Video-ing Police and Being Charged with Bogus Crimes
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Date of Interaction: June 15, 2014
I am a 41 year old woman who lives and owns a business in Massachusetts.
I was walking home from my office at about 10:30pm on June 15th, and I saw a police car parked in what seemed like an odd spot in the intersection next to a public park in my neighborhood. I immediately became nervous about what police activity might be in progress. As I approached the park, I observed an officer questioning three individuals in the park, two women and one man. I stopped at the gate and began witnessing the event. I turned on my phone’s video camera, held it up with both hands in front of me, and watched quietly. The officer, we’ll call him Officer 1 for now, noticed me right away and asked if I was recording. I said yes. He asked me why and I explained that I was a concerned neighbor and that I was witnessing the event. He acknowledged my “right” to be recording but seemed slightly upset by it. He told me that it was “rude” to be recording someone without their consent. I asked the three individuals if they minded me recording. They said no, they did not mind.
A second officer, Officer 2, showed up and the two officers continued questioning the individuals in the park. Both officers turned their backs to me. Officer 1 left the group and began wandering around the back of the park, then he returned and singled out the man of the group and brought him to a dark area in the back of the park for some reason, I do not know why. The other officer still had his back turned to me. I could not see or hear anything that was happening so I entered the park through the open gate to move closer to where Schneider was questioning the man. I moved slowly and obviously, since Officer 2 had his back turned to me, I did not want to seem like i was sneaking up on him. I moved off to the side so I could be in his view, keeping a distance of about 15 feet from where Officer 2 was questioning the two women, and still about 25-30 feet from where Officer 1 was questioning the man.
Officer 2 at that point turned to me and said, “Miss, can I help you?” I didn’t have time to answer. Immediately, Officer 1 left the man in the back of the park and walked up to me, demanding my identification. They did not ask me to exit the park. The officers then let the three other individuals go and focused their attention on me. I asked Officer 1 if I was being charged with a crime, and he said no. I asked if I was being detained; he said yes. I asked if I was free to go, and he said no. I asked if I was under arrest; he said no. I asked him again if I was being detained; again, he said yes. I asked if he was charging me with a crime; he said he wasn’t sure. I repeated these questions, asking him to explain the difference between being detained and being under arrest, because I didn’t know. He then called for a Sergeant to come to the scene. He continued to demand my identification. I asked him if he would arrest me if I did not identify myself. He said he would. I responded that if my only options were to identify myself or to be put in handcuffs and brought to a jail cell, that I would identify myself. He said yes, those were my options. I identified myself under duress as I was afraid of being arrested.
The Sergeant arrived and Officer 1 went off to speak with him privately. Officer 1 returned and informed me that I had “escalated” the situation by witnessing the police activity and, because of that, he was going to file a criminal charge of trespassing and that I would receive a court summons in the mail.
I have now received a court summons and am being charged with “Interfering with a police officer” and “Trespassing.”
Both of these charges are false.
I did not at any time interact with the officers except when they initiated conversation with me. I did not in any way “intimidate, hinder, or interrupt” their activity. As a witness, I felt intimidated by the police who did not seem to want me witnessing the police activity.
While the park does have signs stating what the park hours are, and the incident was occurring past the park’s stated closing time of 10pm, the sign does not say, “No trespassing,” the officers did not ask me to leave the park, and further, the signs indicate that the park closes for reasons of keeping the neighborhood quiet, not causing disturbances, etc. Since I was simply witnessing a disturbance that was already in progress, and police activity that was of concern to me as a neighbor, I do not feel that my entering the park could be considered trespassing.
Toward the end of my interaction with the police, as they were stating their intention to charge me with a crime of trespassing, all three officers cited reasons of “officer safety” for not wanting me to be there witnessing the event. However, during the earlier part of the event, the officers deliberately chose to keep their backs turned to me. I had no reason to believe they would consider me a threat to their safety. They did not ask me to stand back or to keep my distance, and they had acknowledged my right to be there witnessing the event.
As a witness of police activity in progress, I was deliberately mindful of keeping my presence quiet and unobtrusive, yet obvious and unsuspicious. Both my hands were clearly visible at all times, I kept a minimum 15 ft distance from them, and kept any movement slow, cautious, and obvious.
I feel that my rights were violated since the officer stated he was not charging me with a crime, but yet demanded that I identify myself, and further threatened to arrest me if I did not comply.
My hearing is coming up on July 24th. I am not a criminal. I am a hard-working woman who is concerned about what’s happening with police in this country.
I’m not sure what to do about these charges.