When an American police officer thought he could play a Taylor Swift song to stop a Black Lives Matter protester filming their conversation and uploading it to YouTube, the plan went about as well as you’d expect.
The video was successfully uploaded to the video sharing platform on Thursday, and shows James Burch, from an organisation known as the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) outside the court where a hearing was being held over the killing of Steven Taylor.
Taylor, 33, was fatally shot by police in California after he wielded a baseball bat inside a Walmart in April last year.
According to The Guardian, the authorities said Taylor suffered a shot to the upper torso and police tried to deploy their Tasers at multiple points during the interaction.
The attorney representing Taylor’s family, however, claims that he was going through a mental health crisis at the time, having previously suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Jason Fletcher, a San Leandro police officer, appeared in court on Tuesday for his preliminary hearing, after he was charged with voluntary manslaughter over Taylor’s death.
It was this incident which Mr Burch was protesting about in the video, but was approached by Sgt David Shelby over a banner they had displayed at the scene.
“So you’re saying there’s a genuine concern we have that someone’s going to trip on the banner,” asked Mr Burch.
Sgt Shelby later responded: “Let’s go back to the beginning. It was on the walls, right? You removed it from the walls, now you put it here. What is the difference?”
As Mr Burch continued to challenge Sgt Shelby’s argument, the officer was seen reaching into his pocket and pulling out his phone, which then started playing Taylor Swift.
“Blank Space”, to be precise. A classic.
Upon hearing Taylor Swift’s beautiful harmonies, Mr Burch said: “I don’t know- I don’t know why we’re- Are we having a dance party now?”
“No sir,” was Sgt Shelby’s reply.
The person recording the video, identified only as Rebecca, also noticed the music, and can be heard asking: “Did you- Are you playing pop music to drown out the conversation?”
Mr Burch goes on to add: “He doesn’t want you recording so he’s playing music in the back.”
“You can record all you want. I just know it can’t be posted on YouTube,” Sgt Shelby claimed.
Yet it most definitely could - and was.
It’s likely the officer was referring to copyrighted music, and the platform’s stance around using songs from mainstream artists in video content. If a video uses copyrighted material, it may receive an automatic ‘Content ID claim’ from YouTube and be blocked from the platform – as per YouTube’s copyright policies.
More recently, however, YouTube pledged to take action against manual copyright claims which focus on unintentional music which features in a video.
“Going forward, our policies will forbid copyright owners from using our Manual Claiming tool to monetize creator videos with very short or unintentional uses of music. This change only impacts claims made with the Manual Claiming tool, where the rightsholder is actively reviewing the video.
“Claims created by the Content ID match system, which are the vast majority, are not impacted by this policy,” reads a blog post from YouTube published in August 2019.
With the video now staying up on the platform, it has now gained more than 390,000 views – and people have been, ahem, ‘Swift’ to ridicule the officer’s actions.
“This would have been unwatchable without the fun soundtrack,” wrote one commenter.
Another added: “’You can’t play this on YouTube.’ Narrator: clears throat.”
“’I’m playing my music so that you can’t post on YouTube.’ (Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song plays),” typed a third, referencing a popular meme.
To make matters worse for the sergeant, KTVU reports that he will now be investigated by senior officials over the incident, with the issue sent to Internal Affairs.
A spokesperson for the police department, Sgt Ray Kelly, said his actions were “not something we condone or approve. We have a code of conduct all officers must follow.
“We have a code of conduct that governs how we should act in public. This video brings that behaviour into question. This is not acceptable.
“We’ve never seen this before. It’s not a good look for us,” he said.