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‘Video Vigilante’ Criticizes Arrest

July 12, 2002

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ For six years, self-described ``video vigilante″ Brian Bates has helped police find and prosecute prostitutes and their customers by making videotapes used as evidence against them.

Now he finds himself on the other side, saying police used more force than was necessary to subdue a suspect in an arrest he caught on tape.

Bates’ video of police striking an unarmed man with batons has helped fuel a national debate on police use of force, along with footage of a police officer in Inglewood, Calif., slamming a teen-age boy onto the trunk of a patrol car and punching him.

Civil rights advocates have demanded discipline for the Oklahoma City officers and changes in department policies. But police officials reviewing the case have said the force appeared to be appropriate.

Police Chief M.T. Berry has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look at whether there were any civil rights abuses.

``It’s unfortunate anytime the city or some of its agents seem to be doing something wrong that everybody jumps all over it,″ Bates said Thursday. ``But that shouldn’t discourage people from voicing an opinion or putting something out there for the public to scrutinize.″

Angered by open prostitution in his downtown neighborhood, Bates took it upon himself to help a prosecutors’ task force curb lewd activity.

Armed with a video camera and hours of tape, the 32-year-old cruises southern Oklahoma City looking for prostitutes and their clients. He tries to catch them having sex in public places, a misdemeanor offense.

``This was in our driveways, grocery store parking lots and parks,″ Bates said.

He said police told him they couldn’t do anything unless an officer witnessed a crime. Then a city official suggested he use his video camera to document the prostitution.

He boasts that more than 200 people have been convicted because of his videotaping.

Some local police officers appreciate what he does, but others feel he invades their territory, he said.

``We know him,″ said Sgt. Charles Phillips, spokesman for Oklahoma City Police Department. ``We get a lot of calls from him and have worked with him before.″

Two officers are now under investigation for the actions Bates recorded Monday night after dialing 911 to report a public sex act.

The tape shows Officer Greg Driskill attempting to handcuff Donald Reed Pete. Driskill had approached alone and on foot, police said

``At some point, Driskill ordered Pete out of the van, and he observed him to take what appeared to be marijuana and begin eating it,″ police Capt. Jessica Cummins said. ``He realized that Pete was destroying evidence and made an attempt to prevent him from eating all of it.″

When Pete, 50, appears to refuse an order from Driskill, the officer swings him around. After eventually getting down on the ground, Driskill rolls Pete over and Pete says something to Driskill.

The officer yells at Pete to get down on the ground, then sprays pepper spray into Pete’s face and puts his knee on Pete’s neck. Pete tells the officer he is on the ground, but appears to refuse to put his other arm behind his back.

The pilot of a police helicopter hovering above the scene reported that Driskill was ``losing it″ and requested backup, Cummins said.

Officer E.J. Dyer arrived and helped Driskill subdue Pete, Cummins said. Dyer also used pepper spray and his baton.

The officers repeatedly struck Pete on the arms, legs and back, stopping after handcuffing the man.

Police later found a crack pipe in Pete’s truck which tested positive for cocaine residue.

Bates, who makes money from a Web site and from regular appearances on a television talk show, said he believes the officers used more force than was necessary.

``He never once made a fist. ... From the get-go, the man was just very slow to respond to orders,″ Bates said.

During the altercation with Pete, Driskill lost his baton and asked Bates to get it. He did.

``I was there to document the lewd act charge,″ Bates said. ``It got out of hand and instead of giving a verbal account of what happened I decided to take a video.″

___

On the Internet:

Oklahoma City Police: http://www.ocpd.com

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