Gresham, OR — With the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, a Portland woman is suing the cities of Gresham and Portland as well as TriMet after a police officer took her phone because she was recording police activity.
The suit claims Gresham police officer Taylor Letsis violated Carrie Medina’s privacy and her rights as a journalist when he took her phone in 2013.
Medina had been live-streaming police activity on the internet for about two years as part of the organization Film the Police Portland when the incident happened, so when she saw police arresting a man in what she considered a rough manner, she got off the bus she was riding on and pulled out her phone.
Letsis then approached Medina and demanded she hand over the phone.
“I need to see your video to see if it has any evidence of a crime,” Letsis said in the video.
Medina offered to give him the video with a warrant or subpoena, but Letsis said he didn’t need one and grabbed the phone from her.
“That day, I felt afraid,” Medina said. “After that video ended, the officer grabbed my arm and twisted it and held me there and searched my phone.”
After the incident, Medina filed a complaint against Letsis and received a letter from the Gresham Police Department stating the officer did not do anything wrong.
The following month, Chief Craig Junginger sent an internal memo to the department, stating, “I highly discourage the seizing of property, or the arresting of persons, for simply recording your official actions without your knowledge.”
Medina’s suit is seeking $1,084. Medina said the lawsuit is not about money, but rather educating police and the public.
“I want accountability,” Medina said. “I want retraining of the police, and I want the public at large to know it’s a right to film on a public street corner. It’s a right to film police.”
The Gresham Police Department wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, saying only that videotaping by the public is simply part of the job today.