ACLU-MN wins $70K, reforms on behalf of woman charged after recording police

(ABC 6 News) – A woman who faced criminal charges after recording Robbinsdale police while they held two Black men at gunpoint will get $70,000 in a lawsuit settlement, according to the ACLU-MN.

The settlement was reached by ACLU-MN on behalf of Amy Koopman.

In 2018, Koopman — who was a church secretary and seminary student at the time – pulled her vehicle over when she saw Robbinsdale police standing by a car containing two Black men, their guns drawn. She stood on the opposite side of the intersection and began Livestreaming on Facebook because she wanted to ensure the men would be safe and that police would be held accountable, according to court documents.

Court documents state that even though she never physically interfered with police or their actions, Robbinsdale police charged her with obstructing legal process, and threatened to detain her if she didn’t stop recording or provide identification.

The charges were dismissed in June of 2019, however a civil lawsuit was filed against the city for violating Koopman’s First and Fourth Amendment rights to record and speak to police, and to not be cited with obstructing justice for exercising her constitutional rights.

The parties reached a settlement of that lawsuit, and the judge dismissed the case Monday evening.

Along with the $70,000 payment, the settlement contains several reforms requiring the Robbinsdale Police Department to:

  • Adopt policies stating that bystanders have the right to record police conduct, and barring officers from taking adverse actions against bystanders who do so or who verbally object to that conduct.
  • Maintain a policy that officers who fail to follow department policies or violate the law will be subject to discipline, including firing.
  • Have officers attend training on the First and Fourth Amendment and state law on obstruction.

“I am proud and humbled to have been able to hold their feet to the fire and push them as far as we did toward reformation and reparation,” said Koopman. “I hope this puts other police departments on notice that there are citizens who are filming them, holding them to account, and who will fight them for as long as it takes to ensure that people’s rights are upheld.”

“The ability to record police, stand witness and hold police misconduct up to public scrutiny is critical to help stop killings by police and over-policing,” said ACLU-MN staff attorney David McKinney. “This settlement sends a clear message to law enforcement across our state that cracking down on people’s constitutional rights to record or speak to police is bad public policy, and will not be tolerated.”

To learn more about the case, CLICK HERE.