ACLU Worker Acquitted of Interfering with Officer
ACLU Staff Attorney Kristy Bennett earned a well-deserved victory when a judge in Jackson, Mississippi acquitted ACLU Public Education Coordinator Brent Cox on charges of disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer. The supposed interference consisted of watching a police officer question an individual in front of a grocery store.
While observing, Cox was told to move further away from the interaction and obeyed that command while continuing to observe. After the questioning of the individual ended, Cox asked for the name and badge number of the officer and was arrested.
The passive observation of public employees doing the public's business isn't a crime. Neither is asking a public employee to identify himself. After all, how are we to identify and protect ourselves from official misconduct if we aren't allowed to observe it? Unfortunately, police officers don't always see it that way. [more ...]
Arresting citizens for observing police activities is not only unconstitutional; it has a serious chilling effect on the ability of citizens to hold law enforcement accountable. By simply witnessing and documenting possible incidents of police misconduct, citizens can serve as a deterrent to police misconduct. Unfortunately, Cox’s arrest is not an isolated incident. Law enforcement officers far too often arrest individuals who are monitoring police activity or who ask for officers’ names and badge numbers. ...
Kudos to Bennett for her good work in court and to Cox for having the courage to risk the officer's wrath.
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