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Cops Claim Metro Bus Center "Private Property" To Shut Down Disabled Advocate with Video
I received a report yesterday from disability advocate John Colby. Colby observed SCPD Officer Scott Freeman and two First Alarm Security guards at the Metro Transit Center taking an intoxicated man to a squad car. Colby became concerned, having seen the video of last year's "face first drop to the sidewalk" of Richard Hardy by Officer Vasquez ("SCPD Officer Vasquez Slams Drunk Man's Face On Pavement" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/04/23/18735710.php). To document the incident, Colby pulled out his video device. He reports being denounced by a female supervisor who refused to give any ID. She and the guards booth insisted he stop recording because the Public Transit Center was "private property". SCPD Officer Freeman made no attempt to protect Colby's rights.
Colby noted that the incident began around 5:30 p.m. near the central "coffee shop" area the Transit Center where he was waiting for his bus. When he pointed his video device at the incident, a supervisor indignantly demanded what his business was in the Center and then advised him that videoing was not allowed. Colby asked what law was involved, upsetting her. After storming off, she returned with another security guard in tow. John explained to them that he was in an area open to the public and that it was public property. She then pulled out a smart phone, said "I'm going to take a picture of you". John replied "go ahead" and smiled and waved into the camera.
Colby also expressed some concern that the one of the First Alarm Security guards began riffling through the man's pockets and wondered if that wasn't beyond the legitimate powers of private security. The angry supervisor and several security guards, he noted, continued to confer and gesture at him, gathering near the bus that he normally took home. "I felt intimidated," he said, "I wondered if she was seeking more information or trying to make trouble for me with the drivers.
Out of fear of further harassment and delay, John put away his recorder under pressure from the security guard.
As well he might. But I'm glad Colby spoke up for everyone's right to be at the Metro and document police behavior there. I've suffered arrest and conviction for doing the same in the past (See "Ticketing for Standing and Talking at the Metro Bus Stop Sunday" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/11/04/18548934.php /. However in spite of a false conviction, I have not altered my treatment of the Metro as a public space. Several weeks after I got my citation 6 years ago, I led a protest at the Metro which freely assembled and videoed. (See "Rotkin Claims: No Flyering Allowed at the Metro Center" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/11/25/18552885.php )
Later at home, Colby said he followed up by calling the police numerous times to request an informational report from Freeman to document any further misinformation to the public about "illegality". After four hours and numerous calls, Colby eventually got a response from Sgt. Christian Le Moss Le Moss, Colby reports, was polite and agreed that he had the right to record, as did the other officer. Le Moss agreed to "educate" security guards on the issue to avoid future such attacks. Colby requested a copy of a report of the incident to document that promise.
One wonders why Officer Freeman didn't advise the Security Guards and the Supervisor that Colby had the right to record, and to leave him alone. Or at least not to misinform him. Damage control later by Le Moss, however politely given, doesn't mean Metro authorities won't pull this nonsense at the next journalist or passing pedestrian who wants to capture a questionable incident on video or audio.
To correct the article, Officer Freeman in no way was negligent. Officer Freeman took my information report and agreed to educate Metro staff and 1st Alarm Security guards. Sergeant LeMoss was not doing "damage" control: he agreed with my POV and was very polite.
Both Sergeant LeMoss and Officer Freeman were extremely professional. Both of them were courteous to me.
I was not harassed by "cops". I was harassed by Metro staff and 1st Alarm security guards.
On further conversation with John Colby, he clarified the initial harassment from Metro security and the supervisor happened at a distance of 40' from SCPD Officer Freeman. Colby also noted that he had no impression that Freeman was aware of the recording incident until he returned a phone call later. At that point, Colby noted, Freeman expressed no knowledge of it and affirmed his right to record.
Given an even more recent incident of SCPD harassment of a video Copwatcher (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/08/02/18759451.php ), I think it's far from unusual for some SCPD officers to mislead members of the public and the media as to their rights in this matter. It's always easier for police agencies if no one is watching.
I do retain my skepticism that Sgt. Le Moss was doing other than "damage control", since I suspect there are regular interactions if not official meetings between Metro security and SCPD. I can't imagine this issue (of folks recording incidents at the Metro) hasn't come up before.
But I'm sorry my initial communication with Colby wasn't clearer and glad the matter has been cleared up.
I encourage others to report in how compliant police officers are on the street when you pull our your video device.