A Californian newspaper reporter was threatened with arrest for attempting to photograph a police investigation outside the town’s public library last week.
Carrie Peyton Dahlberg said she was walking into the library in Eureka to return some books when she came across what appeared to be a marijuana bust.
She pulled out her iPhone, snapped a couple of photos and was immediately confronted by a Eureka police officer named Drake Goodale – who happens to be wearing a video recorder on his uniform.
After I parked I pulled out my phone for a couple of shots. I walked closer, and in my best friendly voice asked something like boy, is that what I think it is? One of the cops barked no pictures, grabbed the two bags and tossed them in the trunk, out of view. Hey, I’m with the North Coast Journal, I said, just wondering what’s going on. I offered the officers a business card, still trying at friendly. It was a colossal fail.
The officers declined my card. OK. They didn’t want to be interviewed. OK. They told me if I didn’t stop taking pictures I was going to be arrested. No, no, no, no, no. That is not OK.
I’ll be arrested, a suddenly much taller and more menacing looking officer declared, for interfering with their investigation. This even though I’m standing well away from their red car black bag green bag business. Even though it’s a public parking lot. I asked for the tall guy’s name, and he refused to tell me. He threatened me with arrest again. The not OKness of this was mounting by the second. But there were three of them, with guns. And one of me, with a library card.
I allowed myself to be bullied out of taking more shots. I stepped back toward my car and phoned my husband. He’s a retired public defender, and great moral support. Soon he was at the parking lot. With reinforcements nearby, I walked a wide line around the officers and photographed each of their license plates, in case they continued to refuse to give me their names.
Then I grabbed a notebook from the back of my car and cautiously approached another tall scary cop. I’m going to be making a formal complaint, I told him, and I needed his name. I’m going to walk close enough to read his name tag, I told him. I edged nearer, moving very slowly, very carefully. His name tag said Chapman. I asked for his first name and rank and he refused. I announced to the next cop, the one who threatened me with arrest, that I was going to walk close enough to see his name. It was Goodale. I again announced my next move, and Goodale said he’d tell me the name of the third cop. It’s a name you could spell a few different ways, so I ask him to spell it. “O-f-f-i-c-e-r,” he began. Mr. Goodale was clearly having more fun with this little episode than I was. “M-c-E-l-r-o-y,” he finished.
Dahlberg, who describes herself as an easy-going middle-aged woman, is now vowing to make an issue about the incident. Hopefully, she obtains Goodale’s video footage from his body-mounted camera and publicizes it.
But even as a relative newcomer here, I’ve heard about the troubled history of the Eureka Police Department. If the department’s top brass believe that threatening a middle-aged lady with arrest for taking a few iPhone snapshots is acceptable, then what else is going on out there? If this wasn’t an aberration, then the City Council needs to ask some stern questions, both of current Chief Murl Harpham and of whomever it hires to be the next police chief. Just what are Eureka police afraid of? What are they doing that they don’t want on camera?
Maybe one day police will figure out that the more they try to hide, the more guilty they come across.