Listen to this article here
Sign-Up for a free subscription to The Black Wall Street Times‘ daily newsletter, Black Editors’ Edition (BEE) – our curated news selections & opinions by us for you.
A woman who was charged with a misdemeanor for recording Minnesota police holding two Black men at gunpoint has settled a federal lawsuit with the city.
Amy Koopman was charged with obstructing the legal process in 2018 after she stood on the opposite side of an intersection and live-streamed a police encounter where officers were holding two Black men at gunpoint.
Koopman, a church secretary at the time, said she wanted to live-stream the encounter on Facebook to guarantee the safety of the two Black men and impose consequences on the police.
“What was in my mind [was] Philando Castile,” Koopman told CBS News.
Castile was shot and killed by a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer six years ago during a traffic stop while his girlfriend live-streamed the encounter on Facebook. Castile told the officer that he was a registered gun owner and was reaching for his ID when Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot him seven times in front of his girlfriend and her six year old daughter.
Black Men Held At Gunpoint By Police
Koopman recorded the police holding two Black men at gunpoint during a traffic stop in order to try and protect them as best she could. She hollered for police to put away their weapons, and after the men were arrested, she was cited for obstruction.
A Hennepin County judge dismissed the charges concluding that “no reasonable officer could view her shouting as physically blocking or interfering in the performance of their duties.”
“The ability to record police, stand witness and hold police misconduct up to public scrutiny is critical to help stop killings by police and over-policing,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota staff attorney David McKinney, who represented Koopman in her lawsuit, the Star Tribune reported. “This settlement sends a clear message to law enforcement across our state that cracking down on people’s constitutional rights to record or speak to police is bad public policy, and will not be tolerated.”
Following the dismissal of her misdemeanor in 2019, Koopman filed a federal civil lawsuit against the city.
Koopman settled with the city for $70,000, but also required that new guidelines, protocols, and training take place per the settlement.
Per the settlement, the Robbinsdale Police Department must develop regulations that codify onlookers’ rights to observe and record police activity while prohibiting officers from retaliating against bystanders who do so or who verbally criticize the action. There also has to be a policy subjecting officers who break the law or disregard departmental policy to discipline, up to and including termination.
States Passing Laws Trying To Block Onlookers From Recording Police
Multiple states across the country have attempted to pass laws prohibiting the recording of police officers while on duty.
As of Sept. 24, citizens of Arizona will no longer be allowed to take close-range recordings of police under a new bill signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday.
According to the law, “It is unlawful for a person to knowingly make a video recording of law enforcement activity if the person making the video recording is within eight feet of where the person knows or reasonably should know that law enforcement activity is occurring.”
The new Arizona law will take effect nearly a year after Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law a similar bill, which makes it illegal to post personally identifiable information, such as videos or photos, of police online “with threatening intent.”
Yet, in an interview with The Black Wall Street Times last year, the Oklahoma lawmaker who drafted the bill wasn’t able to define threatening intent or how the law would be enforced.