LAFAYETTE, La. – A settlement has resolved a federal lawsuit that accused a Louisiana police officer of violating a woman's constitutional rights by grabbing her cellphone and deleting a photo she took of her son in the officer's vehicle.
The Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government agreed to pay $12,000 to cover the woman's attorneys' fees. It also agreed to train its officers on the public's First Amendment right to photograph police performing their duties.
A judge formally dismissed the suit Friday at the lawyers' request.
Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed the suit last March on behalf of Chelline Carter. Lafayette police Officer Shannon Brasseaux arrested Carter's son on a drug charge in a parking lot outside a CVS store on the afternoon of Jan. 24, 2017.
The suit claimed the officer took Carter's cellphone without a warrant or her consent and deleted at least one photo before returning the phone to her. The officer also told Carter she was breaking the law by photographing her restrained son in the back of the police vehicle and threatened to arrest her for taking pictures of "evidence," the suit said.
"At no time did Mrs. Carter interfere with Officer Brasseaux's arrest of her son or any of his actions following the arrest," the suit said.
Jane Johnson, the ACLU of Louisiana's interim executive director, said the training Lafayette police officers are getting "is a credit to (Carter's) courage and resolve."
"People have a constitutional right to take photographs of things in public spaces, and that includes the police and other government officials," Johnson said in a statement.