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Baltimore County Officer Loses Arrest Powers After Threatening Student: Police

Baltimore County police chief said the auxiliary officer's remarks were 'unhelpful' and 'inappropriate.'

Video on Vimeo recorded in February 2014 by UMBC student.
Video on Vimeo recorded in February 2014 by UMBC student.

The Baltimore County auxiliary police officer who told a man filming an arrest in Towson over the winter that he had lost his freedom of speech and had better "shut your [expletive] mouth or you're going to jail" has been taken off patrol, the Baltimore County Police Department reported Friday.

Police Chief Jim Johnson said he made the decision after a months-long investigation by the department's internal affairs unit, according to a statement from police.

Matthew S. Betz, 44, who has volunteered for the department for 22 years, no longer has arrest powers and will not be allowed to go on patrol as a result, the statement said.

The investigation stemmed from a Feb. 23 confrontation between Betz, who is a volunteer auxiliary officer, and a college student who was filming as two individuals were being placed under arrest at approximately 1:45 a.m. in the 400 block of York Road, according to police.

Officers ordered the student who was filming to leave the scene because they said he was detracting attention from the incident at hand.

"Do not disrespect us and do not not listen to us. Now walk away and shut your [expletive] mouth or you're going to jail," Betz said in the video.

"I thought I had freedom of speech here," the videographer said.

"You don't," the officer responded. "You've just lost it."

The videographer, identified by The Baltimore Sun as 21-year-old Sergio Gutierrez, 21, a business technology administration major at UMBC, said the experience demonstrated the importance of filming police in public.

"It protects the police, it protects civilians all around—because when police see that they’re being recorded, they’ll perform their duties with ... more discretion," Guttierrez told the paper.

In fact, the internal investigation unit found the auxiliary officer behaved inappropriately, the report from police said.

"The language he used was incorrect, unnecessary and not helpful in bringing the incident to closure," Johnson said.

Going forward, Betz may continue to perform administrative duties for the department, which he has been limited to doing since the incident, but will no longer be permitted to go on patrol or have arrest powers, according to police.

As a result of the incident, the chief said he is requiring all existing auxiliary officers to go through retraining on top of an annual training already in place, according to a statement from police.

Members of the auxiliary program—which includes 88 trained volunteers—have limited arrest powers, do not carry firearms and are required to complete 115 hours of training before assisting officers, police said.

"These volunteers make a huge commitment to this department and to this county; they contribute thousands of dollars' worth of manpower each year, an asset we value and want to preserve," Johnson said. "At the same time, this recent incident highlighted the need to make sure volunteer auxiliary members are thoroughly trained and properly assigned, both for their own safety and for the good of our citizens."

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Mariner June 22, 2014 at 12:07 PM
I can list countless youtube videos where a police officer who was irate at a citizen because he was being filmed assaulted citizens, arrested citizens and even filed false police reports. Again it is not illegal for a citizen to photograph or record the police as they are performing their duties on the street. You can't seem to understand the difference between filming the police and a mob attacking a police officer. Police officers are not above the law. Again the individual recording the police officer was well within his constitutional rights to do so. He was not involved in the incident, he was simply a bystander. He was well away from the officers and of no physical threat. I was a witness several years ago to a county officer cursing at and spitting on an 82 year old woman, who did nothing more than give her account of an incident to him when he asked her. He called her a liar then spit on her. Of course he denied it. Too bad cellphone video wasn't available then. The police have nothing to fear of citizens recording them if they are carrying out their duties professionally and by procedure. Betz was doing neither. You seem to excuse his foul mouth and his actions simply because he is a police officer. No public servant, not a police officer, a county executive, a governor nor even the president of the united states should speak to a citizen in such a manner. Any police officer who tells a citizen he has taken away their 1st amendment rights or that they have lost their 1st amendment rights or any other constitutional right should not be employed to "protect and to serve" Betz was arrogant and on a power trip. The BCPD would do well to completely disassociate themselves from auxiliary officers and paid officers involved in incidents such as this. Perhaps you wish to reside in a totalitarian state where the government holds absolute authority and control over you. I do not.
Born to be Free June 22, 2014 at 02:58 PM
Gene Bertoni Sr - I don't care what the police officer thinks. He can do his business and the public has a right to watch. I don't care about his status I'm a tax-payer and he can kiss my you-know-what.
Michele June 23, 2014 at 11:59 AM
Good...he obviously doesn't know how to handle people!
Gene Bertoni Sr June 23, 2014 at 01:50 PM
Last comment... Obviously & unfortunately sometimes Officers must speak firm and profane so that folks on the street that don't quite understand a request to move alone will understand in language they truly understand. On this occasion it was videoed and opportunity for police & authority haters rise to hate. The haters hide behind the constitution to hate. I do believe there is a time and place for check valves and watch dogs but in this case the young drunk college student should have moved at officers request and videoed from a safe distance vantage point.. It is election time so the government side of this put votes in front of Officers safety. I hope that all the haters are kind and sympathetic to their co-worker or subordinates that make their work life miserable or causes their job to be more difficult. I'm sure you are for the hate I see to Police and authority figures. For the haters: You will hate when authority does their job and then if they don't do enough, so haters are haters. Sometimes authority must do the dirty work that most wish not to do so don't hate, appreciate... Haters when something goes down in your life that a police officer must referee, deter, make life safe or must enforce then continue to hate but don't ask officers you hate to help. Don't put them at risk to later be hated.... Officer & all Authority figures please be safe and continue to protect & serve... Thank You for attempting to keep our communities safe and enforcing the laws that law makers put on the books. I understand officers don't make the laws that officers only enforce them. Slitting a dogs throat or taking a subject in an alley and beating them up... Now that needs to be videoed and brought to light but attempts to verbally have a crowd of college young adults exiting bars at closing time and them deifying verbal commands then Officers use tone and language that is firm & profane or saying u don't have constitutional rights to video while an officer is attempting to make a scene safe... Move down the street to video would have worked for this young college student. It's not so much what this young guy did it's the vicinity & the disrespectful verbal street lawyer attitude that caused this incident to escalate.... I can guarantee that the high ranking police officials that when they worked the street would have done the same verbal request to move folks... The videoing is just a new thing but hindering is hindering and one does not have the right to dismiss a officer command to move along videoing or not.... It's sad that the citizens do not support police and could see that the college students exiting the bar tend to be out of control week after week... Haters go to the area and see for your self how bar closing goes in Towson area. Then thank God you don't live in the area....

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