Tulsa Police Sergeant Rohloff: An Example of What Officers Should Not Do

I am just amazed at the level of abuse tendered by this Tulsa Police sergeant on a citizen who is filming a police station.

First, the sergeant, Robert Rohloff, has no apparent people skills, he is rude and clearly does not like the fact that Kyle Hogan is filming the Mingo Valley sub-station. Second, while I understand the concern for safety of officers, the idea of charging a photographer with Stalking* is ludicrous and would be almost impossible to prove. Third, there appears to be a clear constitutional right to film public officials in public places.† Finally, he threatens to arrest Hogan for Obstruction if Hogan does not identify himself to the officers.

Oklahoma does not have an Official Oppression‡ statute like Texas does, nor does it apparently have a statute that provides a viable method to protect citizens against civil right violations by the police. So officers like Rohloff can only be held accountable if their police chief decides to hold them accountable.

I spoke with the media relations officer of the police department, and was advised that Chief Chuck Jordan had been made aware of the video yesterday and had ordered a review of the incident. That’s exactly what needs to be done, and we have to allow Jordan sufficient time to look into the situation. The specifics need to address whether it is appropriate for Rohloff to question Hogan’s mental stability, if it is acceptable for him to threaten Hogan with arrest for engaging in a constitutionally protected activity, and whether it is appropriate for Rohloff to make up preposterous scenarios to paint Hogan as a potential sniper with absolutely no evidence to support it.

Look, I get the need to protect officers—several of the police stations in Dallas have been shot at and they now have an officer assigned to station security at each station. I don’t have a problem with officers contacting the photographer and engaging in a voluntary conversation. It’s OK to ask for identification, but not to demand it unless the officer has reasonable suspicion.

It’s not OK to act like a thug.

I look forward to seeing what Chief Jordan is going to do here.

*Stalking in Oklahoma is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1000 fine. Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1173.

†As far as I can tell, there is no case on point in the Eighth Circuit. However, every circuit that has considered the issue, has found that there is a right to photograph public officials in a public place.

Texas Pen. Code § 39.03.