Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Three years later, police oversight board to hear case of arrest for filming cops

Three years after it happened, a citizen who was arrested after he sought to take a picture of police at Manna House homeless refuge in Memphis will have his complaint heard by the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board Thursday Oct. 13, 2016, at 4 p.m. in Memphis City Hall, 125 N. Main St.
"I'm going to take you to jail for obstructing highway passageway." 

Paul Garner was arrested along with a Manna House volunteer who had objected to police entering the property without a warrant to search for a man.   Never mind that filming police is protected by the First Amendment as courts consistently have ruled.  Never mind about that search warrant business, that's Fourth Amendment. Memphis police even have a written policy that tells officers basically "hands off" citizens who film police.

Garner was told by police that he could not take a picture of their cruiser ID number because it was illegal to film without a permit.   Police then charged Garner and the volunteer with disorderly conduct and obstructing a passageway, since "pissing off the cops by saying no to a warrantless police search" (they walked past the volunteer and searched, anyway) is not a crime that is currently on the books.

Garner worked within the police department system and filed a complaint through internal affairs.  It took police six months to respond that Garner's complaint was "not sustained," meaning there was insufficient evidence to fault the officers.  The letter from MPD referred Garner to take his complaint up with the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board if he was not satisfied.  Following the system as  prescribed, Garner sought to contact the police oversight board only to learn it had been illegally and secretly disbanded by Mayor A.C. Wharton's administration in 2011.

In the citizen video which is excerpted from the real-time, Memphis-made documentary Who Will Watch the Watchers? six police officers are actually blocking a sidewalk, and two pedestrians have to walk around them as the police arrest an apparently homeless man.  Then, an officer tells the photographer that he knows it's on video, but he is going to arrest the man, anyway, for "obstructing highway passageway."

Garner and other aggrieved Memphis citizens later organized around Memphis United and campaigned to bring back the review board.

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