WILMINGTON — The Wilmington Police Department has closed its internal investigation into a February traffic stop, filmed by an Uber driver, in which Sgt. Kenneth Becker claimed it was illegal to film law enforcement.
The department’s investigation into Becker ended this week after several weeks of investigation, according to Wilmington Police Department Spokeswoman Linda Thompson. Becker, who at the time was a patrol officer, is currently assigned to the Planning and Research Division.
Jesse Bright, a Wilmington attorney, was pulled over late Sunday afternoon, Feb. 26, by the Wilmington Police Department and at least one deputy from the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. Bright, who is also an Uber driver, was taking a fare to an address near 10th and Martin streets.
Bright was informed by police that his fare was being arrested and he began filming the officers. As he was filming, Becker, and an unidentified sheriff’s deputy at the scene of the traffic stop, each said it was against a new law to video record law enforcement.
Thompson said the police department launched it’s investigation “almost immediately” after the video was brought to their attention. Authorities also reached out to Bright, according to Thompson.
Following the launch of the internal investigation, both Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous and New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon said it is legal for citizens to film law enforcement.
Evangelous said on Thursday that while “state law prohibits the release of personnel investigation information, the complaint has been addressed appropriately and action has been taken.”
“This was a matter of maintaining the public’s trust and confidence in our agency. As police officers we are given a tremendous amount of authority to carry out our jobs. It is undeniable that there is a tremendous expectation from the public for officers to live to a higher standard,” Evangelous said.
Becker has been employed with the police department for 20 years. He was hired in August 1997. According to the police department’s website, the Planning and Research Division consists of six diverse mixes of personnel performing the following functions: administrative support, accreditation, policy, safety, research and development grants, surveys, analytical reports, research, strategic planning, and other miscellaneous requests.
A records request made on Thursday revealed that, as of Wednesday, March 29, Becker’s current rank was that of Corporal, which is one rank below sergeant.
“I cannot stress enough, that photographing and videotaping the police keeps us accountable. We believe that public videos help to protect the police as well as our citizens and provide critical information during police and citizen interaction,” Evangelous said.