In May 2017 Pete White, Represented By Carol Sobel, Filed Suit Against The City Of Los Angeles, Charlie Beck, And Officer Kenny For Arresting Him While He Was Filming Cops V. Homeless In 2016

Pete White being arrested while filming the LAPD on June 14, 2016.
In May 2017 Pete White of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, represented by Carol Sobel, filed suit in federal district court against the City of Los Angeles, Charlie Beck, and some cop named Officer Kenny. The basis of the complaint is that Kenny ordered Pete White’s 2016 arrest while he was lawfully filming LAPD interactions with homeless people on Skid Row. Pete White claims, and it seems right to me, that he was arrested in retaliation for his activism on behalf of homeless residents of Skid Row.

For some reason, this suit does not seem to have been reported on in the real news media, and I’m interested, so I’ll be at least collecting the pleadings here. You can find them:

Or, if you prefer, here is a copy of the initial complaint, which is the only item of consequence that’s presently available. There are selections after the break.

On June 14, 2016, Mr. White was videotaping a police interaction with a homeless person in Skid Row. The police had removed the individual from a tent located midway on the block of 6th Street, just west of San Julian

As the investigation concluded, Sergeant Kenny walked east, away from the investigation site. Staying behind the yellow tape, Mr. White had earlier moved closer to the southeast corner of San Julian and 6th Street, approximately 80 feet away from the police investigation. … Plaintiff was behind the yellow tape as he videotaped Sgt. Kenny when he walked in front of Plaintiff. Nonetheless, Sgt. Kenny ordered Plaintiff’s arrest.

Plaintiff was arrested and marched through the street in handcuffs to the Central Station.

Plaintiff was held in police custody for approximately four hours, in violation of California Penal Code §835.6, which provides, in mandatory language, that an individual be cited and released in the field or immediately after booking for a misdemeanor violation unless one of several exceptions, none of which is applicable here, is documented.

Plaintiff was held in a cell at Central Station. As he remained in custody, Plaintiff observed LAPD officers and command staff conferring at length about what to charge Plaintiff with as a crime. While he remained in the cell, he heard various LAPD officers discuss charging him with a violation of Los Angeles Municipal Code 41.18(d), the Municipal Code provision that prohibits “sitting, lying or sleeping on the sidewalk during daytime hours,” a clearly inapplicable charge. Ultimately, Plaintiff was charged with a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code §148 for, purportedly, resisting arrest. There was no evidence to support this charge, or any other criminal violation.

After several hours, Plaintiff was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center, where he was held in a cell before being booked and released with a notice to appear on July 8, 2016 on a charge of resisting arrest. No charges were ever filed.

As a direct consequence of the City’s actions, Plaintiff has suffered injury to his constitutional and statutory civil rights. He was arrested, handcuffed, and incarcerated for several hours, all without lawful justification.

The LAPD has a custom and practice of interfering with “citizen journalists” as they record police activity in public places. The interference takes the form of grabbing photographic equipment to prevent recording, ordering individuals to move to a distance that precludes documentation of police activity, through threats of and actual arrest.

The City was on notice that members of the police department were violating the First Amendment rights of “citizen journalists” who filmed law enforcement activity in public fora, but did nothing to stop this illegal conduct by its officers.

The City’s failure to enact, implement and train regarding lawful policies on this fundamental right is all the more remarkable because the California Legislature amended Penal Code § 148 in 2015 to add subsection “(g)” for the stated legislative intent to provide that it is not, standing alone, sufficient to constitute obstruction of an officer or “reasonable suspicion to detain the person or probable cause to arrest the person” for the act of photographing or taping a “public officer, peace officer, or executive officer, while the officer is in a public place or the person taking the photograph or making the recording is in a place he or she has the right to be[.]”

Defendants’ actions violated Plaintiff’s rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by arresting Plaintiff, thereby prohibiting him from exercising his constitutional rights in a public forum under the First Amendment and the analogous provisions of the California Constitution. Plaintiff was in a public forum and documenting police activity on a public sidewalk.

Defendants knew or should have known that preventing someone from recording police activity on a public sidewalk, behind the police tape and from a distance that could not possibly have created interference with the ongoing police investigation was a clearly established violation of the First Amendment at the time of the incident.

Defendants’ actions also violated Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights by retaliating against him for asserting that he had a right to photograph or film the police on a public street from an open public sidewalk. Defendants retaliated against Plaintiff by ordering him to step back even when he was already maintaining a safe distance from police conduct. Plaintiff had a First Amendment right to tell the officers about his constitutional right to document the police, as well as to engage in his First Amendment right to photograph and film the police in the first place.

The seizure of Plaintiff at the direction of Officer “Kenny,” which was condoned and ratified by supervisors within the LAPD, was unlawful and violated Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unlawful seizure of his property.

Plaintiff had a liberty interest under the Fourth Amendment to be free from an unlawful arrest. Plaintiff also had a liberty interest created by California Penal Code §853.6, which directs in mandatory language that a person suspected of a misdemeanor violation “shall” be cited and released on his own recognizance in the field without booking and, if that is not feasible, released immediately after booking.

According to a study conducted by the Los Angeles Police Commission, this process should have taken less than an hour. Plaintiff was not booked when he was detained at Central Division because he had committed no crime and the Defendants could not agree on how, if at all, to charge him. Plaintiff was held for several hours, well beyond the time necessary to book and release him on his own recognizance based on the facts of this case, even if Plaintiff was booked on the meritless charges.

Defendants’ actions violated Plaintiff’s right to freedom of expression and his right to information about the activity of public employees, as well as his right to be free from unlawful seizure, all rights guaranteed under the United States and California constitutions.

Defendants interfered with plaintiff’s federal and state constitutional and statutory rights by means of threats, intimidation, and/or coercion and directly and proximately damaged plaintiff. Officer “Kenny” ordered the arrest of Mr. White to remove him from the area. Officer “Kenny’s” actions were designed to prevent Mr. White from exercising his constitutional right and in retaliation for his assertion of those rights.

Defendants’ intentionally deprived Plaintiff of his freedom of movement by arresting and handcuffing him and then confining him in a jail cell at Central Community Police Station.

Plaintiff was held in police custody for several hours, handcuffed and then transported to, and detained in, a cell at Central Station.

Plaintiff alleges he was wrongly arrested at the direction of Defendant Kenney, without a warrant and, in significant part, to retaliate against Plaintiff for his First Amendment activities on behalf of the homeless community on Skid Row.


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