After being charged with two misdemeanors for recording police and being a “buttinsky,” as one police supervisor put it, Andrew Henderson has decided to run for city council in his Minnesota town of Little Canada in an election this November. He runs against two others, including an incumbent.
With Henderson’s trial set for Feb. 17, I had a chance to get the full details on Thursday, and find out exactly what happened, and why he’s decided to run for office.
Henderson was recording the police outside his apartment building in late 2012 when an officer took his camera as “evidence.” After asking for his camera back, he was charged with two misdemeanors. When he finally did receive the camera back, his footage had been deleted.
Meyer: Why did you decide to start recording the police?
Henderson: I grew up in the north end area of St. Paul. A few months before my camera was taken from me, there was in incident in my old neighborhood where a man was arrested. He was kicked in the chest and pepper spayed in his ear. That was my turning point.
Meyer: And what specifically gave you the desire to record the night your camera was confiscated?
Henderson: I saw 2 squad cars outside my apartment, one of which was a K9. When I asked the deputy what was going on all she said was “No crime”. I found it odd that 2 squads were there for “no crime”, so I decided to pull out my camera and film.
Meyer: Why do you feel it’s important to record the police?
Henderson: Well, we see police misconduct all the time in the newspaper, TV, and internet. We see the same police who get caught abusing their authority get away with little or no consequences. Sometimes even promotions. Last year the Minneapolis Police Department had 439 complaints, none of which resulted in any discipline. Something is terribly wrong with a system that allows this kind of behavior to continue. I feel that it is important for the people to expose the misconduct committed by the police, since the police rarely discipline themselves in any way. I strongly believe that the best way to do this is by filming them, and publicly sharing the footage for all to see. If the police know the people are watching them, they will be less inclined to abuse their power.
Meyer: What exactly are they charging you with?
Henderson: I am being charged with Disorderly Conduct and Obstructing Legal Process.
Meyer: Have you considered suing the officer who stole your camera?
Henderson: I’m just focused on the criminal charges right now.
Meyer: Why exactly are you running for city council, and how are you campaigning?
Henderson: I am running because I want to create a more open, transparent, and accountable government in Little Canada. I want to reduce the burden city legislation has on the lives of its residents. I want to create a stronger, more stable community through these practices.
I plan on a grassroots campaign which includes flyering, door-knocking, and meeting with the people to listen to which issues concern them. (I plan to start when it gets warmer, as it is -2 degrees right now).
Meyer: Do you have any support lined up yet?
Henderson: I have had my people ask to volunteer on my campaign, and plan on taking them up on their offers this summer and fall. I do have a few elected officials that have verbally endorsed me, but until I get it in writing, I will not name them.
Meyer: What action would you take as a city council member?
Henderson: I would eliminate laws that restrict the people’s freedom and liberty. There are many outdated laws in the Code of Ordinances that should be amended or repealed. This past summer, with the help of the City Administrator, I was able to get a law repealed that made it a misdemeanor to wear clothing belonging to the opposite sex. There are many more laws such as this that should be amended or repealed. There are laws that I feel limit business owners or entrepreneurs, such as the City has a limit on how many Tobacco licenses they will issue, and what can and can not be sold if a person holds this license. All of which have been issued. This, to me limits the liberty to open a business, or expand one.
Meyer: In your city, does the mayor or the city council hire the chief of police? Would you take any action to review the records of the officers on the force?
Henderson: In Little Canada, we contract the Ramsey County Sheriff as law enforcement. Since it is a contract position, I doubt there would be anything that I could personally do on that issue besides take complaints or compliments about Deputies from the citizens. If enough complaints were brought to my attention, I would ask the sheriff to assign a different officer to the community.
Meyer: If your goal is to change policing in your area, why not run for a seat on the Ramsey County Commission?
Henderson: I feel that I do not have enough experience for that elected office yet, but there may be a time in the future that I do. I am very supportive of the commissioner for my district at this time.
Meyer: Is there anything else you want PINAC readers to know?
Henderson: I would like them to know that I am very grateful of their support. It is the words of encouragement from readers of blogs such as PINAC that have gotten me through this 15+ month ordeal.