Tarpon Springs taxpayers have to pay for police action | News
TARPON SPRINGS, Florida - Tarpon Springs taxpayers are picking up the tab after police arrested a man who was doing something perfectly legal -- videotaping the police.
William Kilgore said Tarpon Springs police officers exceeded their authority by arresting. When the department backed its officers, Kilgore said he had no choice but to sue.
On the video, you can see and hear a Tarpon Springs police officer tell Kilgore, "If you don't give it to me, you will be arrested for obstruction."
According to Kilgore, "... All of a sudden, a superior officer drives up beside me and says, 'I'm going to arrest you for felony wiretapping charges if you continue filming. You can't video tape me without my permission,' which was absolutely untrue, absolutely bogus."
The officer drove off and Kilgore taped officers at another scene, where they said he had to surrender his camera.
Kilgore said he was told, "We've performed this traffic stop, we searched this man's car, and found a felony amount of drugs on him, so you can give me the camera or I will take you to jail because that's evidence now."
Kilgore was arrested, but the Pinellas County state attorney refused to prosecute. Kilgore filed an Internal Affairs complaint, which the Tarpon Springs Police Department said was unfounded.
According to Kilgore, that's why he runs his "cop watch" to catch things from a 3rd party perspective. Kilgore said, "Because Internal Affairs is letting the wolves guard the henhouse."
And when Tarpon Springs police officers arrested Kilgore and brought him to a holding cell, saying he was violating the law simply because he was taking video of them, it was clear the officers lacked a basic understanding of First Amendment constitutional rights. That blatant ignorance is costing Tarpon Springs taxpayers thousands of dollars.
Kilgore said his attorney told the city, "You can settle with us or we'll take you to court."
Within two weeks, the city agreed to a $20,000 settlement to avoid a bigger award in court.
Tarpon taxpayer Michael Culp said, "To me, the whole thing sounds crazy. He shouldn't have been arrested to begin with. To me, we're going with things that don't matter."
Most Tarpon taxpayers we talked to feel the same way. In the meantime, William Kilgore said he's putting the money to good use in a legal defense fund for anyone else hassled while shooting video of police.
"Because it is not about the money," Kilgore said. "It is about establishing something so the cops know that they can't stop people from filming."
We asked the city of Tarpon Springs to comment about the award and the fact their officers trampled on the Constitution. The city declined to comment.