Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cop Watcher in Santa Cruz shut down by private security guards

Human Rights abuse in itty-bitty Santa Cruz: [link]

"Cops Claim Metro Bus Center "Private Property" To Shut Down Disabled Advocate with Video" 
2014-07-31 by Robert Norse []:
I received a report yesterday from disability advocate John Colby. Colby observed SCPD Officer Scott Freeman and two First Alarm Security guards at the Metro Transit Center taking an intoxicated man to a squad car. Colby became concerned, having seen the video of last year's "face first drop to the sidewalk" of Richard Hardy by Officer Vasquez ("SCPD Officer Vasquez Slams Drunk Man's Face On Pavement" at To document the incident, Colby pulled out his video device. He reports being denounced by a female supervisor who refused to give any ID. She and the guards booth insisted he stop recording because the Public Transit Center was "private property". SCPD Officer Freeman made no attempt to protect Colby's rights.
Colby noted that the incident began around 5:30 p.m. near the central "coffee shop" area the Transit Center where he was waiting for his bus. When he pointed his video device at the incident, a supervisor indignantly demanded what his business was in the Center and then advised him that videoing was not allowed. Colby asked what law was involved, upsetting her. After storming off, she returned with another security guard in tow. John explained to them that he was in an area open to the public and that it was public property. She then pulled out a smart phone, said "I'm going to take a picture of you". John replied "go ahead" and smiled and waved into the camera.
Colby also expressed some concern that the one of the First Alarm Security guards began riffling through the man's pockets and wondered if that wasn't beyond the legitimate powers of private security. The angry supervisor and several security guards, he noted, continued to confer and gesture at him, gathering near the bus that he normally took home. "I felt intimidated," he said, "I wondered if she was seeking more information or trying to make trouble for me with the drivers.
Out of fear of further harassment and delay, John put away his recorder under pressure from the security guard.
As well he might. But I'm glad Colby spoke up for everyone's right to be at the Metro and document police behavior there. I've suffered arrest and conviction for doing the same in the past (See "Ticketing for Standing and Talking at the Metro Bus Stop Sunday" at ). However in spite of a false conviction, I have not altered my treatment of the Metro as a public space. Several weeks after I got my citation 6 years ago, I led a protest at the Metro which freely assembled and videoed. (See "Rotkin Claims: No Flyering Allowed at the Metro Center" at )
Later at home, Colby said he followed up by calling the police numerous times to request an informational report from Freeman to document any further misinformation to the public about "illegality". After four hours and numerous calls, Colby eventually got a response from Sgt. Christian Le Moss Le Moss, Colby reports, was polite and agreed that he had the right to record, as did the other officer. Le Moss agreed to "educate" security guards on the issue to avoid future such attacks. Colby requested a copy of a report of the incident to document that promise.
One wonders why Officer Freeman didn't advise the Security Guards and the Supervisor that Colby had the right to record, and to leave him alone. Or at least not to misinform him. Damage control later by Le Moss, however politely given, doesn't mean Metro authorities won't pull this nonsense at the next journalist or passing pedestrian who wants to capture a questionable incident on video or audio.

Corrections by John Colby 2014-08-01:
To correct the article, Officer Freeman in no way was negligent. Officer Freeman took my information report and agreed to educate Metro staff and 1st Alarm Security guards. Sergeant LeMoss was not doing "damage" control: he agreed with my POV and was very polite.
Both Sergeant LeMoss and Officer Freeman were extremely professional. Both of them were courteous to me.
I was not harassed by "cops". I was harassed by Metro staff and 1st Alarm security guards.

UPDATE: "Apologies to Officer Freeman" by Robert Norse, 2014-08-02:
On further conversation with John Colby, he clarified the initial harassment from Metro security and the supervisor happened at a distance of 40' from SCPD Officer Freeman. Colby also noted that he had no impression that Freeman was aware of the recording incident until he returned a phone call later. At that point, Colby noted, Freeman expressed no knowledge of it and affirmed his right to record.
Given an even more recent incident of SCPD harassment of a video Copwatcher ( ), I think it's far from unusual for some SCPD officers to mislead members of the public and the media as to their rights in this matter. It's always easier for police agencies if no one is watching.
I do retain my skepticism that Sgt. Le Moss was doing other than "damage control", since I suspect there are regular interactions if not official meetings between Metro security and SCPD. I can't imagine this issue (of folks recording incidents at the Metro) hasn't come up before.
But I'm sorry my initial communication with Colby wasn't clearer and glad the matter has been cleared up.
I encourage others to report in how compliant police officers are on the street when you pull our your video device.

"What is the SCPD's policy about 'cop-watching'?" 
2014-08-01 letter from Dr. John Colby to Kevin Vogel, Chief of Police of Santa Cruz:
Dear Chief Vogel:
I am writing to serve you notice that the Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) harasses "cop-watchers" protecting the civil rights of people in protected classes like people of color which has been witnessed by my sister and I -- but today we were able to video record this harassment. To the point:
** This afternoon around 1:30 PM SCPD Officer Bill Azua illegally cited an African American man -- grouped with other African Americans -- in downtown Santa Cruz for smoking while my sister and I observed that this man had not been smoking.
** Officer Azua took this man aside and ran him for priors -- also illegally -- while he was citing him for smoking. I approached Officer Azua while he was detaining this African American man with my video camera. Officer Azua not only refused to identify himself, but also demanded that I move back. I asked Azua how far I needed to move back. Azua responded that I must move so that "I [he] couldn't see me." Clearly this would prevent me from video recording the incident. I moved back five feet then asked Azua is that was far enough. Azua replied, "No." I moved back five more feet. Again I asked Azua if I was far back enough. He refused to answer. Another officer came to Azua's side and also refused to identify himself. This incident lasted for several minutes as captured on digital video. As the officers left I video recorded them. The unidentified officer pointed a video camera at me.
** The African American men walked away. Azua followed them in his car to Laurel Street fronting the Taco Bell. He was then accompanied by SCPD Officer Ahlers from the Gang and Drug Task force. Azua and Ahlers took an imposing stance watching these men. I asked Officer Ahlers to identify himself. He ignored me. I asked Officer Azua to identify himself. He refused. Azua accused me of harassing them. I asked him if asking for identification constituted harassment. He replied that me talking to police officers when they didn't want to speak with me constituted harassment.
** A Pacific Ave, Taco Bell employee walked past Azua while smoking a cigarette. Azua did nothing. After I began video recording this employee, she became angry and began speaking with Azua while she had a burning cigarette in her hand. Azua did not cite her for smoking a cigarette -- she was Caucasian. The manager of the Taco Bell demanded that I stop video recording his employees from the public sidewalk. I informed him this was legal. He implied that he would have Officer Azua take action against me if I continued to video record.
** Minutes later my sister was on the telephone with SCPD Sergeant Jones. this sergeant defended Azua's demand that I move out of sight while video recording. In response to my question about how far "cop-watchers" should be from SCPD officers while video recording, Jones replied 40-50 feet. I responded that this was too far, that it would prevent any audio recording. I asked Jones what statute or policy supported this. He said it was his "opinion".
** Officer Azua and another Police Officer in another car continued to circle around the area, following these African American men, apparently to harass them

To clarify the demands and opinions of Azua and Jones, I am making a request under the California Public Records Act (CPRA). I ask for:
* the most current documents which describe the SCPD's policies about citizens (video) recording SCPD personnel.
* If these records are available electronically, then I ask that they be made available to me electronically. I am willing to pay a fee of up to $5 for this request.
Thank you for providing me records which will shed light on what happened today.
Sincerely yours,
[signed] John E. Colby, Ph.D.

From: Jacqueline Drechsler <>
Date: Wed, Aug 13, 2014 at 3:14 PM
Subject: SCPD PRA Response - Subject: What is the SCPD's policy about "cop-watching"?
To: "John Colby"
Mr. Colby,
The SCPD does not have any responsive records to your request.
Thank you, [signed] Jacqui Drechsler

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