On October 16, 2015, Severin Freeman Of Lehigh Valley CopBlock and two other Copblockers were conducting multiple First Amendment audits of local police stations in Lehighton, PA. The point of these exercises were to ensure the public’s right to record in public spaces was being respected. More often than not, the police ignored us & went about their business, so we would move on within about 20 minutes or so.
We were also investigating a local rumor that one department in the area has suspended our First Amendment by arresting filmers and/or confiscating cameras. The entire encounter that day is spelled out in my previous article: here.
Thanks to all of you call-flooding the department, they decided to release our cameras in less than a week. We provided a second update spelling out the corruption this department is attempting to brush under the rug and showed our footage of the incident.
Ever since the unjustified arrest, the PSP have done all they can to escape justice. The department has refused every attempt we made to obtain the surveillance footage of our arrest. Why is this a big deal if we have our own footage? Because our cameras were quickly taken and turned off. We were denied a phone call and even our right to not identify ourselves (we committed no crime). The officers physically went into our pockets for our IDs despite our objections. We loudly protested being searched and demanded an officer record our entire time there because we feared for our safety. That request was denied and even mocked as one officer told another “the best way to deal with these kind of people is to ignore everything they say.” Their footage will show a blatant violation of our rights from the minute the officer decided to arrest us for nothing other than filming outside of their station.
It gets even more bizarre. After we were released, we realized someone had been in my car. The dash cam was pointed at the ceiling instead of out the front window and had been unplugged. The arresting officer had asked if it was my car when in custody and my response was very clearly stated, “NO, you do not have permission to touch my car! Yes, it’s my vehicle and you need a warrant to enter it!”
Why won’t they release their video footage? We have filed FOIA requests/appeals, wrote letters, and even contacted our state representatives. Still, no video produced.
Now, the judge in our case has decided that the security footage IS evidence and has ordered the Pennsylvania State Police to release it under penalty of contempt. The judge received his answer yesterday (pictured below). DENIED!!
Even the Judge is getting toyed with. The department states the reason for the denial is the request was addressed to the wrong person, but that is FALSE. PSP’s webpage says that requests can be submitted to the department itself OR to the main PSP headquarters in Harrisburg, PA. The department is playing games, plain and simple. They know they are caught and completely in the wrong, so now the thin blue line will kick in and they all start to cover for each other. DISGUSTING!
Watch Our Arrest
I encourage you all to contact the Pennsylvania State Police and ask them why they believe they get special privileges. Also ask them to release the footage being requested!
Contact them via Facebook OR:
Phone Number: 610-681-1850
Officers Involved: Corporal Waltman or his supervisor, Sergeant Vadel
Department Involved: PA State Police in Lehighton, PA