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Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels

The Arizona Fraternal Order of Police wants Google to stop providing a platform for individuals who record law enforcement and then post videos on YouTube badmouthing the cops. At least one local lawman agrees social media holds sway over some people against the police.

In a press release sent earlier this week, the AZFOP asks the public to sign a petition that calls on “video giant YouTube — owned by Google — to immediately de-platform the accounts of multiple so-called ‘police auditors.’ These video camera vigilantes regularly interfere in 911 emergency scenes on the streets of Tucson and around the country, harassing, threatening, and abusing police officers to create a video spectacle. The auditors then use YouTube channels like “Pigs Under Pressure” to post and livestream their profane rants, monetizing the videos through YouTube clicks and advertising.”

The issue of “police auditors” recording officers is not routine in Cochise County, law enforcement officials say. Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels and Sierra Vista Police Chief Adam Thrasher both said they’re not against recording as long as the person doing it doesn’t interfere with an investigation, a 911 call, or presents a safety hazard to police or the public.

“Law enforcement has been under scrutiny for many years, especially after what happened with George Floyd,” Dannels said. “There has always been someone out there recording police. We believe in transparency ... except when someone obstructs an investigation.”

Recently, the sheriff had an encounter with the videographer who runs the Bisbee News Network and the result was not positive on YouTube.

Dannels was patrolling the streets when he stopped videographer Nolan Gouguet of Bisbee News Network, for speeding on Highway 92 in Bisbee.

Dannels told Gouguet that he was driving 70 in a 45-mph area and that by law that’s considered criminal speed. The sheriff however, told Gouguet he would give him a break and cite him with a civil violation, rather than a criminal one. In Arizona, it’s considered criminal speeding if motorists “Exceed the posted speed limit in a business or residential district by more than twenty miles per hour, or if no speed limit is posted, exceed forty-five miles per hour.”

Gouguet posted a video on YouTube titled, “Big Surprise Another Lying Cop,” because he claims Dannels lied when he said Gouguet was traveling at a “criminal speed.” In a voiceover on the video Gouguet stated that there are no businesses or residences in the area where he was caught speeding — Highway 92 and Tovreaville Road — when actually there are a handful of government buildings just off Tovreaville, as well as a halfway house for men.

Another cop lying trying to intimidate us,” Gouguet says in the voice over.

In an email to the Herald/Review, Gouguet said that videotaping law enforcement is a protected activity.

"Videotaping the police is a First Amendment protected activity. Guilty parties don't want to be videotaped," he said. 

Dannels declined comment on Gouguet, but the sheriff said he is concerned with the portrayal of law enforcement by some social media sites and how that affects certain people.

“Some people truly believe that stuff,” Dannels said.

In the abstract of a 2019 article in the Global Journal of Forensic Science & Medicine titled “Social & News Media’s Effects on Law Enforcement,” author Shawn Morrow posits that law enforcement is challenged by social and traditional media: “This investigation indicates that social and news media’s fake news threatens law enforcement officers. Law enforcement is experiencing escalations in resisting arrest, physical assaults, and murders by subjects targeting the police. These increases in criminal behaviors have law enforcement de-policing within the communities, and the catalysts are social and news media’s false reports that all police officers are racist. A content analysis was used to investigate the literature on social and news media’s effect on law enforcement and criminal behavior. The data focused on articles in peer-reviewed journals, published research articles, and social and news media reports. The results are societies perceptions are influenced by false statements (fake news) by social and news media outlets.”

Dannels said the key to combatting that is trust.

“It’s crucial for us (law enforcement) to have the trust of the community,” Dannels said. “Transparency equals trust.”