PORTLAND, Ore. -- The cities of Portland and Gresham settled a federal lawsuit Monday that was filed on behalf of a woman whose cell phone was seized by a police officer as she recorded an arrest.
The cities agreed to new policies and training regarding the public's right to film police activity. Gresham also agreed to pay $85,000 in legal fees.
The incident happened in February 2013, as transit officers arrested a man in southeast Portland. Transit police is made up of officers from various cities; it was a Gresham officer who approached Carrie Medina that day as she was filming the arrest on her phone.
When the officer asked if he could see what she had recorded, Medina declined. Officer Taylor Tetsis persisted, saying he needed to check the phone for evidence.
Medina, a self-described citizen journalist, said he’d need a subpoena. That’s when the officer grabbed the phone and detained Medina. The conflict was captured on her phone camera.
I feel like I was vindicated. Policies did change and people are more aware. If that is something we can get out of that, is that the public understands they have the right to film police doing their job in public, then I did my small part. -- Carrie Medina
The first amendment says Medina has the right to film police on duty in a public place. That's true for anyone, according to Medina's attorneys and the ACLU of Oregon.
“We’ve joked a lot that Carrie was the perfect plaintiff," said Tim Cunningham, an attorney representing Medina who worked pro-bono on the case. "That's exactly how a citizen should treat this type of encounter."
“I feel like I was vindicated," Medina said. "Policies did change and people are more aware. If that is something we can get out of that, is that the public understands they have the right to film police doing their job in public, then I did my small part."
Since Medina's attorneys worked the case for free, the money goes to the ACLU Foundation of Oregon.
Gresham spokeswoman Elizabeth Coffey says the city adopted new procedures shortly after the incident and is thankful the matter is resolved.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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