BEAVERTON, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon city has agreed to pay $19,000 to settle a federal lawsuit by a man the police arrested for using a cell phone to record the voice of an officer arresting a friend.
Beaverton police Chief Geoff Spalding says it’s unlikely his officers would again arrest somebody for recording the voice of an officer, although he’s not ruling it out.
A similar incident in Portland prompted city attorneys to advise the police that officers can’t seize cameras or arrest people for recording them in public, except in rare circumstances.
The settlement comes almost two years after Beaverton police arrested Hao Xeng Vang, who used his cell phone to capture the arrest of one of his friends at the Valley Lanes Bowling Center in Beaverton.
Vang made no attempt to hide his recording and even narrated what he was capturing, said his attorney, Kevin Lucey.
“He kept on saying, ‘Don’t worry. I’ve got it on tape,'” Lucey said.
After about 10 minutes, Officer Jason Buelt seized Vang’s phone and arrested him. The city returned the phone in October, but the recording was deleted. Lucey said officials made copies.
After an investigation, Spalding said, Buelt was disciplined for deleting the recording, but Spalding declined to provide details. Buelt is now a detective.
Prosecutors dropped the case against Vang on the grounds the audio quality was so poor it might not have qualified as a violation of the law.
Beaverton city lawyers wrote two memos saying that in most encounters with residents, police don’t have an expectation of privacy and they should assume they are being recorded.
Citing Oregon’s eavesdropping laws, Spalding said he believes his officers can arrest people who record officers’ private conversations without permission. But the likelihood of arrest, Spalding said, “is pretty low.”
“That is a technical violation of the law. That doesn’t mean there’s going to be an arrest,” Spalding said.
Lucey said the legal process has taken a toll on Vang, who lives in Aloha with his wife and children and did not want to discuss his settlement.
Vang originally sought about $190,000. The city’s insurance carrier will pay the settlement and $41,500 in legal expenses, city spokeswoman Amy Miner said.
Vang’s legal bills exceeded the settlement, but Lucey said he will reduce some fees so Vang receives some money.
Filed Under: Industry regulations