Gresham, Portland settle lawsuit over filming of police

Of the Associated Press

PORTLAND — Two Oregon cities adopted new policies and training to settle a federal lawsuit that alleged a police officer wrongfully seized and searched the cellphone of a woman who was documenting an arrest, it was announced Monday.

Carrie Medina, a self-described citizen journalist, said a Gresham police officer took her phone, twisted her arm and detained her while she tried to livestream the February 2013 arrest of a young man at a light-rail stop in downtown Portland.

The actions violated Medina's rights to free speech and free press, the lawsuit filed on her behalf said.

Though bystander video has become common in the age of the cellphone, ACLU of Oregon legal director Mat dos Santos said the organization still gets cases in which police try to stop filming or obtain the footage without consent or a search warrant.

The case is a reminder that filming police doing their jobs in public is a First Amendment right that provides a critical check and balance, he said.

“It creates an independent record of what took place in a particular incident, free from accusations of bias, lying or faulty memory,” he said. “It is no accident that some of our most high-profile cases of police misconduct have involved bystander video.”

The officer was working on a transit police detail, which includes police from Portland and Gresham. Both cities were named in the lawsuit along with the TriMet regional mass transit agency.

In addition to new police policies and training, Gresham also had to pay $85,000 in legal fees. Because Medina's lawyers worked the case for free, the money goes to the ACLU Foundation of Oregon.

Gresham spokeswoman Elizabeth Coffey said in an email that the city developed new policies and procedures shortly after the incident. “We will move forward from here and are thankful the settlement is resolved,” she said.

Medina said Monday she feels a sense of vindication. Since the incident, she has co-founded the group Film The Police Portland, which is dedicated to police accountability. “Almost everyone has a cellphone that can record video these days, and I believe police should always act as if they have a camera rolling,” she said.

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