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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

District Attorney Dismisses Charges Against Woman Who Filmed Cops

by Mike Masnick, Techdirt

Last week, we wrote about the absolutely ridiculous situation, in which a woman who filmed the police in the process of a traffic stop in front of her house was arrested and charged with "obstructing government administration." The whole thing was clearly a sham, involving law enforcement that didn't like having their actions scrutinized in perfectly legal ways. The vast publicity that story generated apparently made law enforcement in Rochester think twice about going ahead with the case. Shane alerts us to the news that the district attorney decided "after reviewing the evidence" that "there was no legal basis" to continue the case and asked for it to be dismissed, which the judge granted.

This followed reports over the weekend that, during a meeting over the weekend in support of the woman, police went on a selective enforcement rampage, looking for any reason to give the supporters parking tickets, including being parked more than 12 inches off of the curb.

The whole situation caused the mayor, the head of city counsel and the chief of police to put out a joint statement saying that its procedures for handling such things will be reviewed, including the whole parking ticket mess:

"We believe that the incident that led to Ms. Good's arrest and the subsequent ticketing for parking violations of vehicles belonging to members of an organization associated with Ms. Good raise issues with respect to the conduct of Rochester Police Officers that require an internal review. A review into both matters has been initiated."

"Police officers must be able to cope with a high degree of stress while performing oftentimes dangerous duties, relying on their training and experience to guide their behavior. As routine as a traffic stop may appear, it has proven over time to be a potentially dangerous activity for police. Nonetheless, police must conduct themselves with appropriate respect for the rights of those involved or who are observing their actions."

"There is a mandated legal process that governs our internal response when police officer behavior is called into question. We must respect this process and that may be frustrating to those who may have already made up their mind about the outcome. We have confidence that the review will be fair and impartial and invite Ms. Good and anyone else with firsthand information to participate. We will withhold our judgment until the review is completed."

"Whatever the outcome of the internal review, we want to make clear that it is not the policy or practice of the Rochester Police Department to prevent citizens from observing its activities - including photographing or videotaping - as long as it does not interfere with the safe conduct of those activities. It is also not the policy or practice of the Department to selectively enforce laws in response to the activities of a group or individual. This has always been the case and it is being reinforced within the Department, so that it will be abundantly clear to everyone."

Of course, given all that, one thing still not explained is why the DA pressed charges in the first place. While it's good that they've now decided that there was no legal basis, isn't the point to determine that before you press charges?

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