Just over a year after the New Haven Police Department made a strenuous effort to educate its officers on the rights of citizens to record them in public, at least one veteran sergeant still refuses to accept this.
But at least the department’s chief wasted no time in launching an investigation against that sergeant after he arrested a woman for video recording him beating a man last weekend.
However, Jennifer Gondola says police have yet to return the iPhone they confiscated from her Saturday night.
“They won’t give it back,” she said Tuesday morning in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.
“They said I need a judge’s order to get it back. I know they’re going to erase my video.”
Her video is pretty damning, she said, showing New Haven Police Sgt. Chris Rubino with his foot planted on the head of a suspect with several other officers kicking and hitting him.
“The kid was already handcuffed and had plastic restraints on his legs,” she said. “He wasn’t resisting but was calling them all kinds of names.”
“He had blood coming out of his mouth.”
Gondola said she was recording for at least ten minutes as well as several other citizens that had congregated around the scene. The above photo was taken by Gondola’s friend, Tamara Harris.
Rubino spotted her and walked up to her.
“He told me he needed the phone because it contained evidence of a crime,” she said. “I told it contained evidence of police committing a crime.”
They went back and forth for a few seconds with her even allowing him to review the footage while she held the phone in her hand, but when he made it clear he was still going to confiscate it, she tucked the phone into her bra.
Rubino ended up getting a female cop to pull the phone out from her bra before arresting her. Gondola was detained at the station for two hours before she being released on a misdemeanor charge of interfering with a police officer.
Gondola wasted no time in contacting the local media about the incident. The New Haven Independent was the first to inquire about the incident.
When editor Paul Bass contacted the police department, which has a long history of abuses against photographers, Chief Dean Esserman sparked an immediate investigation against Rubino.
According to the New Haven Independent:
If the allegations prove true, they would dramatically violate, in exquisite detail, police General Order 311. The order protects the rights of citizens to photograph or video-record cops in public; police cannot use the excuse of arresting someone for using a camera with a blanket “interfering” charge. (Read about that here.) Former Chief Frank Limon announced the policy last year (click here to read about that) after several controversial incidents of cops unconstitutionally harassing citizen photographers. In one case an internal investigation prompted by this Independent article concluded that an assistant chief violated department policy when he ordered one such photographer arrested then took his camera and erased his files; that assistant chief resigned. (Read about that here.)
The alleged actions would also violate the Constitution, in the view of the U.S. Justice Department, and could potentially open the department to a lawsuit.
Meanwhile, we’ll await the footage from the other citizens to surface.
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CARLOS MILLER’S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
I am immersed in a legal case where I not only want to clear my criminal charges stemming from my arrest in January, but I want to sue the Miami-Dade Police Department for deleting my footage, which I was able to recover.
My goal is to set some type of precedent to ensure this does not happen as often as it does today where cops simply get away with it.
So if you would like to contribute, please click on the “donate” button below and contribute whatever you can afford.
Also, in an unrelated PINAC matter, I recently went through a hair transplant operation and I’m documenting my recovery on this blog if you are interested. I did not pay for this transplant, which is why I’m promoting the doctor through the hair transplant blog.