Open Letter to Humboldt District Attorney Gallegos: Return Our CopWatch Cameras!

Sent via email and personal delivery
April 5, 2010

Open Letter to Paul Gallegos,

On Monday, March 15, 2010, Mr. Ray Thompson and I were arrested while on CopWatch patrol.  CopWatch patrol means that a small group of us were out with video cameras, papers and pens, handouts with CopWatch and Know-Your-Rights information, and watchful eyes and ears- to observe the police as they interact with other members of the public.  Both Mr. Thompson and I are experienced observers and also well-versed in constitutional rights.  As you know, observing and filming police activity in public is constitutionally protected activity.  Although we encourage all people to stop, observe, and if possible film police anytime they see them interacting with the public, when we are 'on patrol,' those of us representing Redwood Curtain CopWatch wear visible patches that read “CopWatch.”  Redwood Curtain CopWatch  does not interfere with officers; we simply observe and document.  Our reputation confirms that.

 

On the evening of March 15, 2010, we were arrested by Humboldt County Sheriff Deputy J. Marsh on Broadway in Eureka simply because he was not accustomed to and was very disturbedat the idea of being filmed by members of the public-he did not want to be watched and filmed.  He made that clear, first, by being very aggressive and by yelling in a threatening tone the moment he saw us holding cameras, although we were far away from him and, second, by arresting only the two of us and not the third copwatcher who only had pen and paper.  Although now, as our Agreements to Appear reflect, Deputy Marsh would like us to be charged with a violation of Penal Code section 148 (A)(1)*, at the time, we did nothing to interfere with the officer. We did not speak to him, and we stayed at a great distance, even taking a wide circular path in the adjacent parking lot to give space to the small police scene on the sidewalk. Deputy Marsh, in fact, allowed a passer-by (without a camera) to go much closer to the police scene than we ever were.  Deputy Marsh had no cause to arrest Mr. Thompson and me.  Heactually approached meand demanded  I identify myself (and later did the same with Mr. Thompson).  He then grabbed the copwatch camera, turned it toward me, demanded again that I identify myself, then told me I was being arrested for refusing to do so.

 

At the jail, we were booked and released the next calendar day, March 16, 2010.  Deputy Marsh had, of course, seized our cameras and told us they would be held for evidence. 

 

These were clearly false arrests intended to chill our constitutional right to observe and film the police.  Given the excess of force that the local police regularly use and the consistent intimidation and violations of peoples' rights by the police, Redwood Curtain CopWatch is appreciated by the public. CopWatch is critical in: preventing police violence; empowering the community to pay attention; overcoming the extreme fear caused by police presence; and bringing our community closer to your purported, but selectively applied goal and motto-  “justice for all.”  

 

We are aware that Deputy Marsh's understanding is that our cameras will be held until our case, if you choose to bring one against us, is finished.  The holding of our cameras is an extension of  his blatant effort to prohibit us from exercising the constitutionally protected activities of observing and recording the police- activities which are a service to the community. We are willing to bring you the appropriate chords and technology for your office to retrieve the video fromthe cameras, but we want the cameras returned to us immediately.  The cameras themselves are notevidence of what happened- the video on the tape and disc are

 

I have been making phone calls to your office for more than two weeks, explaining in messages that I need to talk with you regarding a time sensitivematter.  You have failed to return any of my calls.  According to one of the receptionists in your office, the police report from Deputy Marsh did not arrive until almost three weeks after our arrests. 

 

The cameras need to be returned with no delay.  (It has already been 3 weeks too long).  We are sure many of the voting public will agree with us on this.  In order for us to arrange for me to come pick up the cameras, please reply to this email or call me at the PARC office on Monday, April 5, 2010 at the number I have left for you numerous times: (707) 442-7465. Thank you, in advance, for responding in a timely manner.

 

Sincerely,

 

/s/______________

Kimberly Starr

 

*Penal Code section 148 (a)(1): Resisting, Delaying, or Obstructing Officer: Every person who willfully resists, delays, or obstructs any public officer, peace officer ... in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his or her office or employment, when no other punishment is prescribed, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

Officer Profiles: