Beverly Hills, CA – An activist who showed up at the Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) seeking public records on multiple cases has alleged that the sergeant who was assisting him began playing music on his cell phone in an effort to trample on his free speech rights.
Sennett Devermont, who pushes his 300,000-plus Instagram followers to always record police interactions, stopped by the Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) to pick up some Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) forms in an effort to get his hands on multiple bodycam videos, one of his videos showed.
Devermont said he wanted to know if he needed to fill out a new form for “each event” if they all involved the same officer, but the first two officers he asked didn’t know.
A third officer, identified by Devermont as BHPD Sergeant Billy Fair, then approached the window and tried to gather information to answer his questions about the FOIA, the video showed.
Devermont immediately asked Sgt. Fair where his “patches” were and wanted to know why he wasn’t wearing them in the usual spot on his uniform, the video showed.
“Why do you always have a gun?” he asked the sergeant a moment later.
Devermont and the sergeant appeared to be familiar with one another, and Sgt. Fair noted that they had interacted dozens of times in the past.
In fact, the sergeant passed along a note with a fellow officer’s name and office number on it to Devermont during their conversation, noting that he knew Devermont was conducting some “follow-up on some complaints” pertaining to another matter, the video showed.
Devermont immediately pointed his cell phone camera at the note and shared the name and number listed on it with his hundreds of thousands of followers.
“Are going to post that on your live?” Sgt. Fair asked him.
“Everything’s live – we’re public, champ!” he responded.
Sgt. Fair asked him to think about the “wasted resources” that could result if “history repeats itself” and all of Devermont’s followers decided to call that number.
“The wasted resources behind this window is what I can’t imagine,” Devermont retorted, tapping on the glass between him and the sergeant.
Sgt. Fair pointed out that having the officer’s phone line bogged down with calls would actually slow down the officer’s ability to look into Devermont’s own complaints.
“We’ll find out!” he responded.
He then alleged that “most of” the BHPD officers “get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars” for the work they do.
“I get paid nothing to just have to do this stuff,” Devermont lamented.
Sgt. Fair then pulled out his own cell phone and briefly scolded Devermont or someone near him for trying to look at his password.
While the sergeant was looking at his phone, Devermont honed in on his Thin Blue Line flag face mask and began complaining that he wasn’t “supposed to be wearing the Blue Lives Matter mask” anymore, the video showed.
A moment later, Sgt. Fair began playing Sublime’s “Santeria” on his own cell phone.
Devermont immediately declared the sergeant was “trying to take the licensing down” by playing the song.
“This is a form of, uh, stopping free speech,” he told his followers. “He’s playing copyrighted music, hoping that my live gets taken down.”
Devermont then began complaining that he had asked Sgt. Fair a question and that he wasn’t doing his job.
Sgt. Fair asked Devermont why they can never “just have a normal conversation.”
“I’ve notice that when your phones aren’t up doing this,” he said, holding his phone up between them, “you’re a completely different person.”
Devermont claimed it is “scary” talking to “people like you,” the video showed.
“You’re never scared talking to me,” Sgt. Fair countered, noting that they’ve met at least 50 times in the past.
“I’m always scared talking to you,” Devermont responded flatly. “From the first time I met you, it was very terrifying.”
The sergeant ultimately told Devermont he would be right back with an answer to his question.
A second video showed Sgt. Fair – sans Sublime – returning to the window with approximately 21 FOIA forms in hand.
He explained that Devermont would need to complete a separate form for each incident since they occurred in different locations and at different times.
He handed the 21 copies of the form over to Devermont free of charge, waving the 22-cents-apiece copy fee.
“I made them just for you,” Sgt. Fair said.
“I appreciate it,” Devermont replied. “You’re very sweet. What a pleasure.”
Devermont later complained to KCBS that Sgt. Fair tried to activate Instagram’s copyright filters when he started playing the song during their interaction at the station.
The social media platform’s algorithms try to automatically detect copyrighted music to shut it down in an attempt to curb piracy, KCBS reported.
Having too many violations could result in an account being shut down altogether.
Devermont alleged it is a tactic officers use to stop people from recording their encounters with police.
“This is a form of assaulting free speech,” he declared. “It’s an absolute violation of my First Amendment right.”
The BHPD said it does not condone officers playing music on their phones while they are interacting with the public, and said they are looking into the situation, KCBS reported.
“I’m thankful for any time a department’s willing to look into their officers,” Devermont told the news outlet. “I’m always skeptical.”