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. 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?

  2. 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.”

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  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.” (

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

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. Like what The Bobs just posted. There will be many small battles like this until the US Supreme Court rules.

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