In light of increasing concerns over police violence and the right of the public to film officers as they respond to calls and incidents, very few videos have been made public that provide insight into the discussions between responding officers on the job. Recently, one such video from West Hartford has gained a level of notoriety as a protestor from Connecticut captured a conversation between Connecticut State Troopers as they seemed to fabricate justifications for citing him. Despite promises from the State Police to investigate the matter, there has been no publicized action involving the officers as of yet, and the man is due in court next month in his effort to get his citations dismissed.
Open-Carry DUI Checkpoint Protest
The incident arose when 27-year-old man mounted a protest against a DUI checkpoint near an Interstate 84 exit ramp in West Hartford last September. Choosing to exercise both First and Second Amendment rights, the man held a sign warning motorists of the checkpoint and encouraging them to remain silent, while openly carrying a holstered handgun. Connecticut is an open carry state, and the man had both a license to carry and a valid permit for the weapon. Within about an hour, Connecticut State Troopers arrived, secured his gun, and confiscated his video camera. One officer can be seen on the video saying that it is illegal to take his picture. Without realizing that it was still recording, the troopers placed the camera on the roof of a cruiser.
Impromptu Strategy Session
The man later posted footage from the camera, which, due to its positioning, did not capture much in the way of visual images, but recorded some very concerning audio. The officers can be heard discussing what to “hit” him with, apparently becoming frustrated that both his possession of the handgun and his filming of police were within the parameters of the law. Ultimately, the troopers concluded that they should issue citations for simple trespassing, reckless use of the highway by a pedestrian, and creating a public disturbance. Perhaps more concerning, however, is the audible discussion about justifying their actions.
“We gotta cover our [expletive deleted],” one of the troopers can be heard saying. Another voice was recorded saying, “Then we claim, um, in backup, we had multiple people, um, they didn’t want to stay and give us a statement, so we took our own course of action.” Keeping with the apparent strategy, the trooper who issued the citation can then be seen and heard telling the man that people were complaining about him carrying his gun and that at least one person reported to police that he was holding the weapon in a threatening manner. The man denies ever taking the gun out of its holster. With fines and fees, the citations totaled nearly $300, but the matter is scheduled for court next month.
No Official Response
When the video was posted on the Internet and eventually made its way to the Connecticut State Police, the agency said that matter would be investigated by Internal Affairs. Thus far, the State Police have acknowledged that the officer was wrong in stating that taking his picture was illegal, but have offered nothing more substantive.
The job of law enforcement is to uphold the law, not to create reasons to punish law-abiding citizens, even if the officer does not like what the person is doing. If you have been cited or charged with a crime, and you believe that police have fabricated the reasons for doing so, you need an experienced Hartford criminal defense attorney on your side. Contact the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, at [[phone1]] to discuss your rights and options today.