New York Settles Case Of The Arrest Of Two Protesters For Insulting Police

215px-NypdpatchNew York city has reportedly agreed to pay two Occupy Wall Street protesters $52,000 for their arrest in 2013 after flipping off two New York City police officers on a Queens subway train. The arrests of Nicholas Thommen, 21, and Channing Creage, 26, clearly violated the first amendment and lacked probable cause of any crime. The question is not the settlement but, again, the absence of any indication of discipline of these officers for knowingly violating the constitutional rights of citizens.

Few people are sympathetic with these two men who also allegedly shouted that all police are “f—— rapists.” However, they were arrested for disorderly conduct for insulting police, which is well established as not a basis for such a charge.

My concern is that officers can knowingly arrest people on invalid grounds just to punish them — forcing them to go to jail, be charged, and secure lawyers. It can easily cost thousands of dollars and even cost people their jobs. Yet, when these stories of settlements come out, there is rarely any mention of the firing or disciplining of the officers involved. The City simply said that the settlement was in the best interest of the city. What is in the best interest of the city is some level of deterrent for officers conducting clearly invalid arrests that violate free speech rights of citizens.

I find what these men allegedly said to be deeply offensive. While I have both sued and defended law enforcement officers, I have never lost a deep sense of appreciation for what they do every day for all of us. However, the use of police powers to punish critics or chill free speech is something that no free society can tolerate.

What do you think?

35 thoughts on “New York Settles Case Of The Arrest Of Two Protesters For Insulting Police”

  1. Some questions of morality and ethics, not law:

    Are the police expected to walk down the street every day and have every person they pass taunt them with some obscene insult?

    How will this help law and order and a civilised society flourish?

    When does free speech become abuse?

    Should we tolerate abuse so long as it is directed only at certain subsections of society?

    Should we ENCOURAGE abuse so long as it is directed only at certain subsections of society?

    1. Paul Compton – one thing my criminal law professor taught me was that you cannot disturb the peace of the uniformed officer. They are held to a higher standard. So, yes, they take the taunts, etc. Part of the job.

  2. IDK, if the cops shot them it would just be another case of self defense and dead people don’t sue although they have been noted to vote in droves.

  3. I have worked w/ easily a couple thousand cops from many different states over almost 40 years working in the justice system. They range from local, state and federal. I have cop friends. I know cops I would not piss on if they were on fire. I KNOW cops. The commenter @ 1:37p is a well documented cop hater. I don’t love or hate cops. I know them as HUMAN BEINGS. Many good, some bad.

  4. “In actual, non-TV reality? Who knows? Oh. That’s right. Nick Spinelli does. He must have more cable TV channels “than just about everyone here.”

    I have no idea what you’re referring to but it segues nicely with this….if it doesn’t get censored.

    Andrew Dice Clay speaks for many of enraged types. 🙂

  5. I know cops.

    Really? How is that possible? There are 800,000-1,000,000 or more cops in this country. That’s an estimate. We don’t know exactly. Giving a rather ridiculous benefit of the doubt, let’s assume you know 800-1,000 cops really, really well.

    That’s 0.1% or less.

    This country know next to nothing about it’s police. It’s 2016 and we don’t even track how many people cops kill every year. The Department of Justice tracks how many children are killed by babysitters, but not by cops. This is intentional ignorance.

    Ignorance keeps the myth of our good cop heroes alive. Well, ignorance of reality and a never ending slew of television shows and movies glorifying them.

    In actual, non-TV reality? Who knows? Oh. That’s right. Nick Spinelli does. He must have more cable TV channels “than just about everyone here.”

  6. The rich and powerful corporate machine flips us all off every day, I do not see them getting charged with anything….

  7. There is a difference between reacting to improper police behavior and instigating an altercation. The punks that fingered the cops and yelled f**king police are rapers were instigating an altercation. The police were more than justified in addressing this. The only question here is how they addressed it and how they should have addressed it. A ticket, documenting the incident would have been the fit for these punks. Then when they arrive in front of the bench, or not, the prosecutor can bring up what upstanding citizens they are.

    The cops could have walked away. However this sort of behavior by punks would have been encouraged.

  8. steve, I know cops. I know some are bad, many are good. Some people come to these posts w/ cops w/ an agenda. I don’t trust a cop until I know them. I don’t judge them unless I was there or have the facts. I agree, detaining w/o cause is a big deal. Particularly for small potatoes like this. This is not a perfect world, and cops deal w/ our imperfections daily.

  9. It’s way past time for laws making it a felony for a police officer to knowingly charge someone falsely with a crime. My favorite is cops who charge someone simply with “resisting arrest.”

    We’re not going to see any slackening of police violence and abuse until we have citizen oversight committees with teeth, and not citizen oversight committees made up of preachers and middle class twits who have never been nor ever will be the target of the police’ campaign of systematic, violent racist oppression of the poor, the Black and the powerless.

  10. When it comes down to it, you have the cops over reacting and the kids looking for trouble. There are no hard and fast rules for these situations. There are no sacred texts that cover this. In the end the issue was addressed and hopefully the cops got a tune up. More importantly did the punks get a tune up. These days, probably not, they more than likely have with others become more emboldened. Kind of sad, Constitution not withstanding.

  11. It comes down to the personality of the cop. I know cops better than just about everyone here. Most cops would have let this slide. The unknown here is just how disruptive these 2 people were. San Diego cops have a unit for street people. I know some of the homeless and have gotten to know and observe a few of the cops. They have the correct personality for dealing w/ disturbed people. In a perfect world, all cops would have the correct demeanor for dealing w/ these people. Last time I checked, this world was many miles away from perfect.

    1. Nick, cops are drilled from day one on the grounds for which they have authority to detain. To detain without grounds is a BIG DEAL.

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