Monday, December 17, 2012


New York Civil Liberties Union files lawsuit on behalf of a woman arrested for filming police

by Larry Geller

Hawaii has had a couple of prominent cases involving bloggers arrested for filming police. Although minor in comparison, I myself was prevented by a police officer from taking photographs of a car smacking into a tree on the property where I live.

The New York Civil Liberty Union is fighting back against unconstitutional police action against a woman who stood nearby documenting a stop-and-frisk interaction on her smartphone. See: NYCLU Lawsuit Challenges NYPD Arrest of Brooklyn Woman for Filming Stop-and-Frisk (NYCLU, 12/17/2012).

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, asserts that NYPD officers are improperly trained in how to respect the rights of onlookers to film police activity in public.

“Given the growing prevalence of smartphones and the explosive controversy surrounding the stop-and-frisk program, the NYPD should be training its officers to respect people’s constitutional right to film police activity in public,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, lead counsel in the case. “Good policing has nothing to fear from citizen oversight. Good policing embraces transparency.”

What was taking place was not good policing.

The plaintiff, Hadiyah Charles, used her smartphone to record two NYPD officers as they questioned and frisked three black youth whom had been innocently fixing a bicycle down the street from her Bedford-Stuyvesant home.

The New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk activities are far from lawful, but so far neither the courts nor the state legislature have been able to stop them. The police engage in racial profiling in the 700,000 or so stops they conduct annually:

About 87 percent were black or Latino. Each of the top four police precincts with the most stop-and-frisk activity has a majority black or Latino population.

Ms. Charles was shoved by police and ultimately handcuffed and taken away to jail. Her mistreatment was observed by several witnesses, according to the NYCLU article.

Will this lawsuit stop stop-and-frisk? No, nothing has worked so far. But it’s good that the NYCLU has decided to assist and defend the rights of citizens to photograph police. And no, the police are not about to stop interfering with citizens recording their activities either. One thing that has become clear is that the New York police are beyond the law, whether it is illegal stop-and-frisk harassment or spying on mosques outside their jurisdiction, up and down the East Coast.

The NYCLU complaint provides background on stop-and-frisk as well as describing the scene and Ms. Charles’ mistreatment and arrest without probable cause. It asks compensatory damages and also punitive damages from the police officers involved.


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