TOPEKA, Kan (KSNT) – A police call caught on camera in Topeka has left a local homeowner with more questions than answers. Edward Whitlock woke up Jan. 17 to the sounds of his home alarm. A woman had rammed her car through his trailer into his trash cans outside his home near 9th Street and Wayne Avenue. His alarm company notified Topeka Police.
“When they got here and realized I had surveillance cameras outside of the perimeter of my house, that’s when this all started,” said Whitlock.
While the two officers interview the woman, the officers take turns shining their flashlights in to the cameras, strobing the lenses and eventually shining their headlamps directly into the cameras. The woman was later arrested, but not before the officers left Whitlock wondering what was really going on outside his home.
“It just bothered me that they wouldn’t let me do it. I don’t know what they were hiding. I was just trying to see what was going on,” said Whitlock.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas believes this shouldn’t have been an issue. Doug Bonney, the legal director of the ACLU of Kansas, said there is no reason the officers needed to interact with Whitlock or his cameras. He also believes they may have trampled on his first amendment rights.
“They should go about their business and finish their arrest. Leave the person videoing them alone because if the police aren’t doing anything wrong they have nothing to worry about,” said Bonney.
KSNT News reached out to the Topeka Police Department multiple times over the last few months. Police administrators admit that the officers over-reacted, but they sent a lieutenant to the scene to address the issue. Still, they said the officers actions were justified. TPD said the officers were reacting to safety concerns, but for privacy reasons prohibit them from disclosing what those concerns were. They also said there are no current policies on surveillance cameras, but that may change.
“We have a policy in place regarding recording of law enforcement activity. The policy will be under review with the consideration regarding surveillance cameras,” said Topeka Police Lieutenant Colleen Stuart via email.
Whitlock said that’s not good enough. He believes the officers may have been reacting to the fact that he has guns in the home, but would like a direct answer from police. Now months later, he’s still left to wonder.
“We pay them to serve and protect and what they did here on my property I don’t feel was serving or protecting,” said Whitlock.