On May 5, 2014 at approximately 10:00 p.m. as I stood at the corner of Sebastopol Road and Dutton Avenue (370 Sebastopol Road) I was informed that Jose Luis Godoy had just been pulled over in front of the Women’s Justice Center (250 Sebastopol Road) for a traffic infraction (failure to make a complete stop).
My fiance Scott Ihlenfeld drove me to the Acme Auto Wrecking gravel driveway. (See Attached Google map marked with an “X-Alicia vehicle”.) As we drove up, I noticed there were several law enforcement officers (6-8 officers) behind Mr. Godoy’s vehicle. Some patrol cars were driving away as I approached. In Mr. Godoy’s vehicle was one passenger.
I got out of my vehicle with my camcorder and walked to the sidewalk immediately in front of the Women’s Justice Center ramp. (See attached Google map marked with an “X-sidewalk next to ramp”.) As I walked in front of the ramp, several flashlights were immediately pointed directly at my face, which made it difficult for me to see where I was walking, and made it impossible for me to record.
One unknown Officer yelled, “get back”. At the time the officers and Mr. Godoy’s vehicle were located approximately 25 feet away on Sebastopol Road. I immediately started walking back and asked why and an unknown officer yelled angrily, “Alicia get back”. I feared for my safety because officers were making it difficult for n1e to see. I didn’t know if officers were pointing guns at me or were going to come and tackle me, so I continued walking further away from the officers. At this point, I anticipate I was at least 40 feet away from Mr. Godoy and the officers. (I was at the top of the Ramp).
I have been actively protesting mass traffic stops and so-called sobriety checkpoints throughout the county for many years. I do not normally engage law enforcement officers in conversation while they are performing their duties. In this instance, the officer had initiated contact and clearly knew who I was, as he yelled out my name. This officer kept yelling at me to “get back” even though I was approximately 40 feet away. Eventually, the officer stopped yelling, “backup”.
The officers shined their flashlights in my face and camcorder until the citing officer handed a citation to Mr. Godoy. Once the flashlights stopped shining in my face and I observed the officers walking to their respective motorcycles and patrol car I determined the traffic stop was complete. Wanting to find out who the participating officers were, I walked to the sidewalk closest to the roadway, Sebastopol Road. There were approximately three law enforcement officers standing next to their motorcycles. I recognized Stephen Bussell and observed him and another officer getting into Bussell’s patrol car, nearby. As I approached Bussell’s patrol car, he immediately turned on his patrol flood light and pointed it at my face. I continued walking past his vehicle, and Bussell followed me with his flood light. Bussell and the other officer in his vehicle laughed as they drove away.
REASON FOR COMPLAINT:
The purpose of this complaint, is to advise you of harassing and intimidating tactics by Santa Rosa Police law enforcement officials, in an effort to prevent me from lawfully recording police activity in public.
From past instances of observing traffic stops, I believed then and still believe that I was more than reasonable in my proximity and my attempts to observe, so as to not interfere with law enforcement duties. I believe that SRPD officers only intention in asking me to back away while shining their bright flashlights at me was to prevent me from observing and filming their activities. There was no reason to have 6-8 bright flashlights pointed at me during the entire Godoy traffic stop, other than to assure that my recorder could not capture any footage.
WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN:
I will continue to be at traffic stops, checkpoints, protests etc. filming police while they are
performing their lawful and unlawful duties in public places. Because of this, I want to be
assured that the intimidation, harassment and interference referenced above will not be repeated while I or other persons are filming or observing police activities. This includes but is not limited to the following:
1. Shining their patrol flood lights for no reason other than to harass and prevent the video
camcorder from capturing the officers identities and images;
2. Causing law enforcement observers temporary blindness while observing police conduct; and
3. Preventing people from observing the scene by forcing them to move away
OTHER MISCONDUCT BY STEPHEN BUSSELL:
This is not the first time Officer Bussell has interfered with my right to film police activities.
On December 10,2013, sometime after 5:00 p.m. I was standing next to other observers with cameras and/or camcorders on the lawn of a house (952 Sonoma Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA) across from the Santa Rosa Police Department. We were observing and filming a protest against Santa Rosa Police Department. As I was filming I noticed several police officers in riot gear walking in a line towards us. When he was approximately five feet away from me, Officer Bussell screamed at me to cross the street with “the other protestors” and said “only media” could be there. I immediately started walking eastbound on the sidewalk to use the crosswalk a few feet away (see attached map). Before I took more than a few steps, I felt someone grab me and shove me, forcing me into the street and into the path of oncoming traffic. I immediately turned around and recognized it was Stephen Bussell, who was inches away from me. I asked him not to touch me. He again yelled at me to cross the street. He was very agitated and angry and continued to move closer to me. I told him I was trying to cross the street but that I wasn’t going to walk into heavy traffic outside of the crosswalk. I agreed to walk outside of the crosswalk if he escorted me across. He then proceeded to shove me into the path of a vehicle that nearly hit me.
Again, because Officer Bussell knew I was observing and sympathetic to those protesting law enforcement activities, he singled me out. Others located in the same area, engaging in the same activity of observing and recording the scene were not told to leave. Officer Bussell made no such demands, threats or made any attempt to prevent those he considered “media” and not “protestors” from filming. I did not see or hear about Officer Bussell grabbing or shoving any others engaging in this activity, or order them to illegally – and at great risk – cross a major road with heavy traffic.
I want assurances that Officer Bussell will be formerly reprimanded for 1) placing me in
immediate danger of being struck by traffic, not once, but twice within seconds, and 2)
demanding that I put myself at grave risk by instructing me to cross heavy traffic outside of a crosswalk.
I also want assurances that all SRPD officers will be properly trained, supervised and instructed to abstain from interfering with protesters, monitors, legal observers and others lawfully present and observing SRPD activities, especially in the course of engaging in protected free speech and other civil liberties.