ACLU-MN Wins $70K, Reforms on Behalf of Woman Arrested after Recording Police
MINNEAPOLIS – A woman who faced criminal charges after recording Robbinsdale police while they held two Black men at gunpoint will get $70,000 in a lawsuit settlement, reached by ACLU-MN on her behalf. The settlement includes numerous reforms.
“I am proud and humbled to have been able to hold their feet to the fire and push them as far as we did toward reformation and reparation,” said plaintiff Amy Koopman. “I hope this puts other police departments on notice that there are citizens who are filming them, holding them to account, and who will fight them for as long as it takes to ensure that people’s rights are upheld.”
In 2018, Koopman — who was a church secretary and seminary student at the time – pulled her vehicle over when she saw Robbinsdale police standing by a car containing two Black men, their guns drawn. She stood on the opposite side of the intersection and began Livestreaming on Facebook because she wanted to ensure the men would be safe and that police would be held accountable.
Even though she never physically interfered with police or their actions, Robbinsdale police charged her with obstructing legal process, and threatened to detain her if she didn’t stop recording or provide identification. The ACLU-MN and Bass Law Firm won dismissal of that misdemeanor charge in June of 2019, then sued the city.
“The ability to record police, stand witness and hold police misconduct up to public scrutiny is critical to help stop killings by police and over-policing,” said ACLU-MN staff attorney David McKinney. “This settlement sends a clear message to law enforcement across our state that cracking down on people’s constitutional rights to record or speak to police is bad public policy, and will not be tolerated.”
Along with the $70,000 payment, the settlement contains several reforms. The highlights include requiring Robbinsdale Police Department to:
- Adopt policies stating that bystanders have the right to record police conduct, and barring officers from taking adverse actions against bystanders who do so or who verbally object to that conduct.
- Maintain a policy that officers who fail to follow department policies or violate the law will be subject to discipline, including firing.
- Have officers attend training on the First and Fourth Amendment and state law on obstruction.
“I got involved in this case to ensure that people like Amy Koopman and Darnella Frazier can record and expose police misconduct,” said attorney Howard Bass, who’s served as an ACLU-MN volunteer attorney for more than 20 years. “As we saw in the recording of George Floyd’s murder, a single act of great courage can be the start of great change, and we cannot allow law enforcement to criminalize one of the strongest pathways to police accountability.”
In August of 2018, Amy Koopman recorded Robbinsdale police and faced criminal charges. In June of 2019, the ACLU-MN and Bass Law Firm won dismissal of that misdemeanor charge. In August of 2021, ACLU-MN — joined by pro bono attorneys at Bass Law Firm and Forsgren Fisher McCalmont DeMarea Tysver LLP — filed a civil lawsuit against the city for violating Koopman’s First and Fourth Amendment rights to record and speak to police, and to not be cited with obstructing justice for exercising her constitutional rights. The parties reached a settlement of that lawsuit, and the judge dismissed the case Monday evening.
“Because of Amy Koopman’s bravery and persistence, the rights of Minnesotans to bear witness to interactions between police and public are more protected. She is an inspiration,” said Virginia McCalmont, a partner at Forsgren Fisher McCalmont DeMarea Tysver LLP.
Learn more about the case at: https://www.aclu-mn.org/en/cases/amy-jo-koopman-v-city-robbinsdale-et-al.
The ACLU-MN is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to defend the civil liberties of all Minnesotans through litigation, lobbying and community engagement. Learn more at www.aclu-mn.org.