One Man, One Bike, One Camera: Jose Vela's Dallas Cop Block Aims to Guard the Guardians

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jose_vela_copblock.jpg
Dallas Cop Block
Jose Vela started Dallas Cop Block after he felt an officer unfairly gave his wife a ticket.
The first incident that set Jose Vela on the path to having front and rear dash cams installed in his car happened in 2009. He was visiting his old man in Alamo, and his 7-year-old son, who has Down syndrome, wandered off. Vela and his wife searched but couldn't find him. They called the police. Eventually, a resident discovered Vela's son and phoned it in. The family was reunited, but, Vela told Unfair Park, not until the police threatened to arrest him and his wife. Nothing came of it, but Vela learned to be wary of police officers.

The second incident came a couple years later when his wife tried to pick up a friend from Love Field. She thought she saw her friend, so she pulled into a passenger loading area. It wasn't her friend, but an officer saw her and told her she needed to move, Vela said. She couldn't pull out because of the passing traffic. Vela said that's when the cop became angry and wrote his wife a ticket for refusing to leave.

Vela decided to strike back.

He started Dallas Cop Block in September 2012. Cop Block is national, but it's more of an idea than an organized group. Anyone who wants to can start a charter, and they can write their own policies, if they even want them. It's decentralized. On CopBlock.org, about a hundred groups are listed nationwide, including several in Texas.

Vela is the only member of his charter. He patrols Deep Ellum, downtown, Arlington and Fort Worth, among other areas, on his bike. He carries a camera in case he sees a police officer. He used to create Facebook events and invite others to join him, but no one showed up. So he patrols alone to let cops know they're being watched. He tells his wife to record every interaction she has with police now because "video does not lie."

Along with his informal patrolling, Vela participates in official Cop Block events. At a recent one in Arlington, Vela and Texas Cop Block's Joseph Tye noticed a cruiser speeding. They followed him in their car, tracking the cop's speed with their own speedometer, recording the whole time. The cop's lights and sirens were off. At one point, they were going 55 in a 35.

Tye wants to see the officer face the same penalty a civilian would -- a speeding ticket. Vela and Tye see a double-standard in how punishment is doled out that's a harbinger of a class system. "There are no slaves left in this country," Tye told Unfair Park, "but they want to make it that way."

Most of the Cop Block people he operates with, Tye said, are "voluntaryists." (Vela hadn't heard of the term before Unfair Park asked him about it.) People who follow this strain of libertarian philosophy believe all human interaction should be voluntary and not forced.

About five months ago, Tye took over the six-member Texas Cop Block. He said they have "families, lives, schoolwork, whatever," but they make time to track officers. To do so, they use police scanners and smart phone apps, such as Waze, which crowdsources traffic information. Tye said people have thanked them for filming, and that the presence of a camera has mellowed officers out. "We're helping everybody," Tye told us. "Unfortunately, the police don't seem to think so."

Some people think cop-blockers oppose the law, Vela said, but he insists he doesn't. He believes in following it to the letter. A legal stop is three seconds, he said, so he waits three seconds at stop signs. "I don't believe in civil disobedience," he told us. "Other copblockers do."

Send your story tips to the author, Sky Chadde.

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39 comments
sleepyhead420
sleepyhead420

My only complaint is that the "good interactions" need to be posted along with the bad. I am not a cop...but Vela filmed me once. I would have been proud to have it posted but instead all that got shown was other people behaving badly. So I know how it feels to be guilty by association. If you don't have the thumbs up with the thumbs down, you are missing the point.

jeraldinechayes
jeraldinechayes

Start working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.


This is what I do……. 


W­­­­W­­­­W.J­­­­O­­­­B­­­­S­­­­333.C­­­­O­­­­M­­­­

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

I think everyone who has a vehicle should have their own dash cam. They are pretty cheap. And, I know a couple of people who have been able to prove that they were not at fault in accidents using the footage from these cameras.

As far as police officers having video or pictures taken of their actions, they should welcome it. If they are doing their jobs right, it can only help them.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Every officer needs to be equipped with a remotely operated and archived "always on" video recorder that records every moment of time the officer is on duty. No exceptions.

This is as much to protect the officers as it is to protect the public. After all, like some of the sentiments expressed here, "If they're not doing anything wrong, they've got nothing to worry about."

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

Hey, or you could just follow the law. Funny how that has worked for me all these years!


The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley
The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley

Going back to my youth, I prob have 20 some interactions with cops and the only one that would be video worthy was the ass chewing I got for flipping off a cop after seeing Sally Field do it in Smoky and The Bandit.  This dude telling his wife to record every interaction she has with police smells like he's more interested in baiting cops than "...helping everybody..." 

DavidRoot
DavidRoot

I don't see how this could hurt a police officer's ability to do his or her job. It might improve it. Overall a neat take on accountability... 

Tye's comment about modern slavery was a little Randian-over-the-top though.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie


He has a camara .

They have a utility belt full of things that can really screw up his day

He has Rights and is a concerned citizen

They have an entire system of laws from which to cherry pick the one or two and make him an accused criminal .

.

Don't poke the Bear !

Mervis
Mervis

@ChangingF8 You've never been pulled over for driving while black/brown huh?

tdkisok
tdkisok

@ChangingF8


That works for the police as well. Why should they care if they are being filmed if they themselves are following the law?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley Dickheads that bait cops suck balls, and we all know there are people who do that.  Ive only had one interaction I wish I had on camera and that was when I was 18 and had a Fast and Furious'esque Honda Del Sol.  The cop pulled me over for my tail lights, NO, not being out but not being the original ones on the car.  He said anything was not OEM was illegal and not allowed on the street.  I argued with him that each piece of equipment on my car was DOT approved in 50 states and street legal.  He threatened to tow me and wrote me 5 tickets for "supposed" violations.  This same cop pulled me over 3 times in a month and wrote tickets for the same thing before I even had my first court date.  I showed up in court with proof of purchase and proof all the equipment was legal for my car and of course the judge dismissed them all.  Apparently this cop had a hard on for these things bc the judge told him he was tired of having these cases come to his court and be dismissed wasting his time.  Anyway about a week later he pulled me over again and this is what I wish I had recorded.  He said "listen here little punk entitled bitch, Im watching you and if you so much as go 1 mph over the speed limit or mess up once, Im gonna nail ya.  Have a good day"

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

@Mervis @ChangingF8 I was once pulled over for having long hair years ago. The cop asked if I was a rock star and told me he was going to up and down my car to find something to charge me with.

tdkisok
tdkisok

@ScottsMerkin


Hey, what do you have to worry about if you are doing nothing wrong?  lol  

The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley
The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley

@Just_Brown_Enough 

Not really, though I did forget about a time DPD stopped me in North Dallas for I don't know why.  He was driving behind me and it was dark so I don't think my  demographics had anything to do with it.  I pulled into a conv store and he started questioning me, but I posed no kind of threat because he didn't get out of his car.  After about 2 minutes, he left, but not before telling me to be careful because Belt Line and Coit is a bad neighborhood.      

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@tdkisok @ScottsMerkin Well Im not worried about shit but what you think is wrong and what a cop may want to accuse you of doing wrong are two different things LOL.  You know, that ole "do you know how fast you were going"  Why yes sir I was going 65 in a 60, well no son, my gun got ya at 73. well hmmm, I have dashcam footage with GPS tech in it that gives date stamped time mph and other such things on my car, mostly bc I use the data to tune my car but damn it comes in handy if I ever need it

wontunow
wontunow

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  And the whole article of filming police officers has absolutely nothing to do with the Holocaust.  Why would the Holocaust be mentioned here?  Makes no sense.

DavidRoot
DavidRoot

@oakclifftownie @DavidRoot So filming the police is against the law in all situations? Are there Best Practices he could follow tp reduce the number of laws they could arbitrarily "cherry pick", I wonder? I still imagine a tape would make a difference in court if he can show he wasn't breaking any laws. 

The assumption that he would be breaking one law or another regardless of what he was doing seems like something he could mitigate.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@oakclifftownie @DavidRoot want to enrage some cops. pull out a camera, as is your right.  Want to win the inevitable lawsuit when they go ape shit bc you record them, make sure you pressed record.  That video will do you wonders.  If the cop is just doing his/her job, they will not care if you record them.  Oh and dashcams are wonderful things for the public too.  Its amazing the things you can catch on them.  Just go youtube a few.  Its marvelous

roo_ster
roo_ster

@DavidRoot @oakclifftownie 

WHen these cases show up before judges, they get tossed.  Cops still arrest folk for filming them in some locales, though.  You are not going to beat the ride.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@DavidRoot @oakclifftownie

It's my understanding that filming the police is completely legal in all street settings, so long as the photographer is staying as far back as the LEO requires (might take telephoto lens, yeah.) I'm not a lawyer, etc., but I understand you'll eventually beat the rap for merely filming at a proper distance (no yelling, etc.)

Oakclifftownie is right, though, about the orchard of laws the wrong cop can pick from. You won't beat the ride by being constitutionally protected.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@wcvemail @DavidRoot @oakclifftownie Didn't Schutze do a story involving something like this?  Either Schutze or Marvel or maybe both of them were going on about how the police are getting their asses kicked on these cases involving video capture by civilians.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@DavidRoot  

Not to the public's knowledge, no, never any consequences for the waste of time and resources.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@roo_ster @DavidRoot @oakclifftownie Actually, they are starting to.  I know that the Fourth Circuit has ruled that the right to film the police is "well established", meaning that if they violate it, they lose their qualified immunity and can be sued for things like false arrest.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@DavidRoot @TheCredibleHulk @roo_ster @oakclifftownie It's a shame that a small minority of bad-apples can taint the public's perception of law-enforcement personnel, but there you have it. Even with all of the crap we hear about, I believe that most LEO's are probably straight-shooters (pardon the term),but It also doesn't help their collective cause that they tend to close ranks and protect their own rather than encouraging open investigations of alleged wrongdoing.

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