The ACLU of Connecticut is suing the police after they accidentally recorded themselves on a phone they took from a protester as they were trying to come up with charges they could level against him for protesting.
According to ACLU of Connecticut Legal Director Dan Barrett, the man, Michael Picard, is “well known to the police” as “a peaceful privacy and open-carry gun rights activist.” On the night of the arrest, Picard was standing on a traffic island holding a sign protesting police DUI stops. The police arrived and immediately slapped Picard’s expensive camera out of his hands.
“It was really brazen. There’s another video showing that the first thing the state trooper does is walk up and with his open hand slap the camera down to the ground. He doesn’t even say anything like ‘put that down,’ or ‘please lower your camera.’ He just slaps it to the ground. Then he interacts with Michael as if nothing happened, as if, ‘I’m just allowed to do that, and I don’t even have to tell you why I just broke your camera.’ It’s an amazing level of hostility,” Barrett said.
After the police search Picard, they announce that he has a gun, which was already a well-known fact, and then go to run his license for the gun.
“Michael’s permit comes back as valid, they say ‘oh crap,’ and one of the troopers says ‘we gotta punch a number on this guy,’ which means open an investigation in the police database. And he says ‘we really gotta cover our asses.’ And then they have a very long discussion about what to charge Michael with—none of which appear to have any basis in fact. This plays out over eight minutes. They talk about ‘we could do this, we could do this, we could do this….’” Barrett said.
“In Connecticut, police officers have clear requirements under the law to intervene and stop or prevent constitutional violations when they see them. But at no time did any of the three officers pipe up and say, ‘why don’t we just give him his camera back and let him go,'” Barrett continued.
“In the end they decide on two criminal infractions: ‘reckless use of a highway by a pedestrian,’ and ‘creating a public disturbance.’ They have a chilling discussion on how to support the public disturbance charge, and the top-level supervisor explains to the other two, ‘what we say is that multiple motorists stopped to complain about a guy waving a gun around, but none of them wanted to stop and make a statement.’ In other words, what sounds like a fairy tale.”
Although eventually both charges were dismissed in court, it took a year for Picard to clear his name, and he has since filed a suit for the violation of his constitutional rights in the incident.