Photographer's Bullshit Arrest By A Dallas Transit Cop Nets Him A $345,000 Settlement

from the get-out-your-checkbook,-Joe-Public dept

Dallas residents are now going to be $345,000 lighter thanks to the actions of one Dallas Area Rapid Transit cop. (via Reason)

DART officer Stephanie Branch decided the law was on her side when she demanded photographer Avi Adelman stop recording EMS personnel dealing with an apparent overdose. Officer Branch claimed Adelman's photography violated the medical privacy rights of the person being attended to, saying things about HIPAA (not at all relevant here) and "establishing a perimeter." Branch was in the wrong. She was violating DART policy by shutting Adelman down and she compounded this error by making twenty-three "false or misleading" statements in her report of the arrest.

Adelman spent 20 hours in jail after being charged with criminal trespassing. That charge was dropped and DART itself apologized to him for the actions of its "rogue" officer. Officer Branch escaped being held liable for violating Adelman's First Amendment rights as the right to record public employees in public areas wasn't clearly established in the Fifth Circuit until a year after Adelman's arrest.

His Fourth Amendment claim moved forward though and Officer Branch appealed the stripping of her qualified immunity on this count. Her appeal was rejected by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which found Branch's arrest of Adelman unreasonable. As the court pointed out, Branch's actions directly violated a DART policy issued two years before the 2016 incident. Branch tried to reclaim her immunity shield by claiming ignorance, but the court shot that down.

Branch’s mistake was not reasonable. She didn’t misinterpret an unclear policy or law; she simply failed to learn about DART’s updated policy. And “an officer can gain no Fourth Amendment advantage through a sloppy study of the laws [s]he is duty-bound to enforce.” Heien, 135 S. Ct. at 539–40.

It's good to see Adelman will be compensated for his violated rights, but this settlement comes courtesy of Branch's employer, which means Officer Branch really isn't being held responsible for violating the photographer's rights. When qualified immunity is stripped, another shield usually takes it place. Government employees generally benefit from indemnification, which ensures they won't personally be out any money no matter how often they lose lawsuits.

This indemnification helps plaintiffs, since it pretty much guarantees they'll get paid. But it doesn't result in greater accountability, as can be observed in multiple cities where law enforcement officers are costing residents millions of dollars every year, year after year. If there's no direct financial pain, officers who engage in abusive behavior aren't deterred from violating rights in the future.

Between DART policies and circuit precedent, no transit officer should make this same unreasonable mistake again. It's too bad taxpayers have to keep paying for these expensive learning experiences.

Filed Under: 4th amendment, avi adelman, dallas, dallas area rapid transit, dart, ems, false arrest, filming police, stephanie branch


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  • icon
    keithzg (profile), 20 Nov 2019 @ 2:01pm

    Sounds about right

    She was violating DART policy by shutting Adelman down and she compounded this error by making twenty-three "false or misleading" statements in her report of the arrest.

    Having been accosted by police for having the temerity to take a photo myself, and then having gone through their report about the 'incident', that sounds about right. And I wouldn't be surprised if it's about the average for any police report, if they were actually thoroughly checked instead of taken as gospel like they usually are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2019 @ 3:32pm

      Re: Sounds about right

      Police lie like crazy. If I was a judge, I'd take the criminal's word over that of the police. It's probably far more truthful.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 21 Nov 2019 @ 8:16am

        Re: Re: Sounds about right

        If I was a judge, I'd take the criminal's word over that of the police.

        The accused. Unless it's at a sentencing hearing, the person the judge is talking to is presumed innocent.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Peter, 20 Nov 2019 @ 2:52pm

    Punishment for the officer?

    False arrest, no probable cause and 23 false statements in her report.

    So her punishment for this was.......3 days suspension. That showed her!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2019 @ 3:04pm

      Re: Punishment for the officer?

      A court concluding she made false or misleading statements makes her toxic in any case where she's the primary witness. Any time she testifies this will be wielded against her.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Bergman (profile), 20 Nov 2019 @ 3:07pm

        Re: Re: Punishment for the officer?

        If she made those statements in court, that's 23 FELONY counts she committed. But she's a cop so it wouldn't further the cause of justice to punish her like one of the peasants would be for the same offense.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Agammamon, 20 Nov 2019 @ 10:10pm

        Re: Re: Punishment for the officer?

        No it won't. 3/4ths the time the defense attorney won't know about it at all and the rest of the time the prosecutor will convince the judge that its inadmissable.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 20 Nov 2019 @ 3:06pm

      Re: Punishment for the officer?

      Yup. You or I commit 23 counts of filing a false police report, commit a federal felony (false arrest while in possession of a firearm) and aggravated assault while in possession of a firearm (you can't handcuff someone while making a false arrest without committing assault) and we'd be in prison for decades after being denied bail due to the heinous nature of our crimes.

      Ever wondered what the constitutional protections for due process, freedom from cruel & unusual punishment and being innocent until proven guilty look like? Look no further than how a cop accused of wrongdoing is treated by other cops and the courts. It's only corruption because they reserve that treatment for their own, despite it being mandatory for EVERYONE.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2019 @ 3:35pm

        Re: Re: Punishment for the officer?

        It's sickening how these corrupt police flat out LIE, LIE, LIE taking away our rights. The rare times they are caught, they end up protected, mainly because of the UNIONS. ALWAYS record them to help protect yourself. If you can do online, so it's saved online, hopefully, that way they don't try erasing the evidence as they do like to do that also.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 20 Nov 2019 @ 5:53pm

        Re: Re: Punishment for the officer?

        Need to tweak a few words there for accuracy.

        Ever wondered what the constitutional protections for due process, freedom from punishment and being innocent, period look like? Look no further than how a cop accused of wrongdoing is treated by other cops and the courts.

        They aren't shielded from 'cruel and unusual' punishments, they're shielded from any punishments, and with no punishments there really is no such thing as a guilty verdict.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bergman (profile), 20 Nov 2019 @ 3:02pm

    One bad apple spoils the bunch

    Police departments and unions LOVE to claim that officers like this are just a few bad apples. But what they seem to have forgotten, is that the saying about bad apples refers to what happens if you don't throw out the few bad apples.

    You end up with an entire load of nothing BUT bad apples.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2019 @ 3:19pm

    -Branch's actions directly violated a DART policy issued two years before the 2016 incident. Branch tried to reclaim her immunity shield by claiming ignorance

    Cops to citizens: "Ignorance of the law is not an excuse!"
    Cops to judge: "Ignorance of the law is an excuse!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2019 @ 3:38pm

      Re:

      In fact, if generally does the police officers hard to really know the laws. It's better for them to be clueless. They can arrest you with their goto B.S. charges they like to use and arrest you. It doesn't matter to them if/when the charges get thrown out. They've wasted your time and nothing will happen to them. You've been cuffed, Fingerprinted and thrown into a cell for hours. That makes them happy. They got you. Doesn't matter if you get set free.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wyrm (profile), 21 Nov 2019 @ 2:27pm

      Re:

      My first thought exactly.
      How is it that the very people charged with enforcing the law are the last ones legally expected to know anything about it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 20 Nov 2019 @ 4:35pm

    i would contest it..

    Contest that I should be the one to Pay her fines and fees...
    I didnt hire her..
    I didnt retest/re-educate her when she came back..
    I didnt make up the Rules she was supposed to know..

    then the City just changes where the money is gained..HIGHER PRICED TICKETS..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      OldMugwump (profile), 21 Nov 2019 @ 7:03am

      Re: i would contest it..

      Ah, but if you live in Dallas it was your elected officials who hired her, mistrained her, and failed to supervise her.

      You get to pay your share. Suck it up and vote more carefully next time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 21 Nov 2019 @ 12:09pm

        Re: Re: i would contest it..

        But there is no
        NONE OF THE ABOVE
        Mark locations.. They are all stupid.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 21 Nov 2019 @ 6:26pm

        Re: Re: i would contest it..

        You must live in a very strange place, where elected officials make statements along the lines of 'If elected, I promise to hire people who will ignore the law and cost the taxpayers enormous sums of money', such that voters can actually choose whether they want to vote for that outcome.

        You get to pay your share.

        This is also all sorts of rich, given that 'your share' implies that the guilty party is paying any of it, which does not seem to be the case. That's like someone else going out to eat and handing you the entire check as 'your share', despite the fact that you didn't order anything or had any real involvement in the choice to eat out.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          ECA (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 3:24pm

          Re: Re: Re: i would contest it..

          Its the idea, that many people can pick up on Logic and lies..
          The problem Iv seen is that as long as they get over 50% vote, it dont matter if the candidate Didnt get much of the TOTAL vote, as long as he got he most votes.. And if no one votes for either, then the incumbent still has the job..
          Noooo, we dont want either.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          OldMugwump (profile), 24 Nov 2019 @ 1:12pm

          Re: Re: Re: i would contest it..

          For good or ill, we live in a democracy.

          When the government does stupid and evil things, it's ultimately the responsibility of the voters who elected the government.

          So expect, as a voter, to "pay your share" of the result.

          Personally, I'm a big fan of rights that can't be taken away by majority vote.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 3:26pm

        Re: Re: i would contest it..

        "Ah, but if you live in Dallas it was your elected officials who hired her, mistrained her, and failed to supervise her."\

        You really think the Judge, Congressman, mayor, Did it??
        Or the hired corp that IS' doing it??

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2019 @ 5:18pm

    To be fair, this is not a real policeman: think "mall cop" or small-town speeding-ticket deputy. DART runs buses and commuter-rail. It is a joint-cities government agency, but nobody's choice for front-lIne service in the eternal War on Crime....more the war on not-EXTREMELY-violent nuisances in semi-public business space.

    Private security guards shouldn't misbehave violently any more than cops should, of course.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Agammamon, 20 Nov 2019 @ 10:09pm

      Re:

      That 'not real' police officer still could shoot you in the face and get away with it. Probably even get a commendation.

      DART cops certainly aren't private security - which, since they are still personally liable for their actions, are much more polite and restrained.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 20 Nov 2019 @ 6:02pm

    Good perks if you can get them

    It's good to see Adelman will be compensated for his violated rights, but this settlement comes courtesy of Branch's employer, which means Officer Branch really isn't being held responsible for violating the photographer's rights. When qualified immunity is stripped, another shield usually takes it place. Government employees generally benefit from indemnification, which ensures they won't personally be out any money no matter how often they lose lawsuits.

    Ah the joys of working for a government agency, where badges double as 'Get out of any punishment free' cards and concepts like 'personal responsibility' simply do not apply since someone else is always picking up the check.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Roberts, 20 Nov 2019 @ 8:45pm

    Waste of City Money for a total loser

    How can Avi even be taken serious? This guy is a complete and total loser. I say this because I have known him personally for many years and have witnessed him extort small businesses for a long time. He provoked the Dart officer and he is now getting compensated for it. The loser has not had a real job in decades and has his wife working odd jobs and temp jobs all over the city while he stays home finding ways to extort the next person. I hope his attorney takes most of the settlement. Bad money never lasts. I hope we never hear of him ever again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2019 @ 9:23pm

      Re: Waste of City Money for a total loser

      Sounds like someone’s super jelly.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 20 Nov 2019 @ 9:24pm

      'How dare you MAKE me violate the law/policy!'

      Given the 'provocation' in this case was 'provoking' a DART officer into violating DART policy and lying multiple times in the process you'll have to excuse me if I give the appropriate level of credibility to the rest of your claims about how 'terrible' a person they are.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Agammamon, 20 Nov 2019 @ 10:06pm

      Re: Waste of City Money for a total loser

      If you are 'provoked' by someone standing off in the distance going about their lawful business - the problem is you.

      So, instead of blaming the victim here, get your law enforcement under control.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 21 Nov 2019 @ 9:00am

      Re: Waste of City Money for a total loser

      This guy is a complete and total loser. I say this because I have known him personally for many years and have witnessed him extort small businesses for a long time. He provoked the Dart officer and he is now getting compensated for it.

      Extortion is a crime, as is witnessing a crime and not reporting it. Either prove your allegations or I'll think you're a liar.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2019 @ 9:19am

        Re: Re: Waste of City Money for a total loser

        The "not reporting a crime" laws are really shaky in the US. There are a lot of "remaining silent" defenses, and "non-self incrimination defenses" that you could probably use to challenge them in court if it is required.

        For example, reporting on someone else may incriminate you in a speeding or jaywalking offense. I know they exist still but I think people only get convicted through plea bargains or really shoddy lawyering since practically everything is outlawed in the US if you look hard enough.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 20 Nov 2019 @ 10:04pm

    $345,000?

    I think I might start hanging around cops with a camera.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      OldMugwump (profile), 21 Nov 2019 @ 7:05am

      Re: I think I might start hanging around cops with a camera.

      Please do. That may be the only way to fix this.

      If everybody does that, looking for their $345k, maybe they'll learn what the law is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 4:24am

        Re: Re: I think I might start hanging around cops with a camera.

        Methinks that would only work if they were on the hook for the actual bill. As it is, it's We The People who pick up the tab.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Richard, 23 Nov 2019 @ 12:10pm

          Re: Re: Re: I think I might start hanging around cops with a cam

          That is why numbers is the remedy. Until the amount, in the aggregate, is sufficient to make voters hold their elected officials accountable, so that they hold agency management accountable, so that they hold direct supervisors accountable, so that they provide necessary training and consequences to officers on an ongoing basis, nothing will change. Unfortunately, police misconduct is not a determinative issue for very many voters.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2019 @ 8:09am

    an officer can gain no Fourth Amendment advantage through a sloppy study of the laws [s]he is duty-bound to enforce

    I wish this were true.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    R/O/G/S, 22 Nov 2019 @ 9:04am

    EXACTLY

    ...Some Jews still recall what heroism actually is.

    Mazel tov!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David Wilson, 24 Nov 2019 @ 6:45pm

    Nasty lies about Avi Adelman

    Let's clear the stink created by so-called John Roberts comment

    One so-called fact is so wrong as to show the balance of his statement to be pure unadulterated garbage, generated by severe jealousy and fed by pure ignorance.

    Adelman's wife died almost two years ago due to pancreatic cancer. This is the link to the probate documents.

    https://courtsportal.dallascounty.org/DALLASPROD/DocumentViewer/Embedded/WMasRgoA8Y0Wi9Fb RUPV8upwKsP7nI8vLP0yLGzZ2fjiysz5fwZ2UCRbrs8NlAi1vlLi5L0RrQBt3dglDK7_Jw2?p=0

    Feel better now, you lying piece of garbage?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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