Rochester Woman Arrested After Videotaping Police From Her Own Front Yard
NEW YORK -- In May, the Rochester Police Department arrested a woman on a charge of obstructing governmental administration after she videotaped several officers' search of a man's car. The charge is a criminal misdemeanor.
The only problem? Videotaping a police officer in public view is perfectly legal in New York state -- and the woman was in her own front yard. The arrest report of the incident also contains an apparent discrepancy from what is seen in the woman's own video.
That video, uploaded to the Internet this week, more than a month after Emily Good's May 12 arrest, begins by showing a black male being questioned by a police officer at about 10 p.m. The red and blue flashes of a police cruiser illuminate the scene on Aldine Street.
"I just got out of the house, man, I'm sick, man," the man who has been pulled over says. Other police officers search his car.
Then one of the officers, identified as Mario Masic in the arrest report, turns to the camera and asks, "You guys need something?"
"I'm just -- this is my front yard -- I'm just recording what you're doing. It's my right," Good replies.
"Actually, not from the sidewalk," the officer replies, incorrect about the legality of Good's actions.
"This is my yard," Good says.
"I don't feel safe with you standing behind me so I'm going to ask you go into your house, you understand?" Masic says.
From there, the conversation escalates into a confrontation, with Masic alleging that Good is threatening his safety, and that she expressed other, unspecified anti-police statements before the videotaping began.
"Due to what you said to me, before you started taping, I think, uh, you need to go stay in your house, guys."
Good's public defender, Stephanie Stare, told HuffPost she believes from her conversations with several neighbors who were present that Good made no threatening comments before the tape begins.
Ryan Acuff, a friend of Good's who witnessed the exchange and picked up the video camera after she was arrested, agreed.
"None of us was talking to them until they came to us," Acuff said. "The first contact was definitely on tape."
For more than a minute of the video, the officer and Good argue about whether she is threatening his safety. Finally, it appears, Masic has had enough: "You know what, you're gonna go to jail. That's just not right."
Acuff claimed that he and Good were complying with the policeman's order to return to their porch when she was arrested.
"The real reason they arrested her was because she was videotaping," Acuff said. Both he and Good are activists who have previously protested foreclosures in the area.
Acuff has posted his own account of the arrest on Indymedia. He said he and Good were videotaping the traffic stop out of concern about police misconduct.
The police report of the arrest contains another apparent discrepancy from what appears on the video: Masic writes that the traffic stop targeted three individuals who "were all chalkem south gang members."
"This gang is known for drugs guns and violence," Masic notes, underscoring the danger of the situation.
The video, while dark, appears to only show one man led out of the car. Good's public defender says that as far as she has been able to determine, only one man was pulled over.
The Rochester Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a statement released to the press, Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard said that while he had "researched" the incident, "With the case still pending and my unfamiliarity with the specific details, any assumptions at this time would be premature."
The police department has launched an internal investigation.
Good is scheduled to appear in court on Monday, where her public defender hopes the case will be dismissed.
If that doesn't happen, Stare said, she was not afraid of bringing Good's case to a jury trial.
"She was well within her rights."