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While citizen journalism via videos filmed by smartphones and other portable video equipment has proven to be invaluable in the efforts of law enforcement, that seems to only apply when police aren’t among those being filmed. A 28-year-old Rochester, New York woman has been charged with “obstructing governmental administration” after failing to obey a police officer who ordered to leave her front yard while she was videotaping a traffic stop.
Emily Good is somewhat of an activist and has been arrested before for civil disobedience. She filmed the police officers while they were conducting a traffic stop in front of her home. She said she did so because she wanted to capture an example of racial profiling, which she said is quite common in her area.
In Good’s videotape, Officer Mario Masic can be heard telling her that the officers feel threatened by her standing behind them. Masic then asks her return to her house, which she refused to do. Eventually, after arguing about her right to stand on her own lawn, she was warned she that if she continued to rebuff their orders would arrest her. Finally, after Good continued to argue with the police, she was handcuffed and arrested.
The incident escalated among other activists It sounds like the police have something to hide, and they weren’t afraid to retaliate against anyone organizing to help Good either. On Thursday night, local activists got together at a place called the Flying Squirrel Community Space to show support for Good and discuss police accountability. Apparently authorities were aware of the meeting; during it, some police officers walked around the neighborhood, measuring how far car were parked away from the curb, and ticketing those more than 12 inches away.
An example of a fine use of public funds? Perhaps not. A spokesperson for the Rochester police chief said the officers hadn’t been assigned to that duty, and that an investigation will take place. There is also an investigation ongoing in Good’s arrest, which took place in May.
Good is to appear Monday in City Court on the obstructing of governmental administration charge. Her lawyer, Stephanie Stare said,
“A motion to dismiss has been filed on the grounds of what she did is not a crime (and) doesn’t rise to the statutory level of what’s required for obstruction of government administration. She didn’t do anything wrong.”
It is something that has been noted as occurring more frequently, of late. As citizen oversight of police, including recording their activities and incidents via smartphones and cell phones has become easier, so has the number of incidents of police arresting people for doing just that.
It’s seems to be unfair and one-sided: police are free to record whatever they like (and even broadcast it on shows such as “Speeders”) but not vice versa?
Update: The charges have been dropped. In a joint statement supporting the decision to drop the charges, Rochester’s mayor, City Council president and police chief said:
“Whatever the outcome of the internal review, we want to make clear that it is not the policy or practice of the Rochester Police Department to prevent citizens from observing its activities — including photographing or videotaping — as long as it does not interfere with the safe conduct of those activities.”
You can watch Good’s video, along with another citizen journalism video showing officers measuring the distance of cars from curbs below.