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ACLU Wrong, Police Right In Holding of Videotaping Teen

ACLU Wrong, Police Right In Holding of Videotaping Teen

Khaliah Fitchette tells reporters her side of the story

The Star-Leger via YellowBrix

March 30, 2011

NEWARK – Khaliah Fitchette better hope she never trips and falls on a public sidewalk when somebody is walking nearby with a cell phone. I’m sure the “fotog” would love to record the embarrassing event – and maybe even put the video on YouTube.

It would be the passerby’s way of exercising his “First Amendment” rights.

Fitchette is the Newark teenager who got into trouble last March for taking a video of Newark police trying to help a man suffering from a medical emergency on a city bus. Police asked her to stop taping, and when she refused, they took her into custody.

The student was handcuffed, but not arrested. Police released her to her mother several hours later without pressing charges.

A thoughtful student would have realized that, “Hey, I really shouldn’t have videotaped that man in distress.” (The man had collapsed, and was unconscious.)

A thoughtful person would have reasoned, “Sure, it’s a public place, and like many teenagers, I like to tape my friends doing funny things. But if I fell on my face on a sidewalk or collapsed in a medical emergency, I sure would not want somebody taping me.” (Unlike my opening example, Fitchette did not put the video on YouTube.)

A thoughtful person would have further realized that, on reflection, “I wasn’t being very bright in defying the cops when they asked me to stop taping. The police have their job, and they’re mostly doing their best. They usually ask people to stand back, and I was interfering. Getting good pictures wasn’t the most important thing that day.”

It would have dawned on a thoughtful person that, “The cops understood – as I did not – that they were trying to protect the man’s privacy and save him from further embarrassment.”

A thoughtful person would have realized, “Now I understand why the police, angered by my defiance expressed by my refusal to stop taping, would have handcuffed me. I certainly did not enjoy being handcuffed and being held in custody for several hours. But,” a thoughtful person would have concluded, “I certainly brought that unpleasantness upon myself.”

Yes, a thoughtful person, upon reflection, would have understood all of that.

But Fitchette, now 17, is apparently not a thoughtful person. Instead of chalking it up as a lesson in maturity, the teenager sought revenge against the Newark police. Looking around for somebody to help her beat up on the Newark police, she and her mother found the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. (But it’s always possible that the ACLU found her.)

And so, the state chapter of the ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf against the city police, accusing them of illegally detaining her. The lawsuit was reported Tuesday on and in The Star-Ledger.

For the ACLU, this student’s wanting to get back at the police was like manna from heaven. Last September, the ACLU filed an earlier lawsuit (or here) against the Newark police, alleging all manner of police misconduct and calling for federal monitoring of the city police department.

But the ACLU’s earlier lawsuit has been out of the news recently, and what better way to revive public interest than Fitchette’s tale of woe. She’s the perfect foil to the police. Recently accepted to Cornell University, she’s looks like a nice girl. Reporters covering the press conference that announced the lawsuit described her as speaking in “a hushed tone” – obviously a modest, brilliant student being picked on by the police.

The ACLU, naturally, knows the “bash the cops” script well. A Seton Hall law professor working with the ACLU and the university’s Center for Social Justice, leveled the charge: “This is part of a fairly pervasive pattern and practice by the Newark Police Department,” said Baher Azmy, “to retaliate against individuals’ assertion of their First Amendment rights.”

That is utter nonsense, as the law professor and anybody with a lick of common sense ought to know. Go look it up: the First Amendment guarantees the right to speak your mind, practice your religion, and peaceably assemble.

It’s a far stretch to say that the First Amendment gives you the right to videotape the police trying to help somebody in distress, particularly if that officer asks you not to interfere with their official duties.

To be fair to our student, it is not illegal to videotape somebody in public. But when police arrive to help somebody in distress, they routinely ask people to get back, and out of the way. Sometimes, police “order” people to do that. With rubberneckers out of the way, first responders can do their job.

But what happens if a bystander defiantly refuses to cooperate, as Fitchette refused? To hear the ACLU tell it, I guess the police should just let her have her way. No sanctions.

“I take pictures of everything,” the demure teenager told reporters. “I didn’t think it was like a big deal, I guess.”

I guess not.

So why was Fitchette held for nearly three hours? Well, police processing is not instantaneous. Or maybe it took her mother that long to show up to get her.

But in the ACLU’s mind, any accusation of a violation of “First Amendment rights “ – no matter how frivolous – is always good theater.

It’s interesting to review the Star-Ledger videotape of Fitchette’s mother speaking at the press conference, available on YouTube. Nowhere does Kameelah Phillips mention the crucial point – that her daughter defiantly refused to stop taping, even after police asked her to stop.

I guess teenagers can do whatever they want. If the cops don’t like it – tough, we’ll call the ACLU.

Some have tried to cast this incident as so-called police misconduct, or else the police objecting to the public being a “watchdog” on their dealing with the public. But I keep thinking of that poor man on the bus, whose right to privacy in his moment of distress is more important than a teenager’s enthusiasm for taping “everything.”

So maybe there isn’t a universal “right” to videotape anything you feel like. Maybe Fitchette ought to re-think her actions. Maybe Fitchette ought to apologize to the Newark police. Maybe she ought to apologize to the man she videotaped.

Maybe the ACLU ought to forget their apparent vendetta against the Newark police.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago

    There is always some nimrod around with a camera hoping to catch even a hint of impropriety. The ACLU has a documented anti-police agenda and in this case is using the 1st Amendment as a foil to cripple law enforcement once again.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago

    Romans 13:1-4...but then the ACLU will have a problem with biblical truth as well. "Maybe, like they will, like, give me like, some money so that I can like use it to buy like whatever I want..." and related "like" drivel. Perhaps the teen, if she is unjustly awarded money for being in violation of God's law, can "like" use it take a class on the proper use of the English language..."like."

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    I would hope the "real" victim or a member of hisfamily in this incident, brings civil action against the young woman for the invasion of his privacy and the city/department files a counter complaint for the frivilous lawsuit.

  • Different_mourning_badge_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Maybe when her mother gets sick or is injured, maybe the westboro babtist church should videotape it in order to exploit the 'incident' as this teenager exploited the man who needed assistance.... Hmmmm

  • Dusty_vp_max50


    over 3 years ago


    These people are disgusting....The Girl, her Parents, the ACLU... they are wastes of humanity

  • Skull_max50


    over 3 years ago


    God bless the ACLU.... with fleas from a camels back side. In my moment of need I really would not want some teenager videoing me. The officers did the right thing by giving her a morale lesson. Her parent on the other hand is the one who is missing the morale lesson.

  • New_picture__1__max50


    over 3 years ago


    The world of you-tube. I would hope that the ACLU would protect the rights of ALL PEOPLE, including victims and police. Oh I guess that just to much to hope for. Maybe we need another 911 contact number for the ACLU.

  • Norris-photo_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Someone should track down the man who needed medical attention and have hiim file a lawsuit against this girl for publically broadcasting and violating his medical histoy privacy. You know? The old HPPA card or something similar.

  • Florida_medolphinpetting_max50


    over 3 years ago


    @Lulusgt, you're absolutely correct that it's his first amendment rights. I never said it wasn't. My only complaint was that this article was posted on the main "News" page. This is not news, it's a hot headed opinion. News is suppose to report facts and present them as fairly as possible. Leave the attacking for people commenting on the article or don't call it news.

  • 1asteriskshield_ezr_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Maybe the next time this girl is in trouble and is in need of LEO assistance she can call the ACLU.

  • Derrick_max50


    over 3 years ago


    That's bull S#IT what they should have done was arrest her A#S and charge her with obstruction. Sometimes the ACLU needs to sit their butts down and tackle real problems. The ACLU causes more problems then solve them.

  • Field_sniper_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Too bad this girl doesn't realize the cops saved her from a large lump sum settlement that would have resulted from the lawsuit brought against her by that poor man's family if that video had made the rounds. Her mother should be thanking the police for saving her all that effort and money. Oh well, we all know the war on cops is being fought on every front...violent and otherwise.

    And yes, RGLDail, very biased article. Not sure I approve of the attack stance posed by the author, but the story is still outrageous.

  • Gator_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Hey RGLDAIL, it's his First Amendment right! What's wrong? That's only a good excuse when you tree hugging liberals want to use it?

  • Florida_medolphinpetting_max50


    over 3 years ago


    To the author: And maybe you ought to forget your apparent vendetta against the ACLU.

    This isn't a news article, it's a drunken rant. Too biased to be on the Police Link news page as a major article, maybe as a side article that members post.

  • America_s_future_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Case in point on freedom of speech and of the press... When Cory Booker took over as mayor for Newark he fired a group of Newark police officers for posting scandalous things on the internet about the Newark Police Department higher ups, including the police director at the time, Anthony Ambrose. These posting have been going on for sometime, anonymously that is on an internet forum called Newark Speaks, it claimed that some of the brass routinely took mistresses from among the female rank and file, that some cops were using drugs, and some were pocketing money they confiscated from the arrested. Someone also posted a picture of Ambrose with clown hair and clown nose. Isnt that protected under Freedom of speech, I would say so but the NPD declared some comments created a "terroristic threat." That turned a freedom-of-speech issue into a criminal investigation. And that's what the NPD needed to get subpoenas to force the website management and internet service providers to hand up the names of the Newark Speaks posters. Big Brother is watching!

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