After a video depicting a confrontation between a Boston police sergeant and videographer went viral, the sergeant in the video has issued an apology.
The video shows Boston police sergeant Henry Joseph Staines ordering the videographer, who wants to be known by the pseudonym Brother Lawrence, not to record him. Later in the video, Staines confronts Lawrence with a realistic-looking toy firearm and shoves it in front of his camera.
Lawrence explained in an interview with The Boston Globe that he felt threatened by Staines:
“His intention was to put that in my face and produce fear. That was his intention,” said the man, who asked to be identified by the name Brother Lawrence, because he said he feared retaliation for speaking out. “I thought my life was in jeopardy there.” ...
Lawrence said Staines’s behavior made him increasingly anxious that he would be arrested or injured. He said he knew it was his constitutional right to film police, but ultimately shut his video off because he felt the police were “feeling antagonized” and he was by himself.
“I was scared,” he said. “But at the same time, I knew I had those rights, so I felt I was being protected through those rights.”
Lawrence said he thought the gun was real, and advocates said that because it looked real, it did not matter that it was fake.
Staines has now apologized and the police department has said they have reminded their officers that members of the public have the right to video-record them. According to a press release the department issued yesterday:
Five days after the taping of a video that showed a Boston Police Sergeant flashing a replica firearm in the face of a videographer and questioning his right to take the video, today, Sergeant Henry Staines met with the videographer and issued an apology. Staines and the man who took the video, herein referred to as Brother Lawrence, met during a face-to-face sit down meeting coordinated by civil rights leaders Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, and NAACP Boston President Michael Curry, at NAACP Boston headquarters in Roxbury.
During the meeting, Staines stood up, looked Brother Lawrence in the eye, and offered a full, sincere and genuine apology and took full responsibility for his actions. Said Staines: “I’m humiliated and embarrassed. I’m my own toughest critic and five days ago, I let my city down, my department down, I let myself down, but more than anything else, I let Brother Lawrence down and for that I’m truly sorry and I take full responsibility.” Said Boston Police Chief William Gross: “For all involved, this was a teachable moment. Henry realizes he made a mistake and took full responsibility for his actions. His apology was heartfelt and sincere and Brother Lawrence – upon hearing the apology - graciously accepted it." Said Brother Lawrence: “The sergeant’s apology was sincere. Everyone deserves a chance if they do something wrong. I have made mistakes in my life. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t allow someone to have a chance.”
Moving forward, the Boston Police Department will continue to nourish and strengthen the strong relationship that exists between our officers and the community members we protect and serve. Additionally, officers will be reminded to respect that fact that community members have a right to take video of their interactions with the members of our department provided it’s done in a responsible and respectful way.
It's unclear if Staines will face any disciplinary action.