Alabama police officer Kevin Fisher is practically begging to be sued for violating people’s rights when it comes to recording in public, knowing his Blue Privilege would protect him from any real discipline.
Late last month, the Dothan police officer detained PINAC’s Jeff Gray for recording from a public sidewalk, accusing him of creating a “disturbance,” suggesting he could possibly be stalking somebody with his camera. The cop has a history of violating people’s right to record in public.
Gray had been recording a string of ambulances running a stop sign outside a local hospital, prompting a security guard to confront him about recording in the direction of the hospital even though he was standing on a public sidewalk.
Fisher arrived and threatened to arrest Gray if he did not provide all his personal information, including his name, date of birth, address and social security number. Gray who was on his lunch break from his shift as a commercial truck driver provided his information under duress to avoid being arrested and losing his job.
It would have been an unlawful arrest because recording from a public sidewalk is protected by the First Amendment, according to numerous court decisions over the years. The general rule is that we can record anybody in public who does not have an expectation of privacy. It should be part of basic training for cops but it does not appear to be so because these arrests continue to take place.
Unfortunately, qualified immunity has protected cops like Fisher from any real repercussions. If anything, it will be the taxpayers that shell out the payoff with the cops admitting no wrongdoing.
But even then, Gray has been unable to find an attorney to take the case because there were no lasting damages that would guarantee a hefty payoff. Intimidation by threat of force and incarceration apparently does not qualify as punitive damages.
Two months earlier, Fisher arrested another man named Kevin Safford for exercising his First Amendment right to record in public, accusing him of “obstructing” even though Safford was standing about 25 feet from the traffic stop the cop was conducting.
Safford, a local activist that runs a YouTube channel called Mr. Bravo-Mike-Unchained, is well-known to the local cops because he regularly records cops. He does not have a history of violence even though the cops once accused him of assault.
The cops have no need to fear for their safety unless they are doing something illegal. But it appears as if they have learned long ago that they could regularly arrest and harass him without much consequence because there is no record of Saffold ever suing the Dothan Police Department.
According to the Dothan Eagle:
Saffold has numerous arrests on his record. Dothan police arrested Saffold on Dec. 11, 2014, for felony assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. Saffold later went to trial and was found guilty of a lesser misdemeanor third-degree assault charge and resisting arrest. At a pre-trial court hearing, Saffold said he had been arrested 56 times and had never assaulted a police officer. He has also been acquitted on other charges, including harassment and receiving stolen property, and has had several other charges dismissed.
He has been publicly critical of law enforcement. During a meeting of the Dothan City Commission, Saffold spoke and called for the removal of Dothan Police Chief Steve Parrish upon Parrish’s selection as chief in 2015. Saffold also purportedly uses a YouTube channel to post videos critical of police actions.
Earlier this year, Fisher was listed as a defendant along with two other officers in a lawsuit where he was accused of arresting another man recording in public, charging him with disorderly conduct.
But Fisher has since been removed as a defendant when the plaintiff, Doug Tanner, amended his complaint to say that Fisher only ordered the arrest but it was Dothan police officer Raymond Gross who made the arrest. The suit is still pending and can be read here.