Attorney: Race played role in man's arrest

February 16, 2012 8:40:30 PM PST
A Chicago man has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department.

Tyrone Gillett says police grabbed his cell phone and roughed him up when he shot cell phone video of police activity during a disturbance in the Loop.

The 29-year-old union steelworker was headed home from work last summer when he stopped to videotape a scene near Monroe and State with his cell phone.

"You see him, he's standing there with other people. Somebody who had been standing watching a little bit longer than him is telling him what happened," said Torreya Hamilton, Gillett's attorney.

Gillett, who is black, wasn't the only one videotaping the scene. In the video, another man, who appears to be Caucasian, can be seen pointing a small camcorder at police and is then met by a sergeant who appears to direct him to stop. When he does, the sergeant gives him thumbs-up.

"You see the police officer treat one person one way and another person entirely dramatically differently," said Hamilton.

Gillett then moves closer to the first responders. A man from the fire department ignores him, but the same sergeant seen earlier has a much different reaction.

"He was arrested for recording the police. I think the police, they don't like to be recorded," said Hamilton.

In fact, under Illinois' eavesdropping law, it's illegal to audio record anyone, including officers, without their permission. But Gillett wasn't charged with eavesdropping; he was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing police.

The charges were eventually dropped, but Gillett has now filed a lawsuit alleging false arrest.

"He is not in any way interfering with anything that the police or the fire department personnel are doing," said Hamilton.

Though the police union supports the recording ban, Chicago's top cop recently said it may be time to loosen it.

"I see a lot of value in being able to have audio and video recording at the same time," said Supt. Garry McCarthy, Chicago Police Department.

"Being able to record this happening ... it shows why it's important that we should be allowed to record our police officers," said Hamilton.

A spokesperson for the city's legal department declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying his office has not yet had a chance to review the complaint, which was filed this week.

There are multiple cases currently working their way through the courts challenging the state's eavesdropping law.

The law only applies to audio recording, not video, which may be why Gillett was not charged with eavesdropping.