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

May 31, 2018 Updated: June 2, 2018 at 7:20 am
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Two Colorado Springs police officers' confrontation with a man taking photographs outside a police substation is costing the city $41,000.

Terrell Clayton was photographing police cars going in and out of the secured parking lot at the Falcon substation on Nov. 2 as part of the First Amendment Audits movement to judge the response of police and other public officials to the presence of a cameraman.

Two officers deemed Clayton's behavior suspicious and asked for identification, which he declined to provide. His 17-minute video of the encounter went viral on YouTube.

It shows Clayton being detained, placed in the back of a police car, stripped of the camera and cellphone he was using to record the interaction and cited with disorderly conduct.

He filed a complaint against the officers the next day, citing wrongful detainment.

Six months later, the city settled Clayton's claim for $41,000 and an addition to police General Orders that "taking photographs or recording from a public place in and of itself does not constitute suspicious activity."

The city also must create and publish a "roll-call video addressing the First Amendment right to record police activity," and it will require officers to view that video by the end of the year, the settlement said.

Those actions are "underway," police spokesman Lt. Howard Black said Wednesday.

The video Clayton posted shows him zooming his camera in on police vehicles parked inside the lot before an officer approaches and asks Clayton his name.

The photographer declines to provide it, saying he's filming squad cars for a story but doesn't plan to disclose license plate information.

A second officer questions Clayton about pointing the camera toward the lot, saying he's "not buying" the story. That officer threatens to detain Clayton if he doesn't identify himself, eventually grabbing Clayton and taking his camera.

"We'll do it my way," the officer is heard saying.

Clayton is led to the patrol car, where he continues recording on a cellphone before that also is confiscated. Clayton said the officers threatened to arrest him if he did not provide an ID, which he eventually did.

"I was very shocked at how quickly these officers violated my rights," he says in a description of the video.

Thursday, Clayton said he was "pretty happy" with the settlement, as it will change police treatment of citizens and protect people's rights.

An internal affairs investigation to determine whether the officers will be disciplined "is coming to conclusion," Black said.

The settlement should not be construed as an admission of liability or guilt, the city stressed in the agreement.

"To the contrary," it said, "City specifically asserts that no wrongdoing, misconduct, or liability ... occurred."

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Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362

Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin

Facebook: Kaitlin Durbin

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