Police officers Connecticut really screwed the pooch.
When Connecticut state police officers set up DUI checkpoints around Hatford, Michael Picard took to protesting what he believes is an “unconstitutional” policy and a “waste of money.“ The state police didn’t take kindly to his protest — which included a sign handwritten by Picard that read “Cops Ahead, Remain Silent” — but instead of trying to rationally speak to Mr. Picard about his protest, they decided to activate “police mode” and take a huge blue dump all over the First Amendment.
Now the ACLU is involved. The ACLU of Connecticut is suing the police officers for an incident that took place after the officers harassed Mr. Picard — an incident caught on camera, without the officer’s knowledge…
On Sept. 11, 2015, Connecticut state police officers went over to Mr. Picard and knocked his camera out of his hand. No “put the camera down, sir” or “please lower your camera” or anything like that. Just an open palm slapping of the camera to the ground. Both Mr. Picard and the police thought the camera was broken.
The officers then searched Mr. Picard and announced that he had a gun on his person. Connecticut is an open carry state and Mr. Picard has a permit, so this would ultimately amount to nothing. The state police officers take Mr. Picard’s gun and head over to their cruiser to run the weapon and check to see if Mr. Picard is allowed to carry.
It’s at this point, Mr. Picard picks up his camera. He tries to tun it on and examine it, catching the attention of one of the officers. The cop marches back over to Mr. Picard and announces that “taking [his] picture is illegal,” prompting Mr. Picard to debate with the officer how it actually is not. The trooper, frustrated, grabs Mr. Picard’s camera and brings it over to the cruiser. He places it on top of the car.
Unknown to the officers, the camera is recording video. ACLU of Connecticut Legal Director Dan Barrett said of what happened next:
“So we get the three troopers at the cruiser talking about what to do. Michael’s permit comes back as valid, they say ‘oh crap,’ and one of the troopers says ‘we gotta punch a number on this guy,’ which means open an investigation in the police database. And he says ‘we really gotta cover our asses.’ And then they have a very long discussion about what to charge Michael with–none of which appear to have any basis in fact. This plays out over eight minutes. They talk about ‘we could do this, we could do this, we could do this…'”
So, Connecticut state police officers got pissed at a protestor, tried to silence him by destroying his property, then went out of their way to find guilt and ultimately found none. So the solution? Hand out bullshit charges against the guy who is being a pain in their ass, specifically “reckless use of a highway by a pedestrian” and “creating a public disturbance.”
But how would they make it stick? Well, if the plan by one of the police officers provides any indication:
“What we say is that multiple motorists stopped to complain about a guy waving a gun around, but none of them wanted to stop and make a statement.”
That’s as half-assed an explanation I’ve ever heard about anything.
At the end of the day, the actions of these police officers were abominable. They are civil servants whose job is to enforce the law, which includes protecting the constitutional rights of citizens within their jurisdiction. These police officers failed to do so. The ACLU of Connecticut and Mr. Picard seem to agree, since they’re suing the department on the following grounds.
- The police officers violated Mr. Picard’s right to record the exchange between the state police and himself, which includes the attempts at breaking the camera, the confiscation of the camera, and attempts to keep Mr. Picard from using his cell phone to take pictures of the cruiser’s license plates after the camera was confiscated.
- The police officers violated Mr. Picard’s Fourth Amendment right from illegal searches and seizures when they confiscated the camera without probable cause that it contained evidence of crime and without a warrant issued for its seizure.
- The police officers retaliated against Mr. Picard by manufacturing criminal charges that have no actual basis.
There is no expectation of privacy in a public area and a highway is a public area. The Connecticut state police really messed up here.
Featured image via Pexels.