Dothan officers handcuff man not suspected of crimes

George Metz, among a growing number of First Amendment auditors who push tolerance limits of public officials, filed the civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 7:49 PM CST
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Dothan, Ala. (WTVY) -Two Dothan police officers are accused of violating constitutional rights of a man they handcuffed, though he could not have reasonably been suspected of committing a crime.

George Metz, among a growing number of First Amendment auditors who push tolerance limits of public officials, filed the civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

In June 2020, Metz, who operates the “Rogue Nation” YouTube channel, and another auditor walked into the Department of Human Resources office in Dothan with their video cameras recording. When asked to leave they refused, so DHR workers summoned police.

Metz’s video shows Officer D. Bridges arriving first. Moments later, he handcuffed Metz and the other auditor because they refused to produce identification.

“Officer D Bridges acted with malice or reckless indifference to Metz’s constitutional rights,” the lawsuit claims.

Alabama law states that police can require identification from those whom officers suspect have committed, are committing, or are about to commit a (criminal) offense.

In the DHR case, Metz committed no crime because neither local nor state laws prohibit recording in public areas of government buildings.

Metz also claims Officer J. Dodson, the second defendant, illegally searched him while he was handcuffed.

“As a result of the misconduct of Officer Dodson, Metz has been caused to suffer emotional injuries and damages and has been caused to incur expenses, including attorney’s fees and other costs of litigation,” the lawsuit alleges.

Ultimately, higher ranking officers got involved and, after consulting with legal experts, released the two auditors about 30 minutes after they were handcuffed.

Dodson and Bridges have not responded to the allegations.

Dothan is not specifically named as a defendant, though the city could ultimately be responsible if the officers are found liable.

A few municipalities have settled lawsuits brought by other First Amendment Auditors. Among them are two Colorado cities that collectively shelled out about $50,000.

Silverhorne settled after one of its officers arrested an auditor for filming at the local post office, while Colorado Springs paid $41,000 to a man arrested for videotaping a police parking lot from a public sidewalk.

First Amendment Auditors have forced police departments to review how they respond to complaints about auditors.

After the DHR incident, Dothan officers received training on how to deal with auditors and when Metz returned to Dothan a few months later police responded to complaints about him and other auditors in his group but did not confront them because they had not violated laws.

Metz is asking that a jury determine damages if it finds officers liable. He mistakenly filed the suit in the wrong district but and the case will be transferred to the Middle District of Alabama.

(This story has been updated to reflect the mistaken filing of the case as to court jurisdiction).

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