The police department "routinely" blocks citizens from recording their activities under a bizarre rubric of "officer safety," according to the Justice Department's investigation.
The Ferguson Police — a nearly all-white force that polices a nearly all black community, with a reputation for brutal violence and the abuse of petty civil fines as a means of sending innocents to a nightmarish local jail system — came under fire after one of its officers murdered a young, unarmed black man, a crime for which the officer was not indicted.
In the wake of the killing, Ferguson residents and protesters have made a habit of closely recording the force, especially when it deployed military-surplus equipment to put down protests in a series of shocking exhibitions of force that included hair-trigger cops hysterically threatening news agencies with loaded automatic rifles aimed directly at reporters.
The DOJ's report found that the Ferguson PD's abuse of authority to shut down citizens who document its actions has continued unabated, with illegal suppression of recordings taking place as recently as February, 2015.
… it appears that FPD continues to interfere with individuals' rights to protest and record police activities. On February 9, 2015, several individuals were protesting outside the Ferguson police station on the six-month anniversary of Michael Brown's death. According to protesters, and consistent with several video recordings from that evening, the protesters stood peacefully in the police department's parking lot, on the sidewalks in front of it, and across the street. Video footage shows that two FPD vehicles abruptly accelerated from the parking lot into the street. An officer announced, 'everybody here's going to jail,' causing the protesters to run. Video shows that was one man recorded the police arresting others, he was arrested for interfering with police action. Officers pushed him to the ground, began handcuffing him, and announced, 'stopped resisting or you're going to get tased.' It appears from the video, however, that the man was neither interfering nor resisting. A protester in a wheelchair who was live streaming the protest was also arrested. Another officer moved several people with cameras away from the scene of the arrests, warning them against interfering and urging them to back up or else be arrested for Failure to Obey.
Ferguson cops "routinely" block public from filming them, DOJ says [David Kravets/Ars Technica]
(Image: Police sharpshooter at Ferguson protests, Jamelle Bouie, CC-BY)