Don't try to photograph a Houston cop or tape record him - a lesson local mechanic Michael Haven claims one officer tried to teach him the hard way.
According to a lawsuit recently filed in Houston federal court against the City of Houston and HPD officer Glen Dickerson, Haven claims he was falsely prosecuted after a confrontation with Dickerson at Haven's motorcycle repair shop two years ago.
Haven says that Dickerson arrived at the repair shop while Haven was having trouble with a customer who was threatening to sue Haven for taking too long to fix his bike. Concerned about the possible lawsuit, Haven claims he took a photo of the customer's motorcycle and then also snapped a picture of the marked HPD squad-car parked on Haven's property. Immediately, according to the lawsuit, Dickerson told Haven not to photograph his car and then ordered Haven to produce an ID.
Haven claims he told Dickerson his ID was inside the shop and asked Dickerson to wait outside while he retrieved it. Dickerson nevertheless followed Haven inside. Again, Haven asked Dickerson to wait outside his office while he got his wallet, yet Dickerson once more followed Haven "and stood next to [him] at an uncomfortably close distance," states the lawsuit.
Seconds after handing over his ID, Haven claims Dickerson grabbed his arm, handcuffed him, and arrested him for assault. Dickerson then allegedly reached into Haven's pants pocket and found a tape recorder, which was turned on. Haven claims Dickerson listened to the tape and then erased part of it.
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When the case went to court, Haven agreed to work 10 hours of community service and the case was dismissed, according to criminal court records. Haven claims in the lawsuit that he chose to perform the community service because he could do it without missing work and to continue with the case would have taken at least twice that amount of time.
Among several claims, Haven is asserting that Dickerson used excessive force, stopped him from taking pictures and erased his audiotape, all in violation of Haven's First Amendment rights. Haven also is suing for malicious prosecution, as Haven "was innocent of the charge, and the prosecution terminated in his favor."
Haven is seeking damages as well as injunctive relief preventing police from interfering with his rights, because Haven "will photograph police officers on his property, record them, and speak freely about police abuse..." according to the lawsuit. Haven is seeking a court order that HPD train its officers not to arrest people "for speech ... or photographing or recording conversations with police," states the lawsuit.
Hair Balls called HPD for comment on the lawsuit and to ask if there was ever an internal affairs investigation into Dickerson. A public affairs officer said he would have an answer on Monday. We'll let you know what the police say then.