Following the recent unlawful arrest of a resident who was videotaping police officers from her front yard, the New York Civil Liberties Union today called on the Rochester Police Department to ensure that its officers understand and respect people’s constitutional right to videotape in public places, including the right to film police interactions with civilians in public spaces.
In a letter sent today to Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard, the NYCLU expresses concerns that the arrest of Emily Good and what appears to be subsequent retaliatory actions by police against her supporters demonstrate that Rochester police officers aren’t being sufficiently trained to respect residents’ constitutional rights.
“The Police Department has shown a disturbing disregard for residents’ First Amendment right to use video cameras in public places,” said KaeLyn Rich, director of the NYCLU’s Genesee Valley Chapter. “This right is particularly important when it comes to documenting aggressive police interactions with civilians. In recent years, numerous instances of police brutality were exposed only because of the presence of a bystander with a video camera.”
On May 12, Rochester police officers arrested Ms. Good while she was videotaping them from her front yard as they conducted a traffic stop. From the video footage, it does not appear that Good had interfered with the officers. A motion to dismiss the arrest charges will be heard today in City Court.
The NYCLU criticized the Rochester Police Department’s apparent retaliation against residents who had gathered on the evening of June 23 to support Ms. Good. Several police officers were videotaped issuing parking tickets outside the meeting place at the intersection Clarissa and Troup streets.
“The right to criticize the government is among our most important constitutional guarantees,” Rich said. “Instead of trying to intimidate residents who object to its treatment of Ms. Good, the Police Department should be focusing resources on educating its officers to respect people’s constitutional rights.”
In its letter, the NYCLU asks to meet with Sheppard on the matter and requests copies of any department records concerning policies and practices that may have led to Ms. Good’s arrest.