Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Wednesday August 20th, 2014, 4:43pm

Couple Claims Chicago Police 'Bullied' Them For Filming Officers In Garfield Park

A Chicago-area couple says they were "bullied" by police for taking a cellphone video of officers in Garfield Park earlier this month.

Keyia Mandeldove, a massage therapist from Berwyn, was at Garfield Park on August 8 with her massage chair providing free services to community members. Mandeldove's fiancé, Akula Segal of Chicago's South Side, was also with her at the park, located on the city's West Side.

That day, Mandeldove said several police officers arrived at about 7:30 p.m. to do a "sweep" of Garfield Park and to ask those congregating in the area to leave for the night.

Mandeldove, who says she has been a frequent visitor of Garfield Park for the past 15 years, proceeded to have a conversation with the supervising officer on the scene about why people were being asked to disperse. She and the law enforcement official also discussed when the next local community policing meeting would be held, Mandeldove said.

"They weren't coming in the park to address me about being there with the massage chair, they were just there to sweep the park," Mandeldove said. "And I said, 'Hey, where can I find a CAPS [Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy] meeting?' I said, 'Since we've been coming to this park, (the police) close it down anytime between 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. everyday.' And I just want to know where can I go meet with someone to find out why they're doing this, and is there any way to get the park to close at the right time?"

Segal said Mandeldove and the police official were having a positive conversation, which prompted him to begin recording the exchange with his cellphone.

"I saw that, and I said, 'He's really listening, and she's talking, and it looks like they're having a good conversation,' and I wanted to film the positivity of what was going on," he said.

Segal said he had been recording the conversation for more than two minutes without a problem until a female officer got out of her police vehicle and subsequently took his phone, as seen in the cellphone video, which has since been uploaded to Mandeldove's Youtube page. The video has nearly 44,800 views.

Segal and Mandeldove said the female officer was also filming some of the incident with her own cellphone.

"Did I give you permission to record me," the female officer asks Segal, the video shows.

“I was recording the whole situation that is going on,” Segal is heard saying in the video.

Shortly thereafter, Segal was asked to provide identification, and the video ends.

Mandeldove said she was also asked for her ID by police. The couple claims the police briefly handcuffed and detained them at the park. They were not arrested.

Police allegedly tired to give Segal a ticket for public intoxication, the couple claims.

The female officer allegedly asked Segal, "Did you have anything to drink today," Mandeldove said. "He said, 'I had a beer before I came to the park,' and then she said, 'Well, I can ticket you for intoxication, because you admitted to me that you had a beer before you came to the park."

"At that point I said, 'I don't understand where intoxication is coming into the picture at,'" Mandeldove continued. "After me saying a few words about that, the lieutenant told (the female officer) 'no ticket.' She got very upset, came back and tore up the ticket and said we were free to go."

The cellphone recording "would have went out as a positive message, had she not came in and just snatched that camera," Mandeldove added.

Segal said he believes he was within his rights to record the conversation. He pointed to the March Illinois Supreme Court decision that found a state law prohibiting the audio recording of any person without their consent, even in a public setting, to be unconstitutional. The Illinois Supreme Court decision came two years after a federal appeals court found a ban on recording police officers in public unconstitutional. The ruling struck down that part of the state's eavesdropping law.

A Chicago Police Department spokesperson did not return a request for comment by deadline.

Mandeldove said she felt "bullied" by the police.

"I just feel like they were in a position of power over me," she said. "When the camera went off, as they all circled around us like a pack of wolves, and (Segal) and I there alone, I ended up in tears ... It just really, really scared me." 

She urged the CPD to take steps to improve relations between the police and community members.

"I'm really looking for the police to acknowledge that they need better training, and that the officers do not know all of the laws that they should know," she said. "There needs to be something done in a manner to make sure that they're not out there giving wrong information to citizens."

Frederick Collins, a Chicago police officer who is running for mayor, is standing in support of Mandeldove and Segal.

"It is important that at any branch of government, that there is a respect for civilian rights," he said. "To me, I think one of the things most troubling about the video ... is the fact that there is this conversation going on between a supervisor on the scene and a citizen, which is very peaceful. It's non-threatening."

"They have every legal right, and the Supreme Court has already ruled on it, that they have a right to videotape in public on public land," Collins added.

Collins called it "frightening" that "you can hear handcuffs going on" in the video.

"I want to believe that I still live in a country where you can ask a question," he said. "As an American citizen, as a taxpayer, it is troublesome, and I believe that we need to once again address the issues of sensitivity and diversity training within law enforcement all over this great nation, but also within the Chicago Police Department." 

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