Three Connecticut police officers were caught on camera fabricating charges against a protester at a DUI stop. In a strange twist, they were the ones to film themselves (video below).
Michael Picard, 27, is well known in the East Hartford area for protesting DUI checkpoints, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, who is filing the lawsuit against the officers involved. Based on his own investigations into the state public records, he has found that DUI checkpoints are a waste of public funds. He claims that most citations are not for driving under the influence, but for minor traffic violations, like having defective equipment.
Picard often protests the check points by holding up a handmade sign that reads, "Cops Ahead: Keep Calm and Remain Silent," according to The Washington Post. Police know him so well that the three state troopers who were manning the DUI checkpoint that night were actually warned ahead of time that Picard would be there protesting and that he would be legally carrying a weapon.
So, when Picard was found protesting, police weren't too surprised. The Hartford man was recording the checkpoint's activity on his video camera for over an hour-and-a-half until, unexpectedly, one of the officers slapped the equipment out of his hand. The camera hits the ground and the officers assume it's broken, according to the ACLU.
The troopers tell Picard that there have been complaints that a man was "waving a gun and pointing it at people," and they confiscate his weapon and pistol permit, according to the ACLU lawsuit. They also take the camera, claiming that it's illegal to film an officer. One of the troopers takes the camera and brings it back to his official vehicle, without knowing that it is still recording.
Once Picard's pistol permit is checked and found to be valid, the video shows the officers debating how to charge him.
"[We] gotta cover our ass," says one officer, according to The Post.
The others agree and they conspire on how exactly they can arrest him.
"So, we can hit him with reckless use of the highway by a pedestrian and creating a public disturbance, and whatever he said," says the sergeant on scene.
Another officer agrees, adding, "And then we claim that in backup, we had multiple people [and] they didn’t want to stay and give us a statement, so we took our own course of action."
Picard was indeed charged with two criminal trespassing charges, which were later dropped by the superior court system. Now, the ACLU is filing a lawsuit against those involved.
"Police should be focused on public safety, not punishing protesters and those who film public employees working on a public street," said ACLU legal director Dan Barrett in a statement. "As the video shows, these police officers were more concerned with thwarting Mr. Picard’s free speech and covering their tracks than upholding the law."
The Connecticut State Police is not making any comments at this time.