In June, health policy advocate Hadiyah Charles was walking home to her Bed-Stuy apartment when she saw police officers frisking three young men, who didn’t appear to be committing any crime. When Charles’s repeated requests to be told why the men were being frisked were denied, she pulled out her phone to film the incident, which is perfectly legal.
Then, officer Pamela Benites yelled at Charles to get back, and when she complied, Benites allegedly shoved her, in an apparent attempt at intimidation. Charles asked to file a complaint after the incident, but instead she was cuffed, booked, and detained in a cell for 90 minutes on charges of disorderly conduct. “This is what happens when you get involved,” Benites reportedly said to Charles.
Though the charges were eventually dropped, Charles is now seeking damages in a lawsuit against the department, and the New York Civil Liberties Union has stepped in to represent her. “New Yorkers have a constitutional right to film police activity in public,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman in a statement. “This right is especially important in neighborhoods of color, like Bedford-Stuyvesant, that are the epicenters of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices. It empowers residents to expose abuse policing and hold the NYPD accountable for violating people’s rights.”