Colorado Springs to pay cameraman $41,000 after First Amendment audit of police

Published: Jun. 1, 2018 at 10:00 AM MDT
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The city of Colorado Springs will pay $41,000 after an encounter between two police officers and a self-proclaimed amendment audiotr went viral on Youtube.

The cameraman, Terrell Clayton, claimed he was unlawfully detained by Colorado Springs Police. Clayton was filming marked police cars outside the department's Falcon Division and in the secure parking lot. The building is just off of North Academy Boulevard and Kelly Johnson Boulevard. Two officers approach Clayton, take his camera and cell phone he was recording with, and place him in the back of a squad car.

"A first I was very surprised," Clayton told 11 News. “I wasn’t looking for trouble. I realized that contact with police was possible, but that’s not what I was anticipating.”

The incident happened on November 2nd. Clayton says he was filming as part of the First Amendment Audits movement.

"It’s more than just filming. It’s really protecting all of our rights," said Clayton. "A right not exercised is a right lost."

Clayton says he filed a complaint the day after it happened, citing wrongful detainment.

The city just settled the claim in May. The terms of the settlement include a $41,000 check for Clayton and his lawyers. In addition, the Colorado Springs Police Department must add to their General Order "Taking photographs or recording from a public place in and of itself does not constitute suspicious activity." The city will also be required to creat and publish a roll-call video addressing the First Amendment right to record police activity. All officers must watch that video by December 31, 2018.

11 News reached out to police spokesperson Lt. Howard Black on Friday and was told "the video is being developed." 11 News also asked if any of the officers involved in this specific incident would face any disciplinary action. Black said an internal review is "in progress."

Part of the settlement includes that the city does not have to admit any "wrongdoing, misconduct, or liability." Clayton says regardless, he considers the settlement a victory.

"It's what I was looking for," said Clayton. " I’ve already seen a tremendous change in the way that the officers act towards the people recording them, specifically me, when I go and film.”

11 News first shared the video in November. In it, you can see Clayton walking outside of the police department substation. Clayton was approaced by an officer who introduces himself. The officer asked Clayton if he had a name, Clayton said he did, but he didn't want to share it at the moment.

"When people take pictures of government buildings, in particular, a police department, it does cause some concerns," you can hear an officer stating to Clayton in the video. "That's why I'm contacting you, does that make sense?"

Clayton responded, saying it did make sense.

"Is there anything I can help you with," you can hear the officer ask in the video.

Soon after, a second officer can be seen approaching Clayton.

Clayton asks for the first officer's badge number. The officer said he would be happy to give him all the information when they were done talking. The officer added he was "making a threat assessment."

layton said he understood and he was taking pictures for a story. Stating he was trying to get pictures of squad cars, particularly marked units.

The conversation continued and the second officer said he "wasn't buying it," in regards to Clayton's story. The second officer asked for Clayton's ID and Clayton refused. The second officer continued to request Clayton's ID, adding, quote, "I'm asking you for an ID or we're going detain you to get it."

The second officer went on to say Clayton was outside of a law enforcement facility acting suspiciously. Citing disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.

Colorado law reads:

16-3-103. Stopping of suspect (1) A peace officer may stop any person who he reasonably suspects is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime and may require him to give his name and address, identification if available, and an explanation of his actions. A peace officer shall not require any person who is stopped pursuant to this section to produce or divulge such person's social security number. The stopping shall not constitute an arrest. (2) When a peace officer has stopped a person for questioning pursuant to this section and reasonably suspects that his personal safety requires it, he may conduct a pat-down search of that person for weapons.

As the video continues you can see one of the officer's take Clayton's camera, saying, "OK, we'll do it my way." Clayton believes the officers were unaware it was recording. Clayton was detained and feels the act was unlawful. At one point his original video stops and a new video he shot on his cell phone starts in the backseat of a squad car where a conversation takes place between Clayton and an officer. The video later cuts back to his camera recording audio of the officers talking.