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Police Charged a Woman for Recording Them Holding a Black Man at Gunpoint. Now, They Owe Her

Screenshot:  CBS Minnesota (Fair Use)
Screenshot: CBS Minnesota (Fair Use)

A woman charged with a misdemeanor for recording Minnesota police officers holding two Black men at gunpoint settled her federal lawsuit against the city for $70,000, according to the Star Tribune. In addition to monetary compensation, the city also agreed to policy reform within the police department.

Arizona recently attempted to make recording police encounters illegal but they surely weren’t the first to try. Some of these restrictions don’t look like laws but instead a misdemeanor. Take Amy Koopman for example. Koopman, a white woman, went on Facebook live in 2018 to record an interaction between Robbinsdale police and two Black men. She was only one of many people who crowded around the intersection, waiting anxiously to see if the police would fire at the two as their guns were drawn.

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“Three squad cars with three officers out of their cars, guns drawn on what I could see at the time was one Black man,” Koopman said via CBS News. “Because what was in my mind [was] Philando Castile.”

Koopman talked to the officers from a distance and after she put her phone away, they charged her with obstructing the legal process. Her charges were later dropped by a Hennepin County judge.

More on the case from Star Tribune:

A Hennepin County judge dismissed charges against Koopman after finding that “no reasonable officer could construe [Koopman’s] shouting as ‘physically obstructing or interfering’ in the performance of their duties.” Attorneys representing the city in the federal lawsuit argued that Koopman’s claims were barred by the legal doctrines of qualified and official immunity.

In a statement Tuesday, Jason Hively, an attorney representing the city, confirmed that Robbinsdale and its insurer, the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, agreed to pay Koopman $70,000 in exchange for a release of the city and its police officers from her lawsuit. He also confirmed that the city agreed to nonmonetary terms related to policies, procedures, and training.

“The City and Insurance Trust determined that resolving this matter at this early stage would avoid the attorneys’ fees and costs associated with going to trial,” Hively said.

The ACLU took on Koopman’s lawsuit and demanded the policy reforms must include Robbinsdale police acknowledging that it is in fact legal to be recorded by citizens. They must also be subject to discipline if they try to retaliate against those who do so by slapping them with a misdemeanor like they did Koopman.

Koopman stands by her actions and said in a statement she hopes “this puts other police departments on notice that there are citizens who are filming them.” Boy, I tell ya. There are plenty of traffic stop videos I see come across my timeline and as soon as that officer sees they’re being recorded, they become tense and sometimes hostile.

Video recording is pretty much the only way to catch evidence official misconduct. Though, the proof itself isn’t enough sometimes to bring about accountability.