In this case Chestnut is jogging and observing an officer make traffic stops. When the officer sees the jogger a second time observing her making a traffic stop, she radios in that someone is following her as she is making traffic stops. Officer Wallace responded and denuded identification from Chestnut who had no identification on him and gave his name, birth date, and last four of his SSN. At this point Wallace frisked Chestnut and directed other officers to handcuff him (which they did). Chestnut them provided his full SSN and officers ran a warrants check which came back negative. When a supervisor arrived, he ordered the handcuffs removed and released Chestnut.
Chestnut sued Wallace for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Wallace detained, arrested, frisked, and handcuffed him without reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe he had engaged in or was about to engage in unlawful conduct or that he was armed and dangerous. When Wallace moved for summary judgment on the ground of qualified immunity the district court denied the motion. Wallace appealed to the Eighth Circuit.
Officer Wallace argued that the law was not clearly established when he detained Chestnut that he violated the constitution “by conducting an investigatory stop and briefly handcuffing a suspect with no identification after he follows a female police officer, seemingly obscures himself in a dark area of a public park after nightfall to watch her, and then fails to cooperate with the officer’s investigation by refusing to provide his social security number.” The court disagreed noting that it had “some difficulties with Wallace’s legal argument and with his description of the circumstances.”
First, citing the Supreme Court decision in Hiibel v. Sixth Jud. Dist. Ct., 542 U.S. 177 (2004), the court acknowledged that the officer’s request for identification did not turn the consensual encounter into a detention. The court then held that Chestnut’s refusal to provide his full SSN during a consensual encounter could not be used to create the reasonable suspicion required for an investigatory detention. As the court said: “It would make no sense to require an officer to allow someone who provides no information to walk away but then to permit an officer to detain someone who gives him only partial information.” The court when on to state: “… since Wallace could not have reasonably believed that Chestnut was engaged or about to engage in criminal behavior, we think that it was also beyond debate that Wallace should not have believed that Chestnut was armed and dangerous, which would have justified him being frisked and handcuffed.”
Second, the court held that their precedent in Walker v. City of Pine Bluff, 414 F.3d 989 (8th Cir. 2005) clearly established that people had a right to watch police-citizen interactions at a distance and without interfering. The court further noted that every circuit court to have considered the question has held that a person has the right to record police activity in public. Accordingly, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s denial of qualified immunity.
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