Recently, a post on CopBlock.org detailed how Andrew Henderson, a CopBlock member from St. Paul, Minnesota, was detained and harassed by the police there while he was filming as part of a test to see how many cops actually wore their seatbelts. Andrew had decided to do so after the St. Paul Police Department held a massive campaign to stop and ticket people for not wearing their seatbelts. He wanted to show the hypocrisy of the police, who are well known for not wearing seatbelts themselves, and for whom one of the leading causes of on the job deaths (far exceeding those of violence from suspects) is car accidents.
After he had documented several police cars and the police officers inside, none of whom were actually wearing seat belts, he was subsequently detained, questioned, and forced to show ID by Officer Armando Abla-Reyes. Officer Abla-Reyes incorrectly informed him that he could be detained for filming in public and also incorrectly stated that the sidewalk he was standing on was private property, threatening to arrest Henderson for trespassing, if he didn’t leave the area.
Now according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, the massive attention that video caused has prompted the St. Paul Police Department to launch an investigation into whether sidewalks are public property (spoiler: they are):
“It brought up a question: What is public, what is private?” Sgt. Paul Paulos, a St. Paul police spokesman, said Wednesday. “What we’ll also do is reach out to the city attorney’s office to get a finer definition…”
City Attorney Samuel Clark said Wednesday that his office is working with the police department “to clarify the rights of way applicable to the sidewalks around the public-safety buildings in the area…”
Paulos said Wednesday the department will provide more instruction to officers about the area around the police department, and what is public and what is private.
So, they’re going to get to the bottom of that thing the Supreme Court already decided decades ago. In the meantime, there’s a lot of hyperbole from the head of the police union about how much police are under fire these days and how it’s a reasonable threat worthy of detaining someone for filming the police or public buildings. However, as already stated the leading cause of on duty deaths for police, by far, are car accidents and, contrary to the other blatant lie in the article that “99.9%” cops wear their seatbelts, the fact that police often don’t wear them is a big contributor to that. Of course, if they weren’t out generating revenue by giving other people tickets for that very same behavior, that would be their problem.
Hopefully, they’ll get that whole public/private thing figured out soon, though. That way they can join the rest of us in the 21st century.
Andrew Henderson’s original video: