The Galveston Municipal Police Association is asking for support in a plea posted to social media.
In the posting Jan. 13, the association outlined events that landed one of their own, Sergeant Archie Chapman, in hot water.
The Galveston city police sergeant has been indicted by a grand jury on a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge arising from the search of a self-described video activist’s vehicle, according to prosecutors.
Officer Chapman arrested Photography is Not a Crime (PINAC) activist Phillip Turner, who Chapman observed videotaping officers’ personal vehicles and license plates as well as the police headquarter’s exterior.
According to the post on Facebook, “In light of the many recent deadly attacks on law enforcement and concerned for the safety of his fellow officers,” Sergeant Chapman detained and attempted to identify the individual to determine whether or not he posed a threat. The subject refused to identify himself and was subsequently arrested. Only after retrieving the subject’s driver’s license from his vehicle was Chapman able to identify the subject.
In a story published by The Washington Post, Chapman’s attorney, Greg Cagle, said his client was looking in Turner’s car for the man’s driver’s license to book him into jail after detaining him. Cagle said Chapman was worried about the safety of police officers, sheriff’s deputies and jail staff who worked in the nearby building.
In what the Association says is an “utterly shameful and alarming turn of events,” the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office, led by District Attorney Jack Roady, dropped all charges against activist Turner and instead chose to pursue charges against Chapman for Criminal Trespass arising from the alleged ‘search’ of the subject’s vehicle.
According to Turner, he alleges that he was arrested in violation of his First Amendment right to videotape a police station and the activity at the station, and his right to refuse to identify himself when officers from the station asked him to do so.
The Post reports in its story The Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit have not addressed whether or not there is a First Amendment right to videotape police activities.
The Association’s post says Chapman was subsequently indicted by a grand jury and faces up to 180 days in jail, a $2 thousand fine and loss of his peace officer’s license (as well as an end to his 14 year law enforcement career) if convicted.
In a quote to the Houston Chronicle, Chapman’s attorney says his client was doing what he was sworn to do … serve and protect.
“Sgt. Chapman was trying to do his job as a police officer,” Cagle said. “He had no motive other than to protect the public and the officers.”