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“There Is a Constitutional Right of the Public to Film the Official Activities of Police Officers in a Public Place.” So says the Hawaii Supreme Court.

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So said the Hawaii Supreme Court this week, in State v. Russo, joining the federal appellate courts that have so held. An excerpt:

Although the First Amendment does not explicitly protect the right to film or photograph matters of public interest, the United States Supreme Court “ha[s] long recognized that its protection does not end at the spoken or written word.” The Court has likewise considered that news gathering may receive constitutional protection because “without some protection for seeking out the news, freedom of the press could be eviscerated.” This understanding of the First Amendment serves the core function of “prohibit[ing] government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw.” The constitutional safeguard extends beyond protection of the press; the “First Amendment protects the public’s right of access to information about their officials’ public activities.”

Based on these principles, numerous jurisdictions have held that the First Amendment affords individuals the right to photograph and film police officers in public places. In Glik v. Cunniffe, for example, the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that “filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities,” is protected by the First Amendment. The First Circuit explained that “[g]athering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting ‘the free discussion of governmental affairs.’ ” Promotion of the free discussion of government operations is particularly desirable in the context of law enforcement officials because it may “aid[ ] in the uncovering of abuses” and “have a salutary effect on the functioning of government more generally.”

Several other federal courts have likewise concluded that, in light of these considerations, individuals have a constitutionally-protected First Amendment right to photograph and film police officers in public. See Turner v. Lieutenant Driver (5th Cir. 2017) (“We agree with every circuit that has ruled on this question: Each has concluded that the First Amendment protects the right to record the police.”); Smith v. City of Cumming (11th Cir. 2000) (recognizing a “First Amendment right … to photograph or videotape police conduct” because the amendment “protects the right to gather information about what public officials do on public property, and specifically, a right to record matters of public interest”); Fordyce v. City of Seattle (9th Cir. 1995) (recognizing a “First amendment right to film matters of public interest” and “to gather news” in the context of police officer’s alleged assault and battery against individual filming the police officers assigned to work a demonstration); ACLU of Illinois v. Alvarez (7th Cir. 2012) (recognizing that the First Amendment protects “[a]udio and audiovisual recording” and “gathering news and information, particularly … about the affairs of government” in the context of civil liberties organization’s plan to make audiovisual recordings of police officers and disseminate the recordings to the general public).

Recently, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals considered the right of bystanders to record police officers performing their official duties. Fields v. City of Philadelphia (3d Cir. 2017). The Fields court noted that “to record what there is a right for the eye to see and the ear to hear … lays aside subjective impressions for objective facts.” Thus, “to record is to see and hear more accurately.” In addition to the valuable benefit of recordings to facilitate discussion and be broadly distributed, the Third Circuit observed that

the proliferation of bystander videos has spurred action at all levels of government to address police misconduct and to protect civil rights. These videos have helped police departments identify and discipline problem officers. They have also assisted civil rights investigations and aided in the Department of Justice’s work with local police departments. And just the act of recording, regardless what is recorded, may improve policing…. And of particular personal concern to police is that bystander recordings can exonerate an officer charged with wrongdoing.

The Fields court underscored that in order for the First Amendment’s protection to have meaning, “the Amendment must also protect the act of creating that material.” …

We agree with the reasoning of the First Circuit and of other federal courts of appeal that have considered this issue. The rights to free speech and press serve not only to protect the individual’s right to self-expression, but also to promote the vital goal of “affording the public access to discussion, debate, and the dissemination of information and ideas.” Exercising the constitutionally-protected rights to free speech and press plays a crucial role in “informing and educating the public, offering criticism, and providing a forum for discussion and debate.”

This aspect of the First Amendment is all the more critical when the ideas and information sought to be disseminated pertain to government officials and law enforcement personnel, “who are granted substantial discretion that may be misused to deprive individuals of their liberties.” Public access to such information serves to guarantee “public oversight of law enforcement” and “minimizes the possibility of abuse by ensuring that police departments and officers are held accountable for their actions.” …

We also agree [with the cases cited above] that this right is subject to reasonable restrictions as to the time, place, and manner of the photography or recording. Such restrictions may be necessary to ensure that law enforcement officials are capable of carrying out their duties and maintaining the safety of both the general public and of the individual conducting the photography or videography. We are persuaded that the threshold requirement for the issuance of time, place, and manner restrictions as set forth by the First Circuit in Gerickestrikes the appropriate balance between ensuring public safety, preserving law enforcement’s efficacy, and protecting constitutional free speech and press rights. [Text moved:] [Gericke] specified that a time, place, or manner regulation could be issued by law enforcement to an individual filming police performing their duties in public “only if the officer can reasonably conclude that the filming itself is interfering, or is about to interfere, with [the officer’s] duties.”

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WATCH: Copwatch | Gang Unit Vehicle Stop Foot Bail | Tossed Gun | Man Tasered

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San Diego Copwatch April 10, 2018

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POLICE claim Man said ‘shoot me’ twice before he was shot to death by police, Audio Experts Heard Different

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Las Vegas Metro police shot and killed a 22-year-old man early Friday morning after he reached for a weapon and defied commands repeatedly, police said.

 

Officers Francisco Rivera, 28, and Padilla Mills, 23, were involved in the shooting in the 200 block of Madge Lane, near Charleston Boulevard and Sloan Lane.

Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Monday said officers were on their way to another call when they spotted Junior David Lopez driving recklessly with two women in a blue Chrysler 300.

“Hey, what are you doing? Stay in the car man,” one of the officers yelled. “Stay in the ****ing car! Don’t move! Do not ****ing move!”

When officers stopped the vehicle, Lopez got out of the vehicle with a Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .380 firearm in his hand then tossed it on the ground, police said.

Zimmerman said Lopez defied officers’ commands to put his hands up and step away from the weapon. Instead Lopez grabbed the firearm and raised it, he said.

“Hey, get away from the gun!” officers yelled. “Do not move! Don’t reach for the gun, man. Do not reach the gun.”

Officers believe the body camera footage shows Lopez twice saying the words “shoot me.”

“I don’t know what was going through his head, but he was given ample opportunity to be taken into custody and he wasn’t,” Zimmerman said.

Officers Rivera and Mills both fired their weapons. Lopez fell to the ground and rolled over. Police say he reached for the guns once more. Officer Mills fired one more round, striking Lopez.

“We’re going to need medical for the subject,” one of the officers said, over his radio. “He’s reaching. Don’t reach for it! … His 4-13 is about one foot from his left hand. Don’t!”

Lopez was taken to Sunrise Hospital where he later died at 5:15 a.m.

The two women in the car were not injured. One was Lopez’ girlfriend and the owner of the vehicle. The other was a friend.

Both women on Monday night.

“I remember when we got pulled over they told us to get the **** out of the car, for him to get the **** out of the car. Why don’t I hear that in the video?” said Lopez’s girlfriend, Amber. “He was the best thing in my life… He said, ‘Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me.’ You can’t hear the don’t, but you can hear him. ‘Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me.'”

Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman said 22-year-old Junior Lopez told officers to shoot him, twice.

“I don’t know what was going through his head but he was given ample opportunity to be taken into custody and he wasn’t.”

Lopez’s girlfriend said he was yelling, “Don’t shoot me!”

Lopez’s girlfriend also says officers told him to get out of the car… before they yelled at him to get back in the car. She argues that the first portion was conveniently cut out of the video released today.

“Everything they said is not true,” said Jorge Luis Martinez, Lopez’s father. “The video is not complete. ”

Lopez had one prior charge for false statement to a police officer in North Las Vegas in 2016

Both officers have been employed with Metro since May 2016. They are both assigned to the Community Policing Division Northeast Area Command. They were both placed on routine paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

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Freedom of Speech Everywhere except a Courthouse so Says the US Attorney General

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How an anti-illegal immigration YouTuber turned a $280 fine into a federal criminal trial

How an anti-illegal immigration YouTuber turned a $280 fine into a federal criminal trial

Gary Gileno

Gary Gileno is shown outside the federal courthouse on Friday before his trial. Gileno was fighting a $280 citation for failing to comply with orders while trying to bring a video camera into a L.A. County Sheriff oversight meeting in 2017. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

 

It began as a $280 citation for using a video camera in a courthouse.

But to Gary Gileno, at stake was much more than the couple hundred bucks he was told to pay.

An attorney for the anti-illegal immigration activist and prolific YouTuber told a judge Friday that the four-hour trial over the fine was really about preventing government abuse of power, protecting the rights of journalists and ensuring that citizens can hold public officials accountable.

“If he is convicted … it’ll chill speech, it’ll chill journalism, it’ll say the federal government has a superpower to do whatever it wants,” attorney William Becker said. “This is unprecedented. This is what we expect to see in a police state.”

A federal prosecutor dismissed the rhetoric, arguing the Class C misdemeanor charge was simply about Gileno’s refusal to follow a security officer’s orders.

The unusual legal battle came after Gileno, 32, tried to bring a video camera into a meeting of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission last year. California law specifically allows the public to use recording devices at such meetings, but the commission’s meeting in August was held at a federal appellate court building where filming is prohibited.

Someone just detained at federal courthouse, where public Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission meeting takin place, 4 trying 2 take pic

The commission, a civilian panel set up to monitor the Sheriff’s Department and listen to public concerns about the agency, had been gathering in different locations around the county since it began meeting in January 2017. This was the first time commissioners had met at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals building in Pasadena.

As Gileno entered the courthouse, deputy U.S. marshals told him he had to leave his camera in his car. Gileno insisted he had a right to record the meeting under the First Amendment and the state’s open meetings law, known as the Brown Act, and began filming the officers.

They responded by handcuffing and detaining him for about an hour.

After Gileno was cited, Robert C. Bonner, a former federal judge who chairs the commission, told The Times he wasn’t aware of certain provisions of the state’s open meetings law and relied on the county’s lawyers for legal advice.

Rather than pay the fine, Gileno opted to take his case to trial, facing a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and 30 days in jail if found guilty.

Gileno, who began his YouTube career after showing up at his local council meeting in West Covina, said he has made a living off of his channel in recent years. His copious videos — 3,237 and counting — focus primarily on denouncing illegal immigration and promoting supporters of President Trump. His criminal case may have been a boon for his channel — a recent screed on his own prosecution was viewed more than 10,000 times.

On Friday, two court security officers who clashed with Gileno took the stand and testified that there were signs clearly posted saying photography wasn’t allowed in the courthouse. They said Gileno grew belligerent and disruptive, turning on his camera after being warned several times that it was not allowed.

Testifying in his own defense, Gileno said he was a freelance citizen journalist who has attended and filmed local government meetings and legislative town halls for about five years.

“I believe in the United States of America, you should be able to keep tabs on the government,” he said.

In more than 250 other public meetings he attended, he said, he never had an issue with bringing in his video camera. He said the security officer all of a sudden “exploded” at him, so he turned on his camera “to document what I felt was a violation of my rights at the time.”

Assistant U.S. Atty. Benedetto Lee Balding said Gileno’s disruption of security officers working at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was no small matter. It was Gileno who escalated the encounter by refusing to go along with the officers’ orders, he said.

“He decided unilaterally he didn’t have to follow the rules,” the prosecutor said.

Becker, who primarily represents conservatives and Christians in free-speech cases, worked for free on Gileno’s case. He argued that the federal courthouse essentially became a “limited public forum” when it hosted the commission meeting, which Gileno should have been allowed to film under the state law.

Magistrate Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth said she could understand why Gileno was angry and frustrated given his past experience filming the meetings, but she said that didn’t excuse his failure to follow orders. Security at the appellate courthouse, where justices could be filmed without their knowledge, was a serious concern, the judge said.

“Even if these seem arbitrary or don’t make any sense to Mr. Gileno or anybody else, clearly they serve this very important purpose,” Rosenbluth said, finding Gileno guilty.

Acknowledging that a “misunderstanding” had led to the kerfuffle, the prosecutor recommended a sentence of no fine, which would leave Gileno having to pay just $35 in court fees. Rosenbluth said she felt the need for “some consequences” and ordered Gileno to pay a $50 fine, bringing his total penalty to $85 with the fees.

Gileno said he was “outraged” and “astounded.” After the verdict, he turned to nine supporters in the audience, including a man in a red “Make California Great Again” hat, and exclaimed, “I was never read my rights!”

His attorney said they would seriously consider an appeal and possibly a civil lawsuit against the government.

“What the judge just said is if a city council can move to a federal building, they can keep the meeting secret,” Gileno said. “That’s grossly illegal.”

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