***** Officer threatens to harm Hyannis News photographer… [Video] *****
[Top photo] Officer Gretchen Allen
Hyannis – This is by far the most difficult article I’ve ever had to write.
One of the major criticisms of HyannisNews.com is its policy to always depict the efforts of police in a positive light. Some see that as unbalanced reporting. I see it as an opportunity to highlight the many good and hard working police officers in the Town of Barnstable. I’m proud of my reporting and I challenge anyone to find one negative article on police work from all the years I’ve been posting stories on HyannisNews.com.
I’ll save you the time and trouble, negative police stories do not exist. I have written nearly 1000 short and longer pieces since 2007. My policy has been that when it comes to police officers ethically performing their duties, I’m always on their side. Always.
Having personal experience working as a Barnstable Cop, I know how hard it is for officers in the field. Police work is often a thankless job, where the reputations of good officers often suffer because of the corrupt and criminal actions of a very small minority of bad apples.
Today, I was assaulted by a bad apple.
The incident unfolded as follows:
My job is to take photos and tell a story. Last night at approximately 6pm I was following a lead where a patrol officer was investigating a suspicious black bag behind a building next to the Village Green on Main Street.
The patrol officer was inspecting a bag in plain view and I was naturally curious as to what was going on. When the severity of an investigation is unknown, it is the policy of Hyannis News to take several still photos of the action just in case it turns out to be something interesting.
I took my first photo and looked up. The officer was angry about something, but having an earplug for the scanner in one ear… I was unable to discern precisely what she was trying to say. I only sensed she was very angry.
I walked closer so I could hear, she told me she didn’t want her picture taken or placed on the internet in one of my stories. Her tone struck me as aggressive. She wasn’t requesting I withhold a photo as a courtesy for some good reason. She was basically ordering me not to take pictures of her whatsoever.
I explained that although I was completely within my rights to take photos of her performing her duty out in the open, I have often withheld photos as a courtesy for different valid reasons. For example, when an officer is undercover I will crop him out or at least blur his features. One time I took a photo of female cop who had been struggling with an illness, once I learned she didn’t like the image in my story, I found a better photo of her from a different angle… I actually was not obligated to change a thing, I did it as a courtesy. Her treating me like a human being also helped…
The officer tonight wasn’t asking for a courtesy, she was rudely telling me basically to never photograph her ever. I tried to ask her why and that only seemed to make her more angry, to the point where she became verbally abusive and insulting.
I felt as though she was possibly trying to brush me off a lead (which has happened in the past)… basically intimidating me from getting at the truth. I decided to take another photo. She descended into a bizarre tirade of insults. She basically told me everyone hated me (meaning her coworkers)because I took photos. That I was an “asshole” and that nobody liked me… In fact, she was so angry I was unable to understand her point, other than she was basically trying to discourage me from doing my job, while at the same time attempting to hurt my feelings. It almost worked.
Later in the evening I looked back at her hateful words and considered the source. She seems to be a very angry and sick individual. Sure some people may hate my guts. But I know for a fact some Barnstable Police Officers are my friends. Several officers actually enjoy my work.
I’m not an asshole and I happen to like who I am. I’m a good person. I’m friendly and considerate. And I do not like to be pushed around by bullies.
As for the cops who unfortunately hate my guts, that’s their business, it’s none of mine… and I could give a rat’s ass.
At this point I raised my camera and took another photo. The officer stopped, abruptly turned and said the following, “I swear… take one more photo and I’ll take that camera and smash it in your face.”
My heart jumped; I could not believe what I was hearing; I was being assaulted in broad daylight for simply doing my job. I was fearful, anxious, and angry all at the same time. This was a threat to cause me bodily harm. It was also an attempt to intimidate me from exercising my rights.
If this “officer” was capable of making criminal violent threats, she was capable of anything.
At this point I no longer looked on her as an “officer of the law” in the true sense of the term, but rather as a belligerent thug with way too much power. How dare she, or anyone, threaten to harm me. She had no right! She had absolutely no right whatsoever!
Both frightened and upset, I turned on my video camera and began to document for my own safety. In this case the “cop” happened to be a thug with the full force of the law on her side. I wanted to know why she felt she could threaten to bash my camera in my face!
The following video is just part of what occurred right after being threatened:
EDITOR’S NOTE… AGAIN, THIS VIDEO OCCURS RIGHT AFTER THE OFFICER THREATENED TO BASH MY CAMERA INTO MY FACE. I WAS FRIGHTENED, UPSET, AND EXTREMELY NERVIOUS AFTER JUST HAVING BEEN ATTACKED… THE OFFICER SAW I WAS NOT GOING TO TOLERATE HER BULLYING ME BY SAYING THAT SHE WAS GOING TO TAKE MY CAMERA AND SMASH IT IN MY FACE… I WAS IN SHOCK AND MY SPEECH IS JITTERY AND UNPREPARED… IT IS WHAT IT IS… RAW VIDEO AND EMOTION AFTER JUST HAVING BEEN ASSAULTED.
Regardless of whether or not I'm “an asshole that nobody likes,” nobody, not even a person wearing a Town of Barnstable police badge, has the right to threaten or intimidate me from doing my job and exercising my constitutional rights.
After recording, the officer worked the crowd of bystanders by holding me up to ridicule. She made many false comments and accusations intended to embarrass me in front of the public and back up officers.
It's also important to note here, that I have a heart condition that causes palpitations and rapid heart beats. I was very upset and somewhat scared, my heart was racing and I was very uncomfortable because I was being illegally detained against my will. I was not at liberty and my rights were being disregarded. In fact I asked if I was free to go. She said no. I asked if I was being detained. She stated yes. It was clear I was not at liberty...
Rarely am I that upset, but when I am I need medical care to regulate my heart. Fearing a possible unwarranted trip to either jail or the hospital, I called my father to come down to the crime scene. My dog was locked up in my nearby truck and I was worried about her should something happen to me. After calling, the very unprofessional officer began to ridicule me for calling my father... the whole situation was the most bizarre attack I've ever endured. I was dealing with someone who had already stated she wanted to strike me, she professed a profound hatred towards me, and she seemed hellbent on twisting the law to give her the upper-hand in squelching rights.
She wanted to lock me up... but there was only one problem, she did not have probable cause.
Lieutenant Micheal Clark arrived and removed the arresting/detaining officer from the scene. He took her around the corner of the building where they had a lengthy conversation.
My father arrived to check on me and told the two backup officers that in almost 50 years I had never ever been in trouble with the law... not once. My father was as confused and worried as I was about the way things were going.
Bottom line: The officer returned to the scene and with a tear in her eyes asked me if I was “happy.” I took that to mean she didn't get the news she wanted. She was hoping she could charge me with felony wiretapping or something else. It was absurd. Of course she couldn't. I'm a known photographer filming a uniformed officer in public – one that had just committed an assault.... on me!
Regarding her question as to whether I was happy: No. I definitely was not happy. I was in pain on many different levels.
While speaking with Lieutenant Clark, he asked if I wanted rescue. I considered it. But from my experience of presenting in the emergency room with severe tachycardia, it usually meant an overnight stay at the very least. My daughter was dropping over later to say her goodbys on her way back to her final year at Cornell University, where she is studying to be a surgeon and has a position doing paid research and surgeries on the brain. I'm very proud of her and I wasn't going to let tonight prevent me from saying goodby.
If you're reading this, it's because I managed to survive. (I'm not kidding, it took several long hours for the discomfort in my chest to go away.) I'm still very upset about the whole ordeal. Things definitely could have been much worse and I'm very thankful a level headed Lieutenant was able to come by.
While talking to Lieutenant Clark I learned the name of the hateful cop. Gretchen Allen was wrong and she definitely caused damages.
I never dreamed I would be writing something like this against a member of the police force. But when I gave it some thought, I realized that I was not actually dealing with one of Barnstable's finest. Not even close.
To summarize the encounter:
1. I was threatened...
2. I was assaulted...
4. held up to ridicule in front of the public...
5. ordered to sit on the ground
6. and falsely detained by an angry ignorant person with too much power...
7. Deprived of my liberty and constitutional rights...
All I set out to do tonight was to take photos as I always do, return home, and kiss my little girl goodby for the winter. I did not plan on being the victim of an assault.
From what I've observed, Officer Allen is not fit for the role of police officer in the Town of Barnstable.
Tonight was nothing more than an attempt to intimidate and discourage HyannisNews.com from growing and reporting the truth.
Hyannis News will provide updates to this unfortunate series of events after I have rested.
Robert Bastille, HyannisNews.com
P.S. Sorry, there will be no music video on this piece... this was not a happy day, nor was it some sort of victory... it was a lose-lose situation and it breaks my heart.