Watch Sheriff’s Sergeant Play Taylor Swift to Avoid Ending Up on YouTube

The copyright ploy didn’t work.
July 1, 2021, 8:15pm
​Screenshot from Anti Police-Terror Project video shot in Alameda County, California.  Courtesy of APTP
Screenshot from Anti Police-Terror Project video shot in Alameda County, California.  Courtesy of APTP

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A California sergeant recently blasted Taylor Swift’s smash hit “Blank Space” in a blatant attempt to keep a recording of him from being uploaded to YouTube, according to footage of the encounter. 

It got uploaded anyway—and the Alameda County Sheriff’s office is now investigating the incident. 

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“You can record all you want,” the sheriff’s office sergeant can be heard telling activists in the video, which was posted to YouTube by the Anti Police-Terror Project Thursday. “I just know it can’t be posted on YouTube.”

The group’s policy director, James Burch, could be seen in the footage exchanging words with the sergeant outside of a courthouse in Oakland, California, where demonstrators had showed Tuesday up to support the family of Steven Taylor—the man killed by a San Leandro cop in a Walmart last year, according to The Verge. 

The sergeant had approached the group to ask them to move a banner, according to the Verge. Upon realizing that the interaction was being filmed, though, he reached into his pocket, pulled out his phone, and began playing Taylor Swift.

“This guy just turned on pop music,” Burch said. 

Burch told VICE News that the sergeant’s response felt disproportionate to what advocates were actually trying to do: listen to a public hearing on courthouse steps about Jason Fletcher, the ex-officer who killed Taylor while he was having a mental health crisis. A judge determined Wednesday that Fletcher would stand trial on manslaughter charges, though he expressed doubt that he’d be convicted, according to the Mercury News.

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“We try to provide safe spaces for families to continue their campaign for justice,” Burch said. “On Tuesday, that meant listening to the testimony together.” 

And, to be sure, bystanders are allowed to film these interactions. But some officers have nonetheless appeared to rely on copyright policies and protections to stop the videos from spreading on social media. A Beverly Hills cop, for example, opted for Sublime’s “Santeria” when he apparently wanted to deter an activist from recording their conversation and posting it to Instagram, as VICE News previously reported.

Playing music in the background of a YouTube video, while not always a violation of YouTube’s policies, can lead to a video’s removal, The Verge reported.

When asked about the video, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, Sgt. Ray Kelly, said that both the video and complaints have been sent to an internal affairs unit for investigation. 

While the office has “no policy that governs whether you can play Taylor Swift or music in an attempt to censor YouTube content from a public encounter,” Kelly said, personnel will be made aware that it’s not acceptable moving forward. 

“We don’t condone this,” Kelly said. “We’ve seen the video, and this is not how we act.” 

Kelly declined to name the sergeant at this time. 

But, as Swift herself once crooned, “I think I’ve seen this film before, and I didn’t like the ending.”