which to expand the rights of the people, not a document to give birth to American policing and then slowly but surely chip away at the most basic rights before we even get a chance to enjoy them.

My point here is that what our lawmakers lack is vision. Time and time again, people who watch our show will say the Constitution says this or some trending lawyer says that, but we are rarely offered a new way of looking at the entirety of the system. The Bill of Rights, which is often the point of contention, was just a starting point, not the end game. The list was a draft on the current state of human statecraft, not a biblical text meant to be reinterpreted over and over again without any significant updates. It’s like we’re all using the windows 95 operating system 250 years after it was introduced. And just as our social software evolves and hopefully expands its capabilities, the same old punch card hardware is actually still running the show.

Wake up people. Pernicious concepts like Terry v. Ohio and qualified immunity are just inventions, like all of human law. Civil asset forfeiture without committing a crime or detainment based on reasonable suspicion are just social constructs hiding under the agency of the law to simply limit our rights and make the unjust sound responsible and the just unimaginable.

Let’s again go back to something Stephen raised in the livestream, the little heard or discussed Ninth Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment is rarely cited and receives little attention in the legal press and especially in the courts. Why? Well, let’s read it. “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Now, there are lots of ways to interpret this language, but I have one that I think is spot on. There are lots of possible rights that inherently belong to the people. So if we left them out, you can fix it. That is, it is up to you to expand on our rights and change this document if there’s something we left out. And just because we missed something doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to exercise it.

In other words, to the people, this Constitution is yours, and now it’s time to take it back and make it work for you, for all of us. Are you surprised that all the Constitutional scholars and lawyers and judges and cops don’t mention that? Me too. But let’s try to change that now. This Constitution is yours. It’s time for you to take it back.

I’d like to thank HBOMatt for joining us and sharing his experience. He will be sharing his information in the comments and live chat below if you want to reach out to him. And of course I want to thank intrepid reporter Stephen Janis for his writing, research, and editing on this piece. Thank you, Stephen

Stephen Janis:           Taya, thanks for having me, I appreciate it.

Taya Graham:               And I want to say thanks to friend of the show Noli Dee for her support. Thanks Noli Dee. And I want to thank all of our patrons for your support. We appreciate you, and especially Pineapple Girl and Shane Bushta. Thank you so much.

And I want you watching to know that if you have evidence of police misconduct or brutality, please share it with us and we might be able to investigate for you. Please reach out to us. you can email us tips privately par@therealnews.com, or you can message us on Police Accountability Report on Facebook or Instagram, or @eyesonpolice on Twitter, and of course you can always message me directly @tayasbaltimore on Twitter and Facebook. And please like and comment. You know I read your comments and appreciate them. And we do have a Patreon link pinned in the comments below, so if you feel inspired to donate please do so, because we don’t run ads or take corporate dollars. So anything you can spare is greatly appreciated. My name is Taya Graham, and I am your host of the Police Accountability Report. Please, be safe out there.

Taya Graham

Host & Producer
Taya Graham is an award-winning investigative reporter who has covered U.S. politics, local government, and the criminal justice system. She is the host of TRNN's "Police Accountability Report," and producer and co-creator of the award-winning podcast "Truth and Reconciliation" on Baltimore's NPR affiliate WYPR. She has written extensively for a variety of publications including the Afro American Newspaper, the oldest black-owned publication in the country, and was a frequent contributor to Morgan State Radio at a historic HBCU. She has also produced two documentaries, including the feature-length film "The Friendliest Town." Although her reporting focuses on the criminal justice system and government accountability, she has provided on the ground coverage of presidential primaries and elections as well as local and state campaigns.

 
taya@therealnews.com
 
@tayasbaltimore

Stephen Janis

Host & Producer
Stephen Janis is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work has been acclaimed both in print and on television. As the Senior Investigative Reporter for the now defunct Baltimore Examiner, he won two Maryland DC Delaware Press Association Awards for his work on the number of unsolved murders in Baltimore and the killings of prostitutes. His in-depth work on the city's zero-tolerance policing policies garnered an NAACP President's Award. As an Investigative Producer for WBFF/Fox 45, he has won three successive Capital Emmys: two for Best Investigative Series and one for Outstanding Historical/Cultural Piece.

He is the author of three books on the philosophy of policing: Why Do We Kill? The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore; You Can't Stop Murder: Truths About Policing in Baltimore and Beyond; and The Book of Cop: A Testament to Policing That Works. He has also written two novels, This Dream Called Death and Orange: The Diary of an Urban Surrealist. He teaches journalism at Towson University.