Lawmaker Who Pushed Bill to Protect People Filming Police Arrested for Filming Police
by Naomi LaChance (from The Intercept)
Sep. 30 2016, 7:45 a.m.
An Arkansas State representative who helped pass a state law protecting people who film police was arrested Monday while filming Little Rock police as they put a black man in handcuffs after a traffic stop.
The charges against Rep. John Walker have been dropped, but his colleague, fellow civil rights lawyer Omavi Shukur, faces charges for obstruction of government relations.
Officer Jeff Thompson wrote in his police report: “I ordered Walker several times to leave or be arrested. Walker replied ‘arrest me’ at which point I did.”
Police on Wednesday released dashcam video of the incident. “I’m just making sure they don’t kill you,” Walker told the man who had been pulled over, according to the police report.
Citizens who film police often face arrest or retaliation. For example:
Ruben An sued the NYPD in July for arresting him in while he filmed police officers in 2014.
Ramsey Orta, who filmed Eric Garner’s arrest in 2014, said he was later arrested in “retaliation.” He is suing the city of New York.
Lynwood Keith Golden was arrested after filming police in Wetumpka, Alabama in June. He has filed a lawsuit.
Maurice Crawley was arrested in Syracuse, N.Y., in July while filming an arrest, sparking protests.
Kenneth Holmes was arrested in May while filming an arrest in Austin, Texas.
A lawsuit alleges that police illegally detained Abdullah Muflahi, the man who filmed police officer Blane Salamoni shoot Alton Sterling. They seized his convenience store surveillance video and cell phone in Baton Rouge.
Arrests for filming are actually becoming less common, said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the ACLU. “The long time that it took police officers to recognize this right was in many ways an indictment of police management. It also shows that photography is a form of power,” he told the Intercept.
In February, though, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that two people who were arrested while filming police were not protected by the First Amendment. The ACLU has appealed the ruling.
“There is a Constitutional right to film the police that’s extremely well settled,” Stanley said. “Police have such tremendous power in our society… to use brutal and in some cases deadly force,” he added. “it’s important for police to engage in oversight.”
Federal Court Rules You Can Be Arrested Simply for Filming the Police
February 27, 2016 9:23 am by Counter Current News Editorial Team
Philadelphia, PA — A federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has ruled that filming the police without a specific challenge or criticism is not constitutionally protected.
The cases of Fields v. City of Philadelphia, and Geraci v. City of Philadelphia involve two different incidents where individuals were arrested for filming the police. Richard Fields, a Temple University student, was arrested after stopping to take a picture of a large group of police outside a house party. Amanda Geraci, a legal observer with CopWatch Berkeley, attended a large protest against fracking in September 2012 and was arrested while filming the arrest of another protester.
Both Fields and Geraci are seeking damages from the Philadelphia Police Department for violating their Constitutional right to videotape public officials. Previous rulings have found the public has a right to record police as form of “expressive conduct,” such as a protest or criticism, which is protected by the First Amendment.
The appeals court was specifically tasked with finding out whether or not the public has a First Amendment right to photograph and film police without a clear expression of criticism or challenge to police conduct.
The court wrote:
“Fields’ and Geraci’s alleged ‘constitutionally protected conduct’ consists of observing and photographing, or making a record of, police activity in a public forum. Neither uttered any words to the effect he or she sought to take pictures to oppose police activity. Their particular behavior is only afforded First Amendment protection if we construe it as expressive conduct.”
The court ultimately stated, “We find no basis to craft a new First Amendment right based solely on ‘observing and recording’ without expressive conduct.”
“Absent any authority from the Supreme Court or our Court of Appeals, we decline to create a new First Amendment right for citizens to photograph officers when they have no expressive purpose…”