Boise sergeant who confronted videographer disciplined

Internal investigation concludes Sgt. Lori Sperry didn’t live up to BPD’s professional standards.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comDecember 24, 2013 

Video captured by Washington resident Gavin Seim that has led to an internal investigation at the Boise Police Department.

GAVIN SEIM

Sgt. Lori Sperry confronted Washington state filmmaker Gavin Seim, who videotaped a traffic stop Oct. 8. He said he was 60 to 70 feet behind the vehicle Sperry had stopped and was far enough away that he posed no threat to the officer.

Seim refused to move when Sperry asked him to move to the side, in front of a Stinker station convenience store. He later filed a complaint claiming that Sperry acted unprofessionally and infringed on his legal rights by demanding that he provide identification and threatening him with illegal detainment.

In a press release issued Tuesday, the Boise Police Department did not address Seim's complaints but acknowledged Sperry did not follow procedure.

“We are confident that other officers understand our department policy and training regarding the public lawfully videotaping police officers,” Chief Mike Masterson said in the release. “With today’s technology, videotaping in public is commonplace. While officer and citizen safety is always a significant concern, this incident is a reminder to all of us about the expectations this department has for handling similar situations in the future.”

Seim said Tuesday he had not been contacted by Boise police and did not know whether they had addressed his claims. He said he was surprised the department issued a statement, but said it was good they looked at the situation and responded.

"I'm guessing they'll be more careful in the future," he said. "This was all about liberty and accountability. I'm glad I did it. Liberty stood up a little bit."

The department did not say how Sperry was disciplined, since it dealt with a personnel matter.

"The matter has been addressed consistent with internal disciplinary procedures," police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower wrote in a press release.

Seim, from Ephrata, Wash., posted the nearly 17-minute video of the encounter online. It had been viewed nearly 65,000 times by Tuesday afternoon.

Sperry, who has been with the department 23 years, stopped a motorist for a traffic violation near Cabela's off Franklin Road. Seim, traveling with his family to Salt Lake City, stopped at a nearby Stinker station.

When Sperry noticed him taping from behind the car, she approached Seim and asked him to move to another location to his left, closer to the front of the Stinker store.

Seim refused to move and also refused to provide identification. He claimed Sperry assaulted him when she grabbed his arm after ordering him to remove his hand from his pocket.

BPD released a statement about the video on Oct. 10. Masterson said then that following the department’s standards is essential to maintaining public confidence and trust.

Officers must maintain control of a scene, Hightower said, for safety and to preserve evidence.

"Boise police have received direction that, unless the person watching or recording is interfering with safe control of the scene, compromising that evidence, or physically preventing any police officers or other emergency service personnel such as EMS from carrying out their duties, there is no valid justification to restrain the person from photographing or shooting photos or video footage from outside of the crime scene," she said Tuesday.

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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