St. Louis Woman Sues Ferguson After Being Arrested, Detained for Videotaping Cops

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Ferguson Police are in the hotseat again. - PHOTO BY MITCH RYALS
  • Photo by Mitch Ryals
  • Ferguson Police are in the hotseat again.

A St. Louis woman filed suit against the city of Ferguson and Police Sergeant Harry Dilworth Monday, alleging that she was arrested for attempting to record a traffic stop on her cellphone.

As the suit describes it, Cachet Currie was driving in Florissant in December 2014 when she noticed that Ferguson police officers had stopped "a group of young people" on Dunn Road. She pulled over across the street and began recording their actions.
Cachet Currie, interviewed by KMOV in January.
  • Cachet Currie, interviewed by KMOV in January.

But the officers ordered her to stop filming and return to her car. When she refused, Sgt. Dilworth approached her and seized the phone that she'd just tucked into her pocket, the suit says. Then he handcuffed her and arrested her.

It gets worse.

At the station, Sgt. Dilworth allegedly demanded access to her phone. When she refused to give her passcode, he "threatened that she would never see her phone again since she could not prove it was hers."

After Currie was released, an email exchange with the interim police chief led to the department returning the phone, the suit says. The chief then apologized and said "the arrest should not have occurred," according to the suit.

The charges against Currie were finally dropped last week.

Interestingly, at the time of Currie's arrest, the department was under a court order to stop it from harassing citizens exercising their First Amendment rights to record officers in action. 

As legal expert Paul Butler later explained in the Washington Post,

The law is simple, and it is entirely on the side of the citizen photographers. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right of anyone to record police in a public place. The police can place reasonable restrictions on photographers by, for example, not allowing them to enter a crime scene. But they cannot stop people from standing on the street and filming them while they make arrests, detain suspects, or otherwise enforce the law.

Currie was briefly in the news in January after a melee broke out at a Board of Aldermen meeting and she was allegedly manhandled by police union honcho Jeff Roorda.

Currie later filed a complaint over the incident, telling the St. Louis American,

Jeff Roorda physically assaulted me. Both of us are private citizens and both of us are equal in the eyes of the law. That he believes that he has the right to hit me… to strike me, demonstrates that he still behaves like the worst police officers do. He doesn’t get to hide behind the blue shield of invulnerability. If this is how he acts as a private citizen, image how he was as a police officer. If this is who police officers have chosen to represent them, imagine how they act on the street.”

The suit was filed by attorney Stephen Ryals of the Arch City Defenders. It alleges several counts of unlawful seizure and retaliation.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com


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