Body camera footage released by the Denver Police Department (DPD) shows two police officers telling a female journalist to “act like a lady,” before they handcuff and detain her for attempting to photograph them on a public sidewalk.
When pressed as to why she was being stopped from recording, the officers claimed they were protecting a third-party’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rights. There’s at least one problem there: HIPAA rights do not function in this manner.
In fact, according to a HIPAA guide for law enforcement produced by the Department of Health and Human Services, the HIPAA Privacy Rule does not apply to “most state and local police or other law enforcement agencies.”
Susan Greene is the journalist in question. She currently works as editor of the Colorado Independent.
According to Greene and the Independent, she was driving near Colorado’s State Capitol building on July 5 when she noticed DPD officers surrounding a mostly-naked African American man who was sitting on the sidewalk in handcuffs.
Greene stopped her car and got out to get the story because it was strictly within one of her beats–Greene has worked for years covering instances of police brutality and African-American men who have been killed while in police custody.
The recently-released body camera footage captures the shocking encounter that follows.
As Greene approaches the scene, she is quickly blocked by DPD Officer James Brooks. Greene raises her phone to photograph the incident anyway. The video captures this initial contact and audio cuts in as Officer Adam Paulsen arrives.
Paulsen says, “This is protected by HIPAA, you can’t record here.” Simultaneously, Brooks incorrectly cites what he believes is the basis for HIPAA’s acronym, “Health Information Privacy Protection Act.”
Greene responds: :There’s also a First Amendment. Have you heard of it?”
Officer Paulsen claims, “That doesn’t supersede HIPAA.” Brooks chimes in again, “It doesn’t supersede HIPPA. Now step away or you’ll be arrested for interference. Step away or you’ll be arrested for interference!”
At this point, Greene raises her phone to take more pictures and is immediately handcuffed by the officers who twist her arm behind her back, prompting cries of pain from the veteran reporter and editor.
Officer Paulsen then tells Greene, “Stand up straight. Let’s act like a lady.” Brooks follows suit, saying, “Stand up and act like a lady.”
To which Greene replies, “Are you fucking kidding me? Act like a lady?”
Brooks finishes up, sauntering off as he says, “There you go. Now you can go to jail.”
As the officers take Greene toward a squad car, she complains that she’s being hurt. “Stop hurting me! You are hurting me,” Greene says. “No we’re not,” Paulsen replies, “Walk normal.” Brooks and Paulsen both respond that she should should “stop resisting,” and that she’s actually causing herself pain because of the way she’s walking.
Greene also calls out for onlookers to document her treatment but the officers quiet her down by noting that the entire incident is already being recorded. Greene was ultimately detained for around 12 minutes before being released.
Denver District Attorney Beth McCann last week announced that her office had declined to press charges against the officers.
Law&Crime reached out to the DPD for comment and clarification on this story. No response was forthcoming at the time of publication.
[image via screengrab]