While they are essential to keeping the public safe and investigating crimes, police officers do not like to be told they are wrong. What’s more, they often react badly when their mistakes are exposed publicly; especially on the internet.
Back in February, Mark Fiorino, a Philadelphia resident — and apparently a law-abiding one — was walking to a store and minding his own business, only to be stopped by two police officers because he was wearing a holstered firearm on his hip. Fiorino has explained that the reason he open-carries a firearm is because several of his friends had been mugged.
What should have been a legitimate query by a police officer, quickly resolved by a civil question and answer, instead morphed into an ugly incident that nearly turned fatal.
In the profanity-laced recording of the incident, you can hear how quickly the situation escalated. Within seconds of police asking Fiorino, “Yo, Junior, what are you doing,” they were pointing a gun at him, yelling at him to get on the ground. Fiorino civilly offered to give the officers his driver’s license and firearms permit, as he tried to explain he was no threat and possessed a valid firearms carry permit; for this, he was told, “You make a move, and you’re going down.”
The officers obviously were misinformed about Philadelphia’s own gun laws. They wrongly told Fiorino he could not open-carry in the city, notwithstanding Fiorino citing to them their own internal directive, which acknowledges that Pennsylvania is an open-carry state, and all that is needed in the City of Brotherly Love for a citizen to exercise that right, is a concealed-carry permit. The directive does allow for police to investigate someone they encounter open-carrying, but it does not indicate they should pull out their own weapon and point it at the gun owner while yelling profanities and threatening to kill them.
Despite making no arrest during the stop and subsequent detention, the Philadelphia police have since issued a warrant for Fiorino – two months after the incident took place – on charges of disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment. A police spokeswoman says that Fiornio “allegedly became belligerent and hostile”; an accusation clearly not supported by the audio recording of the actual encounter.
Fiorino’s only “crime” appears to have been embarrassing the police — who clearly threatened to kill someone legally carrying a firearm — and posting the audio of the incident on YouTube.
This is the latest in a disturbing trend of discouraging or shutting down audio or video recordings of interactions between law-abiding citizens and police. And this is not exactly what is meant by “community policing.”
By Bob Barr – The Barr Code