ACLU Sues Police for Using Force to Stop Photos of Arrest

It’s the fifth such lawsuit against Philly police.

Two photos showing the encounter between Amanda Geraci and Philly police officers.

Two photos showing the encounter between Amanda Geraci and Philly police officers.

It’s been almost three years now since Commissioner Charles Ramsey issued a directive to Philly Police, letting them know that it’s entirely legal for the public to record officers doing their work and making arrests — as long as the photographer doesn’t interfere with that police work.

It seems his officers still haven’t gotten the message. The ACLU today announced another lawsuit — the fifth in a series — against the department on behalf of a woman who was physically restrained from recording officers arresting a protestor.

Here’s the ACLU press release:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and co-counsel filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of a Philadelphia woman who was forcefully restrained across the neck by a civil affairs officer to prevent her from recording Philadelphia police officers arresting a protestor on the other side of a glass wall.

This is the fifth in a series of ACLU-PA lawsuits aimed at stopping the Philadelphia Police Department’s illegal practice of retaliating against individuals who observe or record the police performing their duties.

“We have yet to see any indication that the leadership of the Philadelphia Police Department is requiring its officers to respect the First Amendment rights of Philadelphia residents in these situations,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Until they get it right, we will continue to hold them accountable to the citizens they have sworn an oath to protect.”

Today’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of Amanda Geraci, a professional psychotherapist and a trained legal observer who was monitoring an anti-fracking protest outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center on September 21, 2012. Legal observers are trained volunteers who monitor the interactions between police and protestors.

After witnessing police take a protestor into custody and handcuff him inside the Convention Center, Geraci remained outside but walked over to a spot on the other side of the glass wall to record the incident. Then, according to the complaint, “Officer Brown approached her at a full run and threw her up against a pillar on the Convention Center’s facade.” Officer Brown then pushed her forearm against Geraci’s neck. Police officers quickly surrounded Brown and Geraci to block the ability of others in the crowd to witness or record the officer’s use of force against Geraci.

“I have been a legal observer for eight years at numerous protests and I have never experienced anything like this,” said Geraci. “I was shocked when Officer Brown pushed me against a column and restrained me by my neck, just for recording the activities of her colleagues as they arrested someone.”

“Once again, what happened to Amanda Geraci shows that the city of Philadelphia is not living up to its promise to protect the First Amendment rights of those who observe and record the police,” said Jonathan H. Feinberg of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, & Feinberg and one of the attorneys representing Geraci.

Information about filing a complaint with the ACLU-PA as well as background on the ACLU-PA’s previous lawsuits against the Philadelphia police department challenging the arrest and harassment of individuals for photographing police is available at: www.aclupa.org/copwatch

The ACLU-PA also has a social media campaign running (#PAcopwatch) to encourage people to contact the organization with stories about police harassment for recording.

Geraci is represented by Molly Tack-Hooper and Mary Catherine Roper of the ACLU-PA; John Grogan and Peter Leckman of Langer, Grogan & Diver, P.C.; Feinberg of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, & Feinberg; and Seth Kreimer of the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Previously: ACLU: Philly Police Still Arresting People for Photographing Police
Previously: ACLU Sues Philly Police Over Video Arrests

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  • Ian Battles

    “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”

    Right officers?

  • .

    cops are a double edge sword…..one side everyone hates them because they abuse powers and the other side is we could just get rid of them but then the crime rate goes up and we live in a more horrible world.

    • Phil Moskowitz

      In normal countries police aren’t a double edged sword.

      • Ian Battles

        In normal countries, police are held accountable when they ignore the law.

    • somebody

      It’s not either/or. They work for the people. They should be fired if they break the law. The officer in this story (if proven true) was the perpetrator. That doesn’t make the world a better place. It’s not a grey area.

  • rick2497

    Generations of cops felt this behavior was okay. They are now acting by what amounts to reflex, continuing illegal behavior. Suspending, firing and then charging with assault and battery would help stop this criminal activity. If they had done their job in an appropriate manner in the first place, including not covering for fellow cops committing egregious acts, they would have few incidents of people filming their actions. That there is a necessity for people to be legal monitors of police doing their jobs speaks volumes as to the out of control cops in various municipalities.

  • affordableweb

    How does one become a “trained legal observer”? I want that job!

  • SlimerTime

    And fire those corrupt police officers

  • Phil Moskowitz

    These goddamn cops need to be privately liable for these infringements. You start firing these people, forfeiting pensions and going after personal holdings, ALL police brutality and criminal behaviour under the flag of law will stop immediately.

  • wschatz

    Almost every single day there are new videos posted on Youtube and Liveleak of cops threatening, arresting and even assaulting people for recording them. It is really about time that every single officer in this country is issued a camera. It should be fixed to their badge that way if they don’t want to record something they will have to take their badge off & temporarily suspend their authority as a police officer. Once their shift is over all the badges go in a drop bin & the footage is stored by a third party for a few months then deleted. That would solve all this nonsense and it would hugely benefit the public AND the honest police officers.

  • jimmyt

    And they wonder why cops are being ambushed

  • mellie

    Its 2014, so we might as well forget about getting corrupt people to follow the law. I say instead of putting cameras on cops, we have citizens begin wearing body cameras like the one we wish all police had (and are unable to tamper with). For starters, it’s far less conspicuous than a cell phone and it would certainly even the playing field for people who are harassed abused…

  • D B

    … and if I ran up to an officer , full run, and put MY hand on HIS neck ? … yeah …

  • Presbyton

    If they want to get the lawsuits down, they should promises bonuses for keeping the amount of money given away under a certain threshold every year.