LAS VEGAS -- These days, just about everyone carries a camera. It's not just news crews that capture images for the world to see. Among the viral videos of flash mobs and giggly kids, there are thousands that feature police officers, and not always in the most attractive light.
It goes without saying that videos showing routine police contacts, thousands of them everyday, don't generally end up on you tube. Instead, it's the out-of-the-ordinary encounters that go viral.
And while most of those are shot by folks who just happen upon a scene, some frequent posters go looking for law enforcement.
Lily Gonzalez is one of those who look for police. In one encounter with officers, the video on ends abruptly because, Gonzalez says, she complies with the officer's orders to turn off her camera -- at least that one.
Yet while in handcuffs, Gonzalez turns her camera back on and what she records puts the police perspective into focus.
"You open carry while we're on a traffic stop and you have a weapon. We are not going to let you stand there while we conduct our business, ok. Plain and simple. That's officer safety. You think it's a joke?" said the officer.
Gonzalez claims the Clark County School District Police detained her for 56 minutes before releasing her without charges. She admits walked up on a traffic stop in her own neighborhood with her dog in one hand, her camera in the other, and her .45 pistol on her hip.
"Why should they be afraid of a law abiding citizen who openly carries a gun?" she said.
Gonzalez and her friend, David Stillwell, actively exercise their Second Amendment rights and routinely post their open-carry excursions online. The two, along with other like-minds, consider it a form of activism -- exercise your rights, they preach, or prepare to lose them.
"We will pull out a video, we will ask questions. The Founding Fathers said it's our duty to be a vigilant citizens and how we look after our country is to check on the checkers," said Stillwell.
Among their videos are challenges to gun rights, Nevada's helmet law, and DUI checkpoints -- this time it was Stillwell temporarily in handcuffs.
A YouTube search of keywords like "Las Vegas" and "police" captures thousands of images of local law enforcement, and not all of them flattering.
North Las Vegas Police Sergeant Tim Bedwell explains, like both the Henderson and Metro Police Departments, NLVPD advises officers to assume they are always on camera, no matter how unwittingly.
"We deal with it. We know it's out there," he said. "The worst part of it is the times when the officers are baited into things expressly by someone who wants to videotape the outcome. And you never see those outcomes that are positive for the police, you only see things that come out negative."
Case in point, says Bedwell, "Can you be lawfully armed and have your camera? Absolutely. But I think common sense would say there's no reason for you to make them think about you as another potential part of the problem."
Yet the producers insist instead of instigating, they work to educate. And even after 56 minutes, the evidence justifies the means.
"I'm glad I did it because it gave me a sense of power to know that these exercises will benefit someone down the road," said Gonzalez.
Several police agencies say they are familiar with Gonzalez and Stillwell and reaction to them was mixed. The two insist, however, they try to work with police and often do so successfully.
School police declined to comment for this story, as its investigation is still open.
Friday, July 25 2014 3:43 PM EDT2014-07-25 19:43:26 GMT
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