The 2009 arrest of Josh Schlossberg as he protested Umpqua Bank was carried out with excessive force, a federal jury ruled Monday. An earlier ruling confirmed that EPD Sgt. Bill Solesbee violated Schlossberg’s civil rights by viewing the contents of Schlossberg’s video camera without a warrant after the arrest. Schlossberg was never formally charged in the incident.
Schlossberg says he is pleased with the recognition of the police actions as a violation of his civil rights and likens his 2009 protest to the work that the Occupy movement has done in bringing attention to problems and corruption in the financial system. “If there was true justice in this world, I would be able to sue clear-cutting, toxic herbicide-spraying, native forest-logging, biomass power-profiteering, one-percenter Umpqua Bank Chairman of the Board Allyn Ford, CEO of Roseburg Forest Products — not just the tool (Solesbee) Ford and Umpqua Bank used against me in violence,” Schlossberg told EW.
Oregon law and the U.S. Constitution don’t prohibit the videotaping of police officers, but Oregon law does require that they be made aware of the videotaping. Schlossberg’s recording includes Solesbee asking if he was recording, Schlossberg saying “Yes, and I did say that to you twice,” and Solesbee saying “No, you asked me if you could. You didn’t inform me you were.” Solesbee demands the camera as evidence just before the end of the clip.
Unlike the federal jury, an internal affairs investigation of Solesbee’s actions did not find that Solesbee violated Schlossberg’s rights. Instead the EPD investigation said that Schlossberg violated the police officer’s rights by recording him unlawfully. The police auditor found the case inconclusive, according to Schlossberg’s attorney, Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center.
The federal jury unanimously awarded Schlossberg $5,583 for medical expenses and non-economic damages.
Melinda McLaughlin, EPD’s public information director, told EW “at the time of the incident, under the laws that existed at the time and the search and seizure standards that existed at the time, the officers’ decision to arrest and search Schlossberg was within policy and complied with the law.”
Asked whether the results of the internal review would be different today, it’s unclear if EPD would still take and examine a camera without a search warrant during a protest: “Legal minds differ on whether searching a camera incident to arrest is allowed in today’s search and seizure environment,” McLaughlin replied on behalf of Police Chief Pete Kerns.