Man who began taping to curb prostitution criticizes officer

Friday, July 12th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(OKLAHOMA CITY) - For six years, Brian Bates has helped police find and prosecute prostitutes and their customers by making videotapes used as evidence against them.

Now he says police used more force than was necessary to subdue a suspect in an arrest he caught on tape.

Parts of Bates' video and footage of a police officer in Inglewood, Calif., slamming a teen-age boy onto the trunk of a patrol car and punching him have become part of the national debate on police use of force.

Civil rights advocates have demanded discipline for the Oklahoma City officers and department policy changes. But police officials, who are reviewing the case internally, have said the use of force appeared to be appropriate.

Police Chief M.T. Berry has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look at whether there were any civil rights abuses.

``It's unfortunate anytime the city or some of its agents seem to be doing something wrong that everybody jumps all over it,'' Bates said Thursday. ``But that shouldn't discourage people from voicing an opinion or putting something out there for the public to scrutinize.''

Bates is a volunteer for a prosecutors' task force to curb prostitution and calls himself ``Oklahoma City's Video Vigilante.''

Armed with a video camera and hours of tape, the 32-year-old cruises southern Oklahoma City looking for prostitutes and their clients. He tries to catch them having sex in public places, a misdemeanor offense.

Bates said he started videotaping because prostitution was out in the open in his downtown neighborhood.

``They were making no attempts to hide themselves, this wasn't a scene from 'Pretty Woman,' behind closed doors,'' Bates said. ``This was in our driveways, grocery store parking lots and parks.''

He said police told him they couldn't do anything unless an officer witnessed a crime. Then a city official suggested he use his video camera to document the prostitution.

He boasts that more than 200 people have been convicted because of his videotaping.

Some local police officers appreciate what he does, but others feel he invades their territory, he said.

``We know him,'' said Sgt. Charles Phillips, spokesman for Oklahoma City Police Department. ``We get a lot of calls from him and have worked with him before.''

Officers Greg Driskill and E.J. Dyer are under investigation for the actions Bates recorded Monday night.

The tape shows Driskill handcuffing one of Donald Reed Pete's wrists after Bates called to report Pete was engaging in a sex act with a prostitute.

When Pete, 50, appears to refuse an order from Driskill, the officer swings him around. After eventually getting down on the ground, Driskill rolls Pete over and Pete man says something to Driskill.

The officer yells at Pete to get down on the ground, then sprays pepper spray into Pete's face and puts his knee on Pete's neck. Pete tells the officer he is on the ground, but appears to refuse to put his other arm behind his back.

Driskill had approached Pete's vehicle alone and on foot, police said.

``At some point, Driskill ordered Pete out of the van, and he observed him to take what appeared to be marijuana and begin eating it,'' police Capt. Jessica Cummins said. ``He realized that Pete was destroying evidence and made an attempt to prevent him from eating all of it.''

The pilot of a police helicopter hovering above the scene reported that Driskill was ``losing it'' and requested backup, Cummins said.

Dyer arrived and helped Driskill subdue Pete, Cummins said. Dyer also used pepper spray and his baton.

The officers repeatedly struck Pete on the arms, legs and back, stopping after handcuffing the man.

Police later found a crack pipe in Pete's truck which tested positive for cocaine residue.

During the altercation with Pete, Driskill lost his baton and asked Bates to get it.

``I was there to document the lewd act charge,'' Bates said. ``It got out of hand and instead of giving a verbal account of what happened I decided to take a video.''