California Man Arrested For Filming Police In Public

We have been discussing the continued effort of prosecutors and police to jail citizens who photograph or videotape police in public. For a prior column, click here. Now, in California, another such arrest has been videotaped in California as Daniel J. Saulmon was charged with resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer when the video shows him standing at a distance and not interfering in any way with the arrest.

The officer immediately demanded to know what Saulmon is doing when it is obvious, as Saulmon indicates, that he is filming the scene. Saulmon states that he does not want to speak to the officer when asked for his identification and the officer immediately puts him under arrest. Ironically, the officer then tells him that he doesn’t need any identification since that will be handled at the booking.

The piling up of charges is an all-too-common response to these cases. Police and prosecutors hammer citizens to try to get them to reach a plea agreement. It is particularly distressing to see prosecutors like Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez going along with these arrests and trying to convict citizens.

Saulmon reportedly spent days in jail. Such jailings serve as a deterrent for abusive police officers since few citizens want to face such incarceration as well as the cost of defending against criminal charges. Even when later thrown out (which often happen to such charges), the message is sent and the officers are rarely disciplined. I have little doubt that this case will be thrown out. The question is whether people in California will demand action to discipline the officer, who swore to charges that are clearly invalid and abusive.

57 thoughts on “California Man Arrested For Filming Police In Public

  1. It appears that the camera operator was expecting to be arrested. Not that it matters.

    Can somebody speak to the possibility of a civil suit? A couple of gratuitous awards might be the most effective deterrent for behavior like this.

  2. “The question is whether people in California will demand action to discipline the officer, who swore to charges that are clearly invalid and abusive.”

    I doubt it, sadly.

  3. The officer and his supervisors who allowed this egregious action need to be removed from the force and police throughout the land need to understand that if it is constitutional for them to film citizens everywhere, it is lawful for citizens to safely film the police.

  4. Once again the police fail to uphold and defend the US Constitution which they obviously have failed to read and understand. The storm tooper who approaches abd arrests a citizen for filming the police does not belong on an American police force but would do very well in Nazi Germany or Syria.

  5. QUOTE “It would be nice to add the 9th Circuit to the appeals courts that have ruled against police who do this.”

    This court appears to be one of the worst in the country! Better look at some of the outrageous decisions these idiots have made….

  6. My question is that the police have probably lied in their reports which is a felony from my understanding. so why not charge these cops with a felony? I think that being convicted of a felony will be a lot better deterent than any suit. If the DA refuses to charge them, can a private person file criminal charges?

  7. It is the job of the local prosecutor to file charges. However, there are avenues through the civil courts. See the false arrest story in Detroit where the city was hammered with a $1.1 million judgement.

  8. As someone who lived through the “Cold War” and how our media battered the USSR for tactics of police repression, with the inference that “We” weren’t like that, the irony is bitter. We are like that and sadly have always been that way on a local level, though there weren’t camera phones back when.

  9. MikeS, My sister travelled through the USSR back in the 70’s/80’s. They would not allow photos taken virtually anywhere in public. In the US if you are in public you are free to be videotaped, whether your a police man, beggar man doctor or thief. I made my living doing it and although the opposing counsel would whine and cry, if the video was in public[that’s ALL I shot], then it was admissable. This horseshit by the police will continue until they are made to stop. They have their little fiefdom and won’t give up this until they have to.

  10. anonymously posted: “7 Rules for Recording Police”

    “Rule #2 Don’t Secretly Record Police”

    That sounds nice, but it’s idealistic. If you saw a badge-wearing gang member murder a person (criminal or innocent civilian, it doesn’t matter) do you really believe that cameraman wouldn’t be murdered to cover up the crime?

    As with whistleblowing, those who record abuse of authority deserve and need the protection of anonymity. Otherwiser, you’re made a crime out of reporting crimes.

  11. The ABA has a post on it:

    The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review a federal appeals court decision finding it unconstitutional to enforce an Illinois state law that makes it a felony to videotape police officers working in public if a microphone is turned on.

    (ABA Journal). Whew!

  12. P Smith,

    I agree, in general but, having said this, the author of the article makes the following points:

    Rule #2:

    “…record police openly, if possible.” …”if possible”

    In context:

    “The lesson for you is this: If you want to limit your legal exposure and present a strong legal case, record police openly if possible.”

    (“Massachusetts courts have ruled that openly recording police is legal, but secretly recording them isn’t.” (http://rense.com/general11/fur.htm))

    But I do agree with you that sometimes “anonymity” is necessary for “protection.”

  13. Geez, don’t we have any greedy lawyers any more? Why isn’t somebody suing these police departments for false arrest and the mental distress they cause? All it takes is a million dollar precedent to put a stop to this crap; do a service to the country and get rich at the same time.

  14. This was clearly a false arrest and in my view a deprivation of rights under colour of law. It seemed to me (correct me if I am wrong) the defendant was standing on a sidewalk far enough away from the scene and was passively recording the events. Judging by the conversation with the woman officer there was no risk to anyone here such as having a violent or dangerous person. In that event the police can order the persons to a safe area.

    I do not understand the justification for even caring if someone is filming police. When I worked the road, I had several times probably less than ten. I just looked over at them and smiled politely. It’s not a big deal. If they were too close all you have to do is ask them to stand on the other side of the road for example. 99% of people do so.

    There is a clear difference between watching / filming the police and interfering. I took several people to jail over the years for doing the latter. One example a family member came by a traffic stop and a wanted person escaped from me because I was having to babysit the loudmouthed and enraged father who walked up and interfered. He went to jail for obstructing.

    In my view the camera is no different than the eye. If it is not illegal for the eye to be there, the camera is also.

  15. Tony C. 1, November 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Geez, don’t we have any greedy lawyers any more? Why isn’t somebody suing these police departments for false arrest and the mental distress they cause? All it takes is a million dollar precedent to put a stop to this crap; do a service to the country and get rich at the same time.
    =====================================
    The lawyers that protect constitutional rights are not greedy.

    They are good.

  16. rafflaw 1, November 26, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I saw that article Dredd and commend the Supremes for not taking the appeal and hopefully allowing the injunction in Cook County to become permanent.
    =================================
    In honor of JT.

    He is listed at the bottom of the article as the one who alerted the ABA.

    And he is a free speech fighter who is not greedy, he is good.

  17. Being a principled supporter of the Constitution may not make you rich although it can, but it does pay off in the end in ways far beyond the pecuniary.

  18. Gene H, maybe a butterfly ballot?

    Nick S, Even after the Supreme Court Rules, presuming they rule with the Constitution, still, it will be possible to roust any little guy for any little thing because his case won’t go up to the US Supreme Court and nobody controls the trial court judges. The cost of an appeal is prohibitive and the organizations trying to protect civil rights are stretched so thin there are 100 abuses for every one that even makes it onto somebody’s desk.

  19. Tony above asks why lawyers are not suing the cops over this.
    As a civil rights lawyer in a prior life before I became a dog I was quite conversant with suing the police. What exists in America is a very large number of lawyers in all jurisdictions but they are mostly too dumb to go to federal court and if there they are not up to speed on something like this. If they were aware of the amount of money to be made on successful cases against bad cops they would possibly get some education and start some litigation. One problem behind this is the law schools. Students view constitutional law like some drudge course which they are required to take and can not wait to forget it all. There are not enough law professors who are trial lawyers. Could you imagine learning surgery in med school from someone who never picked up a scalpal? But that is the problem in American law schools.

    In this case the cop who arrested this guy is liable- he can be sued and a judgment can be had. The cop is a “state actor? who has deprived a citizen of s civil right to exercise his First Amendment Right To Petition his government for the redress of grievances. By filming a cop operation the victim here was preserving for future presentation to his government the proof of a bad police act or conduct. By denying the right to film he is being denied his right to record and present the evidence to his government to seek redress of grievances. the cop (state actor) is liable for the arrest under Title 43 United States Code section 1983. The cops superior officers are liable. If the police force is a municipal force, not a state police agency, then the municipality is liable. The plaintiff gets a jury to decide his case and decide his damages. He can get punitive damages, He will get his attorneys fees on top of the actual damages and punitive damages. The lawyer will get a good hourly rate and willl have racked up thousands of hours going through the pre trial, trial, appeals. They atty fees alone could reach Four to Five hundrred dollars an hour. times the number of hours.
    There is a case in Saint Louis in federal court right now where the prevailing party attorneys are seeking Four Hundred Fifty Dollars an hour in a case against the City of Gerald, Missouri Police Department and City of Gerald.
    I will report back later.

  20. Please excuse the typing errs , the Dogalogue machine is not typing right tonight. I just bark into it and must rely on it to spull.

  21. Another cop folly:
    “Selma police investigators said Wednesday that officer Travis Abbott took a suspected drunken driver to the Johnston Medical Center emergency room in Smithfield around 1:30 a.m. Saturday to have blood drawn.

    According to a 911 call, Abbott handcuffed the nurse when she refused to draw blood because Abbott didn’t have a court order.

    “Officer Travis Abbott came and just arrested and made a huge scene with our house administrators,” a nurse told the 911 dispatch supervisor in the call. “He just handcuffed her – he could care less about anything – in front of the middle of our ER. And this whole ER is in complete chaos, and frankly, somebody needs to come here and handle it.”

    The nursing supervisor was released from Abbott’s handcuffs after Smithfield police and Johnston County sheriff’s deputies arrived.

    Selma police are investigating the claim but won’t comment on the specific allegations.

    They did confirm that the DWI suspect was later taken to the county magistrate, who released him because there was no probable cause.”

    http://www2.nbc17.com/news/johnston-county/2012/nov/16/selma-police-officer-suspended-ar-2786204/

  22. OK. My blood is boiling. Now what? Who do I write to to complain? How do I support Mr. Saulman? Does he have a legal fund? I believe this police officer should be fired. How can I help make that happen?

  23. To John Lepo: The “Occupy” movement needs to forget Wall Street for some serious moments and concentrate on Occupy Pigsty.

  24. Thanks Dog.

    I was actually trying to make a serious point while being funny. The serious point is that, from articles I have read, I think there is big money to be made (for plaintiffs and lawyers alike) in suing the police for false arrest, false witness, etc.

    We have plenty of lawyers willing to take accident cases and product liability cases as contingency cases, why not take these civil rights cases on contingency? Why haven’t I heard of that?

    The police take these actions because they can get away with it, they get away with it because their chain of command doesn’t do anything about it, and that in turn is because no punishments are ever meted out.

    Yes, dredd, lawyers that protect civil rights are “good.” So are lawyers that sue companies over negligence and accidents. But being good doesn’t pay the rent on the office or the salary of the legal assistant, so money needs to come in from somewhere.

    I see these cases as opportunities for lawyers to do society some good and earn a contingency fee at the same time and get restitution for a mistreated citizen, who was falsely arrested, harassed, emotionally traumatized and whose life was put in danger out of pique by an officer because the citizen was expressing his Constitutional rights, and that officer gave false witness. Somebody should be liable.

    If the cops won’t act right out of honor, then make them act right out of fear of being sued. So, on a blog filled with lawyers that decry such stories of police abuse of citizens, I ask, why aren’t contingency lawyers suing?

    What is stopping them? I don’t think it is the lack of money in the deal, I don’t think they stay away out of moral repugnance (it is a just cause), I do not think they stay away because the cases are impossible to win.

    So what am I missing?

  25. Tony C.:
    Why dont more lawyers take on civil rights cases? Why not the one’s who already do civil litigation in jury trial cases such as product liability?
    The answer to that question gets back to the law school education. The freshman class is required to take Constitutional Law One. Then maybe they get some constitutional law when they take Criminal Law or Criminal Procedure. Those two courses may be it for the average law student. If they were, say a business degree person in undergrad, the complexity of the Con Law courses may be beyond the Pale. If they later go into criminal law they will pick up on the notions of search and seizure and related matters.

    The vast majority of lawyers out there with a degree are not “practicing” lawyers in court. Of those who go to court and see the inside of a courtroom, the vast majority never try a jury case. Maybe once when young when they got “appointed” by a judge to represent a defendant in a criminal trial, although that aspect has died off. Of the so called “General Practitioners” who try cases, they mostly divorces, small claims, disputes over property. The vast majority never go to federal court unless it is for a bankruptcy Chapter 7 case.

    The vast gap between all of the above lawyers and going into a federal court with a civil rights case where one has to articulate a constitutional violation in such a way as to formulate a Petition which will withstand a motion to dismiss is a huge vast gap. If the novice survives a motion for summary judgment and somehow gets to a jury trial he/she is then confronted with counsel on the other side who are skilled not only at jury trial work but at dealing with the arcane little issues of constitutional law. On appeal the cases are complicated. So, those guys and dolls back in law school who uttered vast relief when they passed Con Law One and stated that they would never again indulge in such complicated stuff, stick to their guns when they are out in private practice.

    In any major city in the United States comprised of ten thousand lawyers there may be ten at best who can listen to the client’s tale and turn it into a client’s jury verdict and an attorney fee award. I notice that the number of skilled counsel is diminishing. The wild folks from the graduating classes in the early ’70s are now retiring and they are not being followed by folks who wish to “get involved” in such things as suing the cops for arresting granma with her video phone.

    In the early 1970s the legal services offices who handled the poor clients did a small share of civil rights work. This was often in employment, mental patient rights, inmate rights. I see no programs in America doing this work now. Go on the website for your legal services program in your state and you will see bragging going on about this or that but no cases being litigated in federal court on constitutional issues.

    There are some large law firms that are taking on criminal cases in conjunction with The Innocence Project. There are some private practitioners out there who are quite skilled at civil rights cases–almost always solo or small firm guys and gals. Not many.

    The above recitation is a dismal picture and the law schools bear most of the blame. Both in recruiting lame sorts who dread the Constitution like Dred Scott dreaded his slave work and in failing to teach the various aspects of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Some schools are opening up Innocence Projects. Dog love em for that.

  26. Tony C.:

    What are you missing?

    Perhaps an accurate understanding of trauma as time-corrupted learning, as in the work of neurologist Robert Scaer, psychologist Peter Levine, and many other people who have truly put long and arduous effort into understanding how human brains actually make, and carry out, choices…

    It is my plan, if I live long enough, to do my part as a theoretical biologist and bioengineer to resolve the enigma of human destructiveness, as in the work of Anthony Storr and many others.

    There is a story, perhaps mainly fictional, to the effect that Galileo Galelei was able to refute Aristotelian physics when no one else had been able to accomplish that, because Galileo looked in the right place to find the refutation of Aristotelian physics, while others had only been looking in the wrong places.

    As a scientist, I regard all hypotheticals to be of the form of scientifically testable, refutable-if-false scientific hypotheses, and I find that I have what appears to me to be an irrefutable refutation of valid law as based upon time-corrupted-learning hypotheticals.

    That is a story for another time and place…

    Nonetheless, I find that police officers act as they do in response to unresolved traumas that are part and parcel of supposedly normal psychosocial development.

    The adversarial system, as best I can yet discern, much predates the Code of Hammurabi. The replacement for the adversarial system may yet turn out to be the mental health system, as system that may only now be completing its “infancy.”

    That said, I find the greatest contrast between the system of adversarial law and the system of mental health services to be that mental health services, when effective, seem to me to be quite totally without adversarial basis principles.

    Perhaps if we adapt the prison industry facilities to function as psychiatric/psychological care facilities, we may yet overcome the seeming intransigent stupidity and adamant ignorance that I observed, even in grade school, appeared to me to constrain humans as a social group into the defeating processes of reciprocal retaliation.

  27. @Brian: As usual, a load of crap, an off-topic non-answer and self-congratulatory for absolutely nothing to the point of absurdity.

  28. My nephew videoed a cop viciously taking down a young woman who was too drunk to resist. The cop then turned to him, confiscated his phone, deleted the video and arrested him for obstruction. When he went to court he pleaded guilty b/c he couldn’t afford a lawyer and he wanted the unpleasantness behind him. From what he said, the judge really didn’t want him to plead guilty. Instead he got several hours of community service.

  29. Every so often, as a form of research method, I plant some seeds that I cannot initially identify, and wait to see what sprouts, if anything.

    Sometimes epithet sprouts poke out from fertilized soil…

    Tony, thanks for your help. I am grateful for it.

    You are a wonderful research subject, and profoundly informative…

  30. @Brian: And you are an egomaniac, constantly trying to puff yourself up as the savior of mankind, as the only person in the world that can solve the enigma of human destructiveness because you are the new Galileo (if only people would recognize that!).

    It is pathetic, really. You aren’t even smart enough to communicate your own ideas without instigating conflict, Brian. Perhaps you should work less on how to lard up your writing with pretentious lingo and work more on making it understandable to regular people. Yes, I know, don’t tell me, your work is at a level nobody can understand, because you are the new Galileo, or Einstein, or Darwin or Newton of understanding the human mind! (If only people would recognize that!)

    My father didn’t finish the ninth grade (he was marrying my mother), but he had some ideas I took to heart. One of them was this: If you aren’t smart enough to figure out how to explain your idea plainly to somebody else, then you ain’t all that smart, are you?

  31. Brian may be crestfallen when they eventually discover behavior is controlled by gut bacteria, vitamin and mineral levels, blood sugar, endocrine function, et al

    The brain is another organ of the body, we are simply mammals, we evolved with flora and fauna; they will discover that cannabinoids are the best medicine for the brain, the mind body connection is real and has little to do with psychiatry.

  32. As I was contemplating my 5:20 PM posted comment of today, arriving in my inbox was the notice from the University of Illinois at Chicago that my doctoral dissertation has been published on the Internet by the University of Illinois at Chicago. That now makes my dissertation a peer-reviewed and published scientific treatise.

    The url for the dissertation on the UIC Indigo site is

    http://hdl.handle.net/10027/8816

    That link correctly indicates that UIC published my dissertation today, under a Creative Commons unported 3.0 license…

    In said dissertation is an unrefuted demonstration as to why there is no such actual “thing” as an avoidable accident, given that the way to know that an accident was actually unavoidable is the simple fact that the accident, in the context in which it happened, was not avoided.

    Only unavoidable accidents happen.

    That, as I expect to satisfy the public at large as the ultimate peer reviewers, will very nicely undermine tort liability, as tort liability is a form of delusional fiction, albeit a fiction that is devastatingly contagious and atrociously addictive as a neurological function.

    The belief, in the form of a testable hypothesis, that avoidable mistakes happen appears to me to have originated long ago, perhaps, from my reading of cultural anthropology and prehistoric cultural myths, 50,000 years ago.

    The belief, in the form of a testable hypothesis, which has been tested and refuted in my doctoral thesis and dissertation, that avoidable mistakes happen is, as best I can yet tell, the basis of “The Great Separation” of Taosim, the suffering that is the first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, Original sin as taught in some religious sects that claim to be Christian, and many other religious traditions, especially including the religious dogma avoidable accidents of the religion I understand as the Anglo-American Adversarial System of Law and Jurisprudence.

    I live in accord with a simple principle, the one I lived in accord with even before I was born. Perhaps it is, or is tantamount to, the telling of the Eternal Tao that, supposedly cannot be told.

    Tell me that the Eternal Tao cannot be told and I take that telling to be a testable hypothesis, just as I take everything else I have ever been told.

    Methinks that the Eternal Tao, told in English words, is the essential principle of existential process reality, to wit:

    Whatever happens, as it happens, is necessary and sufficient.

    Am I smarter or less smart than is anyone else? I have no way to make the measurement needed to sort that out. After all, so called “intelligence tests” merely measure acculturation.

    If I did not learn to think in words or pictures, I am as content to attribute that to the signification of the parable of the sower and the seed as to my being profoundly autistic stupid.

    Whatever.

    Neurological trauma, alas, is as real as is anything else, though, before technology allowed understanding some rather fine details of biology, trauma as a cause of human war mongering was an untestable hypothetical. Not so, any more.

    There is a story in story book, about a broad path that many find, a path that is seemingly easy, and another, narrow path that few find, a path that is hard.

    Reality defined by consensus is the broad path that leads to perdition?

    Reality defined by uncorrupted individual conscience is the narrow path that leads to life?

    Fortunately stories are only stories.

    “The Court is forever adding new stories to the temples of constitutional law, and the temples have a way of collapsing when one story too many is added.”

    Justice Robert H. Jackson, U.S. Supreme Court, in Douglas v. City of Jeanette, 1943.

    I am adding one story to the court of public opinion, doing so in accord with the Code of Ethics of the National Society of Professional Engineers, of which I am a member.

    Nowhere, as I have read and studied the Constitution of the United States or several of the various state Constitutions, do I find it specified that the courts or the law need be adversarial.

    There are now two systems in place, one based, so I observe, on pre-historic religious superstitions that could not heretofore be correctly recognized as such for want of sufficient scientific achievement, and the other based on contemporary science and scientific progress.

    The superstitious religion is the Adversarial System, the scientific approach is that of scientific psychology and scientific psychotherapy.

    The superstitious religion creates its own necessity through the neurological abuse of the deception of belief in avoidable accidents. The scientific approach resolves the trauma of the indoctrination of religious superstitions that deny that which is directly observable.

    And yet, as an aspect of human social evolution the falsification of the hypothetical avoidable accident has required that the avoidable accident hypothesis be rigorously tested, so that its falsification can also be rigorously tested.

    Is it not truth which ultimately prevails?

    When will the ultimate arrive in tangible form?

    Believe my thesis and dissertation to be false?

    Show me that an actually avoidable accident can actually happen.

    How? Not by a hypothetical.

    I can concoct hypotheticals at a rapid pace. Let me demonstrate…

    The earth is very nearly at the center of the universe. Why? Because the center of the observable universe is the observer of the observable universe. Why? because of the nature of the observability of the observable universe. Why? Because the unobservable universe is unobservable.

    Silly hypotheticals are simple to concoct.

    Or…

    Demonstrate the actual happening of one avoidable accident, by which I mean, demonstrate the actual happening of the accident and then actually demonstrate that the actually demonstrated accident was not actually demonstrated, thereby actually demonstrating that the accident was actually avoidable because it did not actually happen.

    I tend to agree with neurologist Robert C. Scaer, that time corrupted learning is trauma is imprisonment of the mind. See Scaer, “TheTrauma Spectrum,” W. W. Norton, 2005, particularly the first page of Chapter 3. I am not alone in doing the sort of work I am doing.

    People enamored of groupthink tend to shun those who are not entrained within their particular groupthink mindset? Why else do organized, established religions often seem so very adept at generating violently destructive warfare?

    Quod erat demonstrandum?

  33. @Brian: No, as an academic a dissertation published by a school on the Internet does NOT make it a peer reviewed paper. You are lying to puff yourself up. A dissertation is accepted by a committee, nothing more. That is not considered a “peer review,” it is only an acceptance by the committee that you have met your school’s standards of a dissertation, whatever they may be.

    Schools cannot simply review themselves in a closed system of their own professors and count their publications as “peer reviewed.” If your school does that, it is just a diploma mill and means nothing. You are lying to us, and perhaps to yourself.

  34. If the officer improperly arrested him out of arrogance, and made false charges or trumped up charges, I do not see any reason why he should be allowed to continue in his job.

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