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Sheriff's office pays out $85K in cellphone flap

Posted at 3:46 PM, Mar 18, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Marion County Sheriff’s Department has reached an $85,000 settlement in the case of deputies who stopped a citizen from video recording an officer’s actions.

On August 14, 2014, Paul Goldberg was walking on the sidewalk near Capitol Avenue and 29th Street on his way home from work when he saw Deputy John Miller making a traffic stop on the opposite side of the street, according to the complaint.

Goldberg used his cell phone camera and recorded the traffic stop, and did not interfere in any way, said the federal lawsuit, filed in February 2015.

Call 6 Investigates obtained a copy of the video recording following the settlement, which shows the deputy rapidly approaching Goldberg and demand that he stop recording.

RELATED | Body camera questions: State lawmakers to discuss policies for access to police video 

Watch the incident in the video player above 

Deputy Miller “Sir, if you continue recording, I’m going to use that for evidence and I’m going to have to confiscate that phone.”

Paul Goldberg: “I’m on the other side of the street.  I’m staying out of the investigation.”

Deputy Miller: “Step over here, to me sir please.”

Paul Goldberg: “I’m on the other side of the street.”

Deputy Miller “Step over here to me please!”

Paul Goldberg: “I’m allowed to film! You’re a public officer.”

Deputy Miller: “Sir, stop! You’re interfering with my investigation.  Stop!”

Paul Goldberg: “Don’t put your hands on me!”

Deputy Miller: “Stop the recording!”

Paul Goldberg: “Do not put your hands on me!”

Deputy Miller: “Sir, stop the recording! Stop the recording!”

As part of the confrontation, Deputy Miller grabbed Goldberg’s hand in an attempt to take the cell phone, court records show.

The citizen placed a call to 911 describing the incident and asked for another officer.

Deputies John Akers and Loran Wilber arrived at the scene, and Goldberg was handcuffed and ordered to sit on the curb.

“During the time he was in handcuffs, Deputy Akers and Deputy Wilber chastised Mr. Goldberg for recording the police, stating that he should know he can’t film the police and that he “can’t be doing that,” read the lawsuit. “Deputy Wilber told him he was going to be charged with resisting by fleeing and would be taken to jail.”

Goldberg agreed to delete the video, but was unable to locate the file.

Forty five minutes after Goldberg’s arrest, a sheriff’s supervisor came to the scene and decided Goldberg should not be charged with crimes and ordered deputies to release Goldberg.

Rich Waples, attorney for Goldberg, said his client suffered physical discomfort, loss of liberty, public embarrassment and humiliation, and emotional distress as a result of “false arrest, excessive force, and the violation of first amendment rights.”

“He’s arrested, subjected to humiliation, sitting on the side of the road, and this happened fairly close to his house where his neighbors could have seen him,” Waples said.  “So even though it was short term, it was pretty traumatic to him.”

In the $85,000 settlement agreement signed last month, the Marion County Sheriff’s Department agreed to formalize its written policy on citizen recording of policing activity and continue to provide training to its deputies on the policy.

“It’s a significant sum for the amount of time he was detained and what happened to him,” said Waples. "We all have rights to observe and record what our public officers are doing in public places.”

Call 6 Investigates has reached out to the sheriff’s department Thursday afternoon for comment, but the agency has not yet released a statement.

John Miller had been a Reserve Deputy for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office since August 23, 2003. He was terminated on January 26, 2016, according to Marion County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Katie Carlson.

Deputies Loran Wilber and John Akers are both active Reserve Deputies. Neither received any discipline, Carlson said.

Waples said the sheriff’s department investigated and did not find any wrongdoing.

Steve Key, general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association, said the case has implications for anyone with a camera.

“Citizens clearly have a right to video public employees or officials performing their duties, whether it's police, firefighters or the city council,” Key said. “Obviously, one shouldn't interfere with an officer conducting an investigation and respect a perimeter set up around a crime scene.”

Key viewed the video at the request of Call 6 Investigates.

“Clearly there was no interference with the ability of the officer to conduct the traffic stop in progress and the aggressive stance taken by the officer was unwarranted,” said Key. “I appreciate how police officers may feel they are now under a microscope with everyone carrying smartphones, but I believe the majority of officers are doing their job properly and shouldn't feel threatened by a citizen with a cell phone.”

Waples said video recording police officers’ actions is leading to a lot of questions on how law enforcement operates across the country.

“You have a right to be there, you have a right to record, and you should, not only to protect yourself but also other people,” said Waples. “Video is going to be the best evidence of what happened.”

PREVIOUS | Lawmakers consider bill that would limit access to police body camera video | State lawmakers discuss police body camera rules | Senate to hear bill to let police withhold body camera video

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