On November 20th, the City of Delano, California agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by four high school students who alleged that Delano police officers violated their First Amendment right to record police.
On April 11, 2019, the four teenagers were walking through a residential neighborhood on their way to their school to buy prom tickets. According to the complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California by the ACLU of Southern California, Pablo Semintal Jr., and his friends were stopped and questioned by three Delano police officers.
When the boys invoked their right to remain silent, the officers attempted to arrest them for jaywalking. Two of the teens began filming the officers, and one of the officers slapped the cellphone out of one of the teen’s hands, wrestling him to the ground and handcuffing him, while another officer grabbed the other teen to stop him from filming.
Semintal, who was standing off to the side, asked the officers what they were doing to his friends when the last of the three officers “charged at Pablo from roughly 20 feet away, body-slamming him to the ground without warning,” according to the complaint.
The four teens were transported to the Delano police station where they were later released. Only one of the teenagers, Edwin Ardon, was charged with a single count of jaywalking.
According to Reason, the Delano Police Department acknowledged the use of force by the officers, but cleared them of misconduct, saying that the boys had refused to get out of the road.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the city and the Delano PD agree to pay each teen between $30,000-$35,000 for their “alleged physical injuries and emotional distress,” pay $25,000 to the ACLU of Southern California for attorney fees, and recommend that the Kern County district attorney drop Ardon’s jaywalking charge. Additionally, the settlement agreement requires the Delano PD to update its training to prevent further arrests of citizens exercising their First Amendment right to record police in public.