An Arkansas State representative who helped pass a state law protecting people who film police was arrested Monday while filming Little Rock police as they put a black man in handcuffs after a traffic stop.
The charges against Rep. John Walker have been dropped, but his colleague, fellow civil rights lawyer Omavi Shukur, faces charges for obstruction of government relations.
Officer Jeff Thompson wrote in his police report: “I ordered Walker several times to leave or be arrested. Walker replied ‘arrest me’ at which point I did.”
Police on Wednesday released dashcam video of the incident. “I’m just making sure they don’t kill you,” Walker told the man who had been pulled over, according to the police report.
Citizens who film police often face arrest or retaliation. For example:
- Ruben An sued the NYPD in July for arresting him in while he filmed police officers in 2014. Ramsey Orta, who filmed Eric Garner’s arrest in 2014, said he was later arrested in “retaliation.” He is suing the city of New York.
- Lynwood Keith Golden was arrested after filming police in Wetumpka, Alabama in June. He has filed a lawsuit.
- Maurice Crawley was arrested in Syracuse, N.Y., in July while filming an arrest, sparking protests.
- Kenneth Holmes was arrested in May while filming an arrest in Austin, Texas.
- A lawsuit alleges that police illegally detained Abdullah Muflahi, the man who filmed police officer Blane Salamoni shoot Alton Sterling. They seized his convenience store surveillance video and cell phone in Baton Rouge.
Arrest for filming are actually becoming less common, said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the ACLU. “The long time that it took police officers to recognize this right was in many ways an indictment of police management. It also shows that photography is a form of power,” he told the Intercept.
In February, though, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that two people who were arrested while filming police were not protected by the First Amendment. The ACLU has appealed the ruling.
“There is a Constitutional right to film the police that’s extremely well settled,” Stanley said. “Police have such tremendous power in our society… to use brutal and in some cases deadly force,” he added. “it’s important for police to engage in oversight.”