"Police officers may nominally be dedicated to serving and protecting. But even the best cop can't guarantee your freedom or your safety, while the worst can threaten both."
-Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News Channel
Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputies in Action
Alarming police force happens right here in Sonoma County with Alcohol, Traffic & DUI Arrests
Rhode Island Cop Convicted of Felony Assault for Kicking Handcuffed Woman in the Face (Click pic to view news story)
"Naturally, there are good cops and bad cops, just like lawyers, dentists and mechanics, but bad cops are perjurers with guns; they are thieves robbing civil rights and hooligans brutalizing the powerless, just as surely as any outlaw, gangster or domestic terrorist, dismantling democracy with every corrupt transgression."
-Dave Jake Schwartz, Sonoma County DUI Lawyer
Local Sonoma County Citizen Efforts
The Santa Rosa Police Accountability Clinic and Helpline (PACH) is a Sonoma County all-volunteer non-profit organization, funded by the ACLU and private donations, which identifies and reports on abusive police officers and practices.
The PACH website states that it exists to document police abuse, and to help survivors of Police Abuse find safety and support. PACH also participates in community based civil rights education. PACH may be reached at (707) 542-7224.
In 1990, the original Copwatch group, Berkeley Copwatch, began on Telegraph Avenue as an all-volunteer organization dedicated to monitoring police actions and non-violently asserting rights against the police. Since that time, many Copwatch-type organizations have sprung up across the nation, in various forms.
Make No Mistake, Filming the Police is a Dangerous Risk: Although Sonoma County DUI attorneys and civil rights lawyers believe that filming the police engaged in their public duties is fully legal and constitutionally protected conduct, nevertheless, one who decides to film the police assumes enormous personal risk of harrassment, injury and arrest.
Convictions for violating state laws against filming anyone, including the police, without their prior consent have been upheld by some state courts, notably Massachusettes, Illinois and Maryland (see Gizmodo's "Are Cameras the New Guns?").
From the right, watch former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano's commentary "Who Polices the Police?" on the Fox News Channel. From the left, read the Obama administration's Department of Justice amicus brief in Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Dept, where DOJ firmly states that the "First Amendment protects the recording of police officers performing their duties in public."
Arrests and civil rights law suits testing the fortitutde of the First Amendment are increasingly common in Jake's Sonoma County DUI Lawyer monthly reports of police excess and abuse posted on this very web page directly below, picked from the National Police Misconduct News Feed on Twitter. Note: after five years collecting daily news accounts of police misconduct in DUI and related arrests nationwide, Jake figured he'd made his point and gave up cataloguing to spend more time on his Sonoma County DUI clients.
But, the police are not often pleased to see anyone videotaping them. Numerous police agencies and police unions around the country have raised personal privacy objections, as well as claims of interference and public safety objections to such activity. The libertarian think tank CATO Institute states that the police continue to harass those who record police encounters. You may want to view their video, Cops on Camera.
California ACLU Smartphone App
Think First: If you decide to engage this risk, then remember that an effective, useful observer typically maintains a safe and objective distance rather than becoming a distracting, escalating or otherwise subjective participant in the incident.
Information to Collect: If you decide to record or film a Santa Rosa DUI arrest, or any other Sonoma County citizen-police encounter, then get witness statements with names and numbers. Immediately write down as much detail as you remember, including developments prior to filming. Add the names of police agencies, cop names or descriptions, badge & license plate numbers, date, time, and location.
Then, in the next 45 days, search the local Sonoma County police agency logs (for example, Sonoma County Sheriff, CHP, Santa Rosa, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Sebastopol police departments), and the press and internet, for the arrestee's name and contact information; any offer of film copy, witness statements and other information will likely be met with high praise and gratitude by anyone who believes they were victims of police excess.
Protected Speech: Angry Insults Directed at Police
Asserting Your Rights Can Hurt: Just like other conduct perceived by police to challenge their street authority (see discussion above about filming police encounters), any good Santa Rosa DUI attorney or civil rights lawyer would caution that hurling insulting speech or making obscene gestures at cops undeniably heightens the risk of excessive police force, injury and arrest.
But there is no doubt that, absent evidence such as incitement, police interference, or assault (in your face behavior), simply directing expletives and obscene hand gestures at law enforcement officers has long been held by courts to be expressions of disapproval toward the police, and therefore, political speech protected by the First Amendment.
But Cursing a Judge: NOT Protected Speech
Knowledgeable Sonoma County DUI lawyers will tell you, it is clearly established that police officers may not use their authority to punish an individual for exercising his or her First Amendment rights. For a good discussion of expletives aimed at the police, and unconstitutional police retaliation, see, Ford v. Yakima (9th Cir 2013).
Cop pleads guilty to filing a false DUI report. 11/2013, Newport News, VA
Man files federal lawsuit alleging civil rights violations after traffic stop for rolling a stop sign leads to anal cavity search for drugs never existing. 11/2013, Deming, NM
Federal appeals court reverses lower court, allows suit to proceed against two sheriff's deputies accused of slamming man into the ground so hard that he suffered a broken jaw, broken teeth and facial fractures during booking for DUI. 11/2013, Cincinnati, OH
Police chief fired after recording indicates writing traffic tickets more important to him than actually witnessing law violations: "If I seen a vehicle, I could always find some reason to stop them even if I made them do something stupid." 8/2013, Bethel Heights, AR
Man files federal lawsuit against department claiming cop, who plead guilty to punching, using stun gun on man after he was handcuffed and not resisting, was not stopped by superiors who were present. 7/2013, Pittsburgh, PA
Two women subjected to body cavity searches along a highway settled their federal civil rights lawsuit against the Texas Department of Public Safety for $185,000, female trooper was captured by patrol car video performing body cavity search for drugs during traffic stop, allegedly used the same glove for both body searches, no drugs were found, trooper later fired, indicted on two counts of sexual assault and two counts of official oppression. 6/2013, Dallas, TX
Man in custoday being processed at holding facility after arrest, seated in a chair surrounded by as many as nine deputies, allegedly beaten when one deputy went over and began punching him in the face, judge rules suit may proceed after Sherrif allegedly removed any record of the incident from the deputy’s personnel file. 6/2013, San Francisco, CA
Federal lawsuit filed after police fatally shoot man walking home with his brother, mistaking him for suspect in a traffic stop that turned chaotic with fleeing suspects firing at police. 4/2013, Oxnard, CA
Sacramento DUI cop pleads no contest to four felony counts of false DUI police reports and lying to the DMV during DUI license supsension hearings; case against officer alleged 34 counts of police misconduct. 3/2013, Sacramento, CA
Police sergeant faces vehicular homicide charges in fatal crash; claimed he was trying to track down a DUI driver before his police cruiser slammed in the other vehicle, but records reportedly show no dispatch call for a DUI driver. 3/2013, Albuquerque, NM
City settles civil lawsuit brought by woman alleging she was manhandled and arrested after shooting video of a traffic stop and high speed chase that happened in front of her house. 3/2013, Salisbury, NC
Top MADD decorated DUI cop arrested on suspicion of perjury and false reports in connection with "significant discrepancies" in a DUI case sparking an extensive crimnial investigation of alleged perjury. 3/2013, Newport News, VA
Federal civil rights suit filed against police who allegedly beat and tased man they thought was high on drugs even as his sister tried to tell police he was suffering from epilepsy. 2/2013, Indianapolis, IN
Federal appeals court rules state trooper not immune from suit claiming violation of civil rights when he arrested a man solely for cursing at the cop. 2/2013, Houston County, GA
Cop on trial accused of robbing three Hispanic men during traffic stops. 2/2013, Indianapolis, IN
Lawyer settles for $43K lawsuit against city after cops arrest him for obstruction after he shouted to a man being detained by officers, "Don't forget your constitutional right to remain silent". 1/2013, Salida, CO
Family of Napa man with record of arrests including DUI, sues sheriff's department for allegedly ignoring detainee in jail custody while he was sick and vomiting blood, later died without medical attention. 1/2013, Sacramento, CA