West New York, ACLU come to terms on public’s rights to film police

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) dropped a lawsuit against the Town of West New York after the two worked together on a policy ensuring the public’s right to film police. West New York police

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The town announced on Friday that the policy specifies that individuals have the right in public and private settings to record the police, as long as their actions don’t interfere with police conduct.

Photographing and recording alone, which are both common and lawful, do not constitute interference. The new policy also sets up a system for supervision and training to implement the changes.

“It’s extremely gratifying that something so personally distressing, an unfair arrest, has ultimately paved the way for one of the strongest protections of people’s right to film police,” Cesar Sanchez, the reason the ACLU filed suit against the town, said in a statement.

“The tensions people face when exercising their individual rights to try to hold police accountable aren’t confined to West New York or New Jersey, but something felt by people all over the country.”

In a Hudson County Superior Court lawsuit filed in December 2015, Sanchez alleged that West New York police prevented him from filming the arrest of two teenagers earlier that year, later arresting him when he refused to show them identification.

Sanchez added that his main goal with the lawsuit was to ensure that no one would fear legal repercussions for filming a police incident.

“Cellphone cameras have become an essential tool for holding police accountable to the public they serve and protect,” ACLU-NJ attorney Rebecca Livengood, who represents Sanchez, said in the same statement.

“West New York has acted admirably in adopting a policy that promotes transparency in police conduct and respect between police and the public.”

West New York Mayor Felix Roque, the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, said he was happy to be involved with the improvement of police-community relations.

“Once the governing body became aware of the lawsuit filed by the ACLU it worked quickly to develop a policy to publicly clarify the rights of citizens to film police activity as well as to ensure law enforcement can perform its duties without unlawful interference,” stated Roque.

“The policy which has already been incorporated into the police manual carefully balances First Amendment Rights and police investigative needs.”

As only Hudson County View reported, the Town of West New York settled a police brutality case for $50,000 in July 2016.

The federal suit alleged that officers assaulted a photographer after he refused to show identification or explain why he was taking pictures of a local bodega, also accused of forcing the man to delete video of his arrest he had taken on his cell phone.

1 COMMENT

  1. Felix the Great has been in power close to 6 years now and he and is police director didn’t know it was ok for citizens to video Police? Or is it they finally picked the wrong guy to mess with and and ACLU caught them with their hands in the cookie jar. That it took a lawsuit by the ACLU to get this done is telling as to how much Felix actually cares, they would have kept this up.

    Then Felix tries to make it look like he was instrumental in improving relations between the WNYPD and the residents.

    Felix didn’t do squat, it was Cesar Sanchez, the ACLU. Bravo to Mr Sanchez, and the ACLU As to Felix, the more you talk the less intelligent you look.

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