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Video Shows Santa Barbara Officer Knocking Cell Phone from Man’s Hands

Police Department has reviewed video and is investigating the March 7 incident, spokesman says

A Santa Barbara police sergeant is accused of knocking a cell phone out of the hands of a man who was taking video of an arrest last month. The department says it is investigating.
A Santa Barbara police sergeant is accused of knocking a cell phone out of the hands of a man who was taking video of an arrest last month. The department says it is investigating. (Santa Barbara Police Department surveillance photo)

A Santa Barbara police sergeant is accused of knocking a cell phone out of the hands of a man who was recording video in front of the Velvet Jones nightclub on State Street in a March incident that was posted to YouTube earlier this week.

The video was uploaded by a user called “Santa Barbara Man,” and shows multiple Santa Barbara officers who had a suspect handcuffed on the curb in front of the Velvet Jones bar at 423 State St.

Four officers were on the scene at the time, after responding to a March 7 fight call. The call was reported at 10:31 p.m. and reporting parties said at least 10 people were involved in the fight, according to police.

After a few minutes, the video shows Sgt. Eric Beecher arrive and take his phone from his right breast pocket and point it toward the man filming, as if he was filming as well.

The posted video claims “the officer strikes the camera and the man in the head while doing so.”

In the video, Beecher walks over and says, “How’s it going? What’s your name?” before the phone drops to the ground and the camera shows someone picking it up.

“What was that? Are you kidding me? What was that?” the man filming says. Beecher can be heard apologizing, saying it was an accident.

“That was not an accident. You did not walk over here to have an accident and knock the phone out of my hand.”

Beecher walks back to the curb and puts the phone back into his pocket. Facing the man filming, he says, “Have a good night.”

The Police Department became aware of the video when it got calls for comment from the news site Photography is Not a Crime Wednesday night, Sgt. Riley Harwood said.

The site was also the first to identify Beecher.

Police Chief Cam Sanchez and his command staff watched the video Thursday morning and initiated an administrative investigation, Harwood said.

He wasn’t sure if anyone had filed a complaint, as the man posting the video said he planned to do, but Sanchez can start an internal investigation without one, Harwood said.

Officers get constitutional law training at the police academy, he said.

“It’s understood that people are free to record whatever they want if they’re in a location where they can lawfully be and the manner in which they’re doing it is lawful.”

If the internal investigation reveals that Beecher violated a department policy, it could be addressed with more training if it’s a training issue, or discipline, Harwood said.

In general, disciplinary actions can range from a reprimand all the way to possible termination, and it depends on the severity of the case and the history of the employee.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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