Two police officers with the Eugene Police Department confronted environmental activist Josh Schlossberg as he handed out flyers and information to interested passers-by on the public sidewalk in front of the Umpqua Bank. Mr. Schlossberg was providing information on the negative impacts of some of the business investments of the Bank on the local forests. After one of the officers decided everything was in order, an EPD sergeant with a history of questionable actions against activists and others, investigated Mr. Schlossberg’s public activities again. Mr. Schlossberg told the sergeant that he was recording their interaction with a handheld camera that recorded video as well. The sergeant confiscated Schlossberg’s camera and then employed excessive force to falsely arrest him for surreptitiously recording a police officer.
The CLDC filed a federal civil rights (§ 1983) lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Schlossberg against the sergeant, Eugene Police Department, and the City of Eugene for police misconduct. In addition to determining whether the officer used unlawful force against Mr. Schlossberg, his lawsuit also challenged whether the City of Eugene violated the rights of all citizens by maintaining a custom or policy of ratifying and condoning police misconduct through the internal affairs process (police policing themselves as a result of civilian complaints) by not holding officers accountable for their misconduct, and basically rubber-stamping their unlawful or unprofessional behaviors. Section 1983 creates a cause of action against any person, including municipalities who, under color of law, deprive another of his or her rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the US Constitution. Mr. Schlossberg claimed that the City maintained a custom that allowed members of the EPD to engage in misconduct.
On Monday, January 23rd, a federal jury ruled that Sergeant Solsbee used excessive force in an arrest of environmental activist Josh Schlossberg. The CLDC has been working tirelessly for years on Schlossberg’s case and is pleased with the verdict. We hope that this case will be a precedent in protecting the rights of activists to film police officers. We are also pleased to see that an officer’s excessive use of force goes punished and that an activist brutalized is awarded reparations.