PINAC reported back in April of 2013 about Jonas Correia who was arrested in Massachusetts for recording Northampton police arresting alleged “unruly bar patrons” outside of a downtown bar.
The city of Northampton has since settled a civil rights claim in the amount of $52,000.
Video of the incident was taken by an attorney and bystander who accused police of arresting the man because he was black.
The video begins with police detaining suspects across the street. Then Correia can be seen standing in front of officers, holding a camera and recording them. That’s when several officers approach him and order him to walk away from the scene.
Correia continues to stand there recording. Police then retaliate by spraying him in the face with mace and then tackle him in the street.
Correia can be heard saying, ”I didn’t do anything.”
Police and security guards then begin telling the female who is recording his arrest to walk away from the scene and to cease recording them.
However, she stands her ground, asserting her right to record, despite the unlawful orders given by police.
One officer responds by saying, ”I’m sure you’re a fine attorney.” But he contitues to order her away, completely ignoring her rights altogether.
Police charged Correia with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, but those charges were eventually dropped with the disorderly conduct being reduced to a civil infraction.
Correia’s attorneys pointed out that officers’ version of events stated in sworn, arrest affidavits conflict with what the video evidence shows. The lawsuit not only claimed damages, but also urged the city of Northhampton to use the case as ”a catalyst for improving the quality of service the NPD provides in dealing with people of color.”
Correia and his attorneys claim their desire is for this case to serve as a “teachable moment.”
Correia said that ”without that cellphone recording, I would have been just another black man going to court, where it would have been my word against the police story. Nine out of 10 times, the police story would have been believed, I would have ended up convicted, and innocence would not have mattered. I don’t want want happened to me to happen to anyone else.”
Northampton Police Chief, Jody Kasper, says in response to the case that she wants to ”develop training specific to our department and our community and what I want officers to get out of it. I want to know if we are meeting the needs of populations in our community.”
Kasper claims she is working with Smith College professors and students on devising a survey to better understand how Northhampton police are serving the city’s residents.
Attorneys for Correia said regarding the $52,000 settlement, ”“We had a desire to make our client whole but also wanted certain institutional changes.”
How effective those institutional changes will be has yet to be seen. But it’s safe to say at this point in time that recording the police interactions, even when someone else is already recording, is a good way to hold police accountable for misconduct.
Without that video, Correia likely would have been convicted criminally and his civil case would have never even sniffed a courtroom much less settled in the amount of $52,000 along with stipulations for diversity training and other so-called ‘institutional changes’.
Correia’s attorneys claim in a 12-page letter that police had no reason to arrest or pepper spray Correia and pointed out the various discrepancies between the video and the police report.
A copy of the settlement agreement can be read here.