“You’re not planning an attack on the police department are you?”
On Friday, May 22nd, Andrew Henderson stood on a public street corner and recorded police cars entering and exiting a Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center in Minnesota.
As Henderson recorded, one of the police cars stopped to question Henderson.
While one officer asked the question above – was he planning to attack the police department? – a second recorded Henderson using a cell phone.
After Henderson told the officers he was merely gathering content for a story, the officers left.
The story Henderson was concerned about: seat belt enforcement. Here is what Henderson posted on his YouTube video of the event:
On Monday, May 18th, various local law enforcement agencies conducted a seat belt enforcement detail in Saint Paul where officers stood on 2 street corners and looked for drivers not wearing their seat belts. When spotted, they would radio to their coworkers and colleagues to pull them over and issue them citations.
In a 4-hour period they made 227 traffic stops and issued 244 citations, totaling more than $15,000 in fines.
As I have seen many officers drive without seat belts, I found this to be a double standard and an unethical means of revenue generation.
I decided to stand on a street corner outside of the with a camera to document officer seat belt use.
Eventually, a second vehicle pulled up directly in front of Henderson.
St. Paul police officer Armando Abla-Reyes had no intention of allowing Henderson to remain recording.
“Can I see your ID with you?” Officer Abla-Reyes demanded.
“Am I being detained right now?” asked Henderson.
“Yes you are.”
“S-secured building, secured area…[incoherent mumbling]…I want to know who I’m talking to,” stammered Abla-Reyes.
When Henderson asked what he was being detained for, Abla-Reyes admitted that Henderson was not committing a crime, stating, “Well there’s people here, civilians that are concerned that you’re videotaping them…and they’re afraid for their safety.”
Officer Abla-Reyes then continued detaining Henderson, checking to see if Henderson had any warrants for his arrest. The officer then took photos of Henderson for some reason – likely because he has been trained to suspect that Henderson is a potential terrorist. Meanwhile, Henderson captured footage of an armored police car meant to look like a military vehicle leaving the station, leaving viewers to wonder why the Ramsay County police department is gearing up for war.
When Abla-Reyes turned up nothing on Henderson, who recently ran for city council, he then moved to his third reason for illegally detaining Henderson, wrongfully claiming that Henderson was on private property and threatening to arrest him for trespassing. Henderson was actually standing on a public sidewalk outside of a facility owned by Ramsay County – also public property.
The officer was likely given orders to prevent Henderson from gathering additional content for the story he was working on.
In the end, Henderson accomplished what he set out to prove, and then some. Henderson documented police officers blatantly disregarding the same law that they detain and fine non-police officers for – demonstrating the officers’ disrespect for the law as applied to themselves.
Henderson believes he has provided proof that the officers believe that they are above the law, and Abla-Reyes’ actions clearly show a willingness to illegally detain an innocent man and threaten him with arrest to stop him from recording the police.
Henderson followed up his action by submitting a Data Practices Act request to the St. Paul Police Department regarding the events in this video. Henderson’s letter is below.