Videotaped confrontation with HPD sparks concerns

February 8, 2012 3:12:22 AM PST
A new video has Houston police on the defensive. It shows an officer cocking a shotgun in the middle of a rowdy crowd.

The chief says they are reviewing the video to see if the officers violated policy. There were several camera phones recording that night; on one side, there was a crowd of about 50 people, on the other, about a dozen officers.

Mid-afternoon and early in the week, The Compound on Wheeler is far from happening. There's not a person around, not a peep from inside. But on Friday, January 27, there were bands on three stages, leading up to a confrontation with police.

Houston Free Thinkers, an activist group, provided the video. Its founders say it all started with a noise complaint which eventually led to Derrick Broze's arrest.

"Because I asked questions," Broze says on the video.

"And what did you ask?" Micah Jackson asked.

Jackson was one of several people recording. You can hear orders from police, more questions and chants and then this -- the officer cocks his shotgun and aims it into the air.

"I don't think that using your First Amendment right justifies the police to pull out a gun like that," Broze said.

"I'd rather he not be a police officer anymore," Jackson said.

HPD Chief Charles McClelland released a statement that reads:

"We are working to identify all the officers in the video and will initiate an inquiry to determine all the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. We will be thorough in our review and if we determine policy violations occurred ensure appropriate corrective actions."

Broze says there were about 50 people on the other side of the cameras that night. He and Jackson see it as HPD's attempt to silence their free speech.

"We have a First Amendment right, like it or not. We have it, we can stand on it," Jackson said.

Ray Hunt is the president of the Houston Police Officers Union. He sees it a different way.

"Does it make someone who's never been in that situation, who's never had a crowd converge on them, say wow? Absolutely, it does. Does it mean the officer has done something wrong? Absolutely not," Hunt said. "By only seeing what the camera is seeing and not what the officer is seeing is very unfair to judge the action of that officer based on that video."

HPD is quick to point out that this isn't an internal affairs investigation yet. Houston Free Thinkers says it plans to file a complaint.

Broze was charged with not obeying a lawful order, a Class C misdemeanor.