Ex-Girlfriend gets man arrested for video’ing in park
Case: REHER v. VIVO (7th Cir, Sept. 7, 2011)
What Happened: A man was in a public park where children were playing when approached his long-estranged ex-girlfriend and mother of his estranged child. The ex-girlfriend accused the man of taking video of his estranged daughter who was with her mother in the park. There was a considerable history of acrimony between the man and his ex-girlfriend. The man claims that he was not video’ing the daughter or other the other children at the park, but, rather, was video’ing the encounter with the ex-girfriend for his own protection. The ex-girlfriend took the camera from the man and destroyed it. The police were called. A least a couple of adults at the park told the police that they thought the man was video’ing the children. Police arrested the man for disorderly conduct, but those charges were later dismissed. The man sued the police in a civil suit for the arrest.
Decision: Police are not liable. Although there was indeed probably insufficient probable cause to arrest the man for disorderly conduct, the witness statements at the scene made it reasonable for the police to be mistaken about probable cause and this gives rise to qualified immunity with respect to the man’s arrest.
Comment: The responding police officers were faced with a very difficult situation. On the one hand there was an angry mob figuratively howling for the man’s blood. On the other hand was the man whom the court effectively cleared of wrongdoing, after the dust had settled a bit, as contrasted with the crazy situation the responding police officers faced in the park. Extrastatutory though it may be, the doctrine of qualified immunity seems a good fit for a situation like this Reher case.