Skatepark Video Sparks Outrage

One officer's past comes to light

Skatepark Video Sparks Outrage
A YouTube video from the channel Montana Cop Watch shows two Hardin Police Department officers arresting a teen at the Hardin skatepark after one of the officers declares the park closed. / Youtube

A Youtube  video showing a City of Hardin police officer arresting a local youth at the Hardin skate park has sparked a debate online regarding the officer's conduct.

The cell phone video shows a group of teens talking when two Hardin Police Department officers approach telling them to leave. The youths counter the officer by stating that the park is not closed yet and continue skateboarding.

It has not been made clear why the officers were called to the scene of the skatepark. The HPD officers, one of which identified later as Officer Joel Graf, exchange comments with the youths over the situation.

When asked why they were being told to leave when the sun had not yet gone down, one officer states “I just closed it.” and attempts to make the youths leave. However, the young men continue, repeating that the park is not yet closed. One of the two officers then grabs one of the young skateboarders and begins to arrest him, while onlookers protest and ask what was done wrong.

A woman from off camera appears, approaching the officers and asking why one of them is being arrested. The officer and the woman begin talking while the youths walk away.

The video has now sparked a huge controversy, with the majority of the public commentary stating that the youth had done nothing wrong and that skating in a park that was made for them to keep youth off the street and that by arresting them in such a manner was unnecessary and excessive.

When one of the YoutTube commenters suggested the footage be sent to the NAACP, ACLU, and news media outlets, Hardin Ward 1 City Alderman Jeremy Krebs offered his viewpoint.

He stated in a comment that “before the video started” the youths were shouting profanities to the officers and there was a “paper trail” that proves a history of disrespectful behavior.

The YouTube channel, identified as Montana Cop Watch, asks Krebs to send in his video and a brief description, so as to provide a more balanced narrative.

Krebs continues to argue with other YouTube commenters about information that is seemingly only available to him, making statements such as “the bodycam footage paints the whole picture” when that footage has not been made available to the public.

In another, now deleted comment, former Hardin Police Officer Josie Passes, stated “all parks close at sunset. Go home and skate in your driveway.”

When the YouTube channel began to engage with Passes, asking if she thought the officer's behavior was appropriate the comment was deleted.

The video has also sparked another debate as one of the officers present in the video, identified as officer Joel Graf, also had some controversial history before coming into Hardin. According the Associted Press, Graf was arrested for impersonating a US Federal Marshal.

At the time of his arrest, Graf was in the company of a minor under the age of 21 and two hired escorts whom Graf had allegedly hired to “dance” in his hotel room.

According to a police affidavit filed in the Utah 4th District Court, when the two women were certain that Graf was not going to pay them money for their services, the women ducked into a bathroom and began to change so they could leave.

When they came out of the bathroom they found Graf sitting down with a .22 pistol and a badge on his lap. The women were eventually paid after a brief argument, however they in turn called the police.

When officers interviewed Graf and the teenage boy, the two gave contradicting stories, and Graf admitted that he was not, in fact, a police officer. Graf was arrested on suspicion of impersonating a law enforcement officer as well as alcohol and weapon charges.

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