NOPD'S First Amendment Training Documents Requested By ACLU
Interference With Photographing Police Action Prompts Request For Public Records
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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New Orleans, LA – Concerned about repeated interference with the public’s right to photograph police conduct, the ACLU of Louisiana has send a request to Superintendent Ronal Serpas seeking documents pertaining to First Amendment training provided to NOPD officers. This request was prompted by the events surrounding the Krewe of Eris parade on March 6, 2011, during which an NOPD officer knocked a cell phone camera out of the hands of its owner who was filming police conduct on the street.
For many years the ACLU of Louisiana has been troubled by an ongoing pattern of First Amendment violations by NOPD officers. In June, 2010, the ACLU of Louisiana released a report entitled “Observing, photographing & filming the New Orleans Police Department,” which outlines fifteen instances in which people were prevented from filming or otherwise recording police conduct. “Superintendent Serpas is well aware of the longstanding problem within the NOPD on this issue,” said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “He has seen our report. He has promised enhanced training for his officers on this very important issue. That it has happened yet again indicates that the changes that he promised last year have not yet been implemented.”
As the NOPD broke up the Eris parade on March 6, at least one video shot by a witness shows what appears to be police using a Taser on a parade participant. That video, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JcrztJN5pY&feature=player_embedded also shows an officer knocking the camera out of the hand of the photographer, who was able to retrieve it and continue filming. Esman continued: “Only in a police state, in which law enforcement has no accountability to the public, should police fear disclosure of their conduct. If police are acting properly, they should welcome scrutiny of their actions. That NOPD officers continue to interfere with the fundamental right to record their activities suggests that they know they are acting outside the law.”
In its letter, the ACLU requested all documents that show information provided to NOPD officers concerning the rights of the public to record, in any fashion, what they see in public and training materials on First Amendment rights and protections.
Under the law, the NOPD has until March 18 respond to the ACLU’s letter.
A copy of the ACLU’s letter can be found here: https://www.laaclu.org/PDF_documents/Serpas_Re_1stAmendment_031511.pdf
The ACLU’s June 2010 report can be found at:
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