Whitfield County deputy violates First Amendment, puts department at risk for litigation.

Whitfield County, Georgia – May 19, 2015 — A Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office deputy is putting the taxpayers on the hook for a lawsuit, according to a video shot and posted on YouTube.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9awMT3DLhFc)

In the video, the author, Carl Eastman, a truck driver, pulled his camera out in order to hold the officer, SCSO Deputy J. Rozier, accountable for any possible infractions.  Wise move.  The police are proven to be far more skilled at making videos … “disappear” … than Houdini, so it makes sense to want to record the police at a stop.

Presented below are two still images from the YouTube video.

In the video, the deputy repeatedly informs Eastman that he has “one more time” to stop recording before Eastman is to be charged with Disorderly Conduct, the “catchall” of laws used for dubious arrests that can’t be explained by citing actual law.  Eastman ends up caving in and stopping his recording.

In spite of the fact that Eastman properly identifies his First Amendment right to the deputy, Deputy Rozier *still* persisted in demanding that the recording be stopped, eventually winning the battle, but not the war, against the right to record police.

The right to record police has already been upheld through several battles in federal court, one of which was fought – and won to the tune of $50,000 – see the story here: http://www.copwatchoea.org/content/apd-settles-lawsuit-over-cops-stealing-activists-camera-trying-destroy-footage-drug-raid and the Creative Loafing story here: http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2015/02/17/lawsuit-atlanta-police-refuse-to-comply-with-citizen-videotaping-procedures

So, the question remains – what will the Board of Commissioners, and Sheriff Scott Chitwood, be doing to rectify this situation?

Here is the contact information for Sheriff Scott Chitwood:
Address: 805 Professional Blvd, Dalton, GA 30720
Phone: (706) 278-1233
Website: http://www.whitfieldcountyga.com/sheriff/

Here is the contact information for the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners:
Chairman Mike Babb: mbabb@whitfieldcountyga.com
County Administrator Mark Gibson: mgibson@whitfieldcountyga.com
District 1 Barry W Robbins: brobbins@whitfieldcountyga.com
District 2 Harold Brooker: hbrooker@whitfieldcountyga.com
District 3 Roger Crossen: rcrossen@whitfieldcountyga.com
District 4 Lynn Laughter: llaughter@whitfieldcountyga.com
Location: Whitfield County Administration Building #1
Address: 301 W Crawford, St, Dalton, GA 30720
Phone: (706)275-7500

Another question that remains is one of litigation – how much in liability has Rozier put his employers at risk for?  Does Whitman County feel like pulling the purse strings for as much as $100,000, or more?

These finance admins can probably tell the taxpayers how much left of the County budget can be afforded to litigation payouts for lack of proper training on the First Amendment:  (1) Alicia M. Vaughn, Finance Director, amvaughn@whitfieldcountyga.com, and (2) Melva Andrews, Assistant Finance Director, mandrews@whitfieldcountyga.com.

CALL TO ACTION: Use your power as owners of government – DEMAND the following:

  1. training on adherence to First Amendment rights –
  2. the deputy be punished
  3. a formal apology be issued.

Georgia Cop Block published a detailed synopsis of this story on their site: http://copblock.ga/1109/georgia-cop-forgets-1st-amendment/

Whitfield County has already been sued two months ago by the Southern Center for Human Rights over free speech concerns.  (Green v. Chitwood, et al.)

Download the initial complaint here: Green v Chitwood et al and see the story:
https://www.schr.org/resources/lawsuit_filed_on_behalf_of_man_arrested_for_cursing_on_a_911_call.

The County has also been sued by inmates of its jail for $5 Million as well – see the news on this lawsuit here: http://www.northwestgeorgianews.com/rome/whitfield-inmates-file-million-lawsuit-against-sheriff-s-office/article_b7942b23-d728-5bd0-b5be-6d0d5ca7c57a.html

For a more in-depth look at free speech issues and the litigation involved, here is the website of Cynthia Counts, a prominent free speech attorney: www.lawcounts.com

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About Amy Barnes

Author has extensive experience in Retail, including two years as a supervisor. Educated in Psychology, Financial Accounting, Criminal Justice, and Programming. Work experience in Law Enforcement, Security (IT), Programming (REALBasic, SQL, VB, JAVA), Retail.
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