An action-packed video that shows an off-duty Mountie taking down an alleged shoplifter is sparking a debate about recording police incidents in progress.
David Silvercloud, a retired professional photographer, was walking near St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver Friday when he suddenly heard yelling from an alleyway.
“I heard somebody shout something like ‘Stop that guy’ and there’s a commotion…so my instinct was to pull the plastic bag off my camera and put it into record mode,” Silvercloud said. “I pulled out my cell phone at the same time and started dialing 911.”
An off-duty North Vancouver Mountie performs a citizen’s arrest on a man accused of shoplifting in Downtown Vancouver Friday, June 7, 2013. (YouTube)
In the video, which Silvercloud later posted to YouTube, a man Vancouver police confirm is an off-duty Mountie from North Vancouver is shown wrestling an alleged shoplifter to the ground.
“You under arrest,” he tells the man, pinning him to the ground. “Somebody call 911 right now.”
“Please! I put the stuff back,” the suspect shouts. “Why you doing this?…Let go man!”
“My life is ruined,” he says as sirens are heard wailing in the background.
After nearly five minutes, Vancouver police run on to the scene, putting the suspect in handcuffs.
“I just wanted to record the moment. I’m a photographer,” Silvercloud said. “I’m thinking about ‘Am I getting a good picture?’ And also I was talking to 911 at the time so that was distracting.”
Silvercloud has received mixed reactions to his citizen journalism.
“I’ve had a few people say I was a bit of a dork for uploading it, but the majority of comments – and the last time I looked there was 47 comments – people were in favour,” he said.
An E-Comm 911 spokesperson praised Silvercloud for calling 911 right away, especially since it’s unclear how many onlookers reported the incident as they watched the struggle take place.
The BC Civil Liberties Association encouraged citizens to hit record when witnessing something out of the ordinary for documentation purposes.
But Dave Teixeira, a social media expert, said people need to be aware when filming public incidents because they can change the demeanor of whomever they’re shooting – for better or for worse.
“For example, in the 2011 Vancouver riots we saw people posing by fires and broken windows for the cameras, even though they were doing some really stupid and criminal things,” Texeira said.
Likewise, officers who are aware that somebody is filming them during an incident might be putting on a more professional manner, he said.
Teixeira urged those witnessing an emergency to think twice about whipping out their camera phone. Just because you can film it doesn’t mean you should, he said.
“You should have that sober second thought and think, ‘Is it really uplifting to that person that I’m going to upload a video of them where they’re probably not at their best?’”
Vancouver police said the suspect recorded in Silvercloud’s video is known to them and was wanted on several outstanding warrants for breach of conditional sentence, theft, and possession of stolen property.
He’s now in custody facing possible charges of shoplifting and will appear in court June 14, police said.