It’s been almost a year since Houston police arrested Jeffrey Decker after he video recorded them abusing a young man in a shopping mall.
They walked up to him and demanded his identification. When he refused to give it to them, they arrested him on a charge of failure to identify.
But Texas law clearly states that police must have “lawfully arrested” a person before they can charge him with failing to identify himself, meaning they had no grounds to arrest him if all he was doing was video recording them.
Decker spent 30 hours in jail before a judge dismissed the charge, then spent another six hours in the slammer before they actually released him.
You would think this case would be ripe for a lawsuit, but Decker has been unable to find a lawyer to take his case.
One attorney assured him he could win $10,000, but that attorney also wanted $15,000 up front.
Decker, a freelance journalist covering the aerospace industry, just doesn’t have that much money lying around.
So he’s hoping an attorney will see this article and take the case on spec. The statute of limitations expires on February 20, 2012.
Here is how he described the incident in an email to Photography is Not a Crime:
Two officers of the Houston Police Department’s special forces unit attacked a 19-year-old man who was quietly sitting on a bench at a downtown mall. The officers did not like the way he was looking at them. He was cited with disorderly conduct but the charge was dismissed after he spent 30 hours in jail.
I happened to be nearby to purchase some batteries when the officers put the young man in a headlock, punched him repeatedly and body-slammed him. My video camera recorded from this moment onward as he was cuffed and as officers expressed hostility at being taped.
Soon afterward they demanded to see my driver’s license and arrested me when I refused. I also spent 30 hours in jail. Even after the judge dismissed my charge of “failure to provide identification” we both spent 6 hours in the overcrowded city jail before being released.
This all occured on Feb. 20 and 21, 2010. I’ve been searching without success for a Houston attorney to pursue a lawsuit against the Houston Police Department. The statute of limitations goes into effect this February. Texas attorneys are encouraged to contact me to remind these violent police officers they are public servants.
As a freelance journalist I mostly cover aerospace and fuels, but one of my long-term projects is to write a book titled “Orderly Conduct: Defending liberty before it is destroyed.”
Decker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.