Peaceful Streets Project’s confrontations with police get testy
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Activist Antonio Buehler wants to keep Austin police accountable. In an effort to do so, he started the Peaceful Streets Projects, a volunteer group that puts cameras in the arms of citizens to record police while they patrol the city.
Buehler’s videos are available online. In one instant, he praises an officer saying, “You did a good job today.”
In others, Buehler yells at them, “Why are you touching me?”
Regardless, the Stanford graduate is on a mission to capture police crossing the line.
"Unfortunately, these cops think they are above the law,” Buehler said. “They think they are above policy."
Buhler began filming an Austin police officer in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day. He was capturing what he says was an officer mishandling a woman who was a passenger in a car that had been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving.
Officers say Buehler was interfering with the arrest and spit in one officer's face, a claim Buehler denies. He was charged with harassment of a public official and resisting arrest, but has not yet been convicted.
"There are good cops in the organization, but the organization itself is corrupt and they protect criminal cops at the expense and the liberties and safety of Austin," Buehler said.
The West Point grad and combat veteran then launched a video assault on APD officers, and his tactics are gaining attention.
Former prosecutor Ray Esperson reviewed some of Buehler’s tapes. In one incident, some critics said Buehler was interfering with official business. Esperson isn't so sure.
"Respect the officer's investigation, don't become a part of the investigation," he said. "He's not interfering. He's just making the officers uncomfortable."
In a different video, Esperson says the former Army captain may have gone a bit too far.
"If he wanted to speak to the officer about policy or something, he should say, 'Hey I would like to talk to you about this,'” he said. “Because [the officer] doesn't know what the situation is."
APD officials are paying attention to these YouTube videos as well.
In a statement released by the department, APD leaders say they are, “Aware of pattern of behavior with Antonio Buehler that could be of criminal nature. Based upon that and other pending matters, the Austin Police Department is unable to discuss at this time."
Buehler is due back in court Sept. 25.