By Bryant Reed | June 19, 2020 at 7:58 PM EDT – Updated June 20 at 3:47 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – During the weeks of protests in downtown Wilmington, we’ve seen videos surface of questionable tactics being used by law enforcement officers.
They’ve been accused of taking a knee to lure protesters in, turning off body cams while engaging the public and pepper spraying protesters who seem to be peaceful. But, today, officials from Wilmington Police Department set the record straight, from their perspective.
One video shows police, from a distance, taking a knee. Protesters believed it was to show solidarity, but actually the officers took a knee to put on gas masks and rest, which is part of standard police procedure.
WPD officials say there was clearly confusion, during a chaotic night of protests.
Officers thought protesters were making advances towards them which is why tear gas was sent flying over the crowd.
“That was a huge miscommunication,” said Linda Thompson, WPD spokesperson. “It’s a failure for leaders to communicate.”
WPD personnel say there were no bad intentions, but looking back, they wish things could have gone differently.
A second video was sent to WECT: You can hear an officer telling his unit to “Terminate body cameras”, even though there are protesters around.
Per WPD policy, officers must have their body-cams on whenever they are engaging the public, but in this instance, WPD says the officers were walking away from protesters and leaving for the night. That is why they were told to turn off their cameras.
“Whenever our officers are on the clock and in the field, their cameras are on standby mode until they engage,” said Thompson. “When they do engage with a citizen, they are quickly put on and it actually rewinds about 30 seconds prior to pick up any video 30 seconds prior to them actually engaging.”
Thompson says officers are supposed to turn their cameras on whenever they interact with the public on any call. But in formation, walking away from the crowd, is not one of those times. And, turning them off is not illegal.
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