CHICAGO (CN) – A mother says police officers in a Chicago suburb arrested her while she was half dressed, with “reality TV” cameras rolling, jailed her for a day and tried to make her sign a release to show her arrest on the TV show “COPS” – after her son was accused of driving without a license.
Meshell Taylor sued the City of Berwyn, five Berwyn police officers and “COPS” producers Langley Productions.
Taylor says Berwyn police and members of the Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force surrounded her home at 6 a.m. on Aug. 31, 2009, TV cameras rolling, to arrest her and her older son, Kentrell Taylor.
This was 3 months after Taylor’s older son had been pulled over for driving without a license, valid registration or proof of insurance.
During the May 2009 arrest, Kentrell Taylor had used his younger brother’s name. The charges against Taylor’s younger son, who is not named in the complaint, were dropped after the police realized he was not the person they had arrested.
In her federal complaint, Taylor says that on Aug. 31, “Unknown officers entered plaintiff’s neighbor’s yards, damaging fencing and even threatening to shoot her neighbor’s dog.”
She says her children, who were outside, “were surrounded by Berwyn [police] and unknown officers pointing guns at them. They were also surrounded by camera crews with lights and operational video equipment actively filming Kentrell Taylor’s arrest.”
The officers “told plaintiff’s children they had a warrant for plaintiff’s arrest and threatened to break down the door to their home if plaintiff did not come outside,” Taylor says.
“Plaintiff, who was in bed asleep inside her home received a frantic call on her cell phone from her daughter informing her that the police were pointing guns at Kentrell and that they were threatening to break down their front door, claiming to have a warrant,” the complaint states.
“Panicked, plaintiff ran outside barefoot and wearing only a T-shirt and transparent pajama pants.” She saw “multiple police officers yelling and running around her son with bright lights and cameras filming the scene.”
She says: “An unknown officer approached plaintiff and asked if she was Meshell Taylor, as the camera crews filmed her, without her permission. When she answered, she was placed in handcuffs. This unknown officer searched plaintiff’s person and handled plaintiff with unnecessary force, jerking her arms and back and forth for the benefit of the television audience. Plaintiff told him she had a back injury and asked him to stop treating her so roughly, and he told her that she was a criminal and that she should have thought of that before she committed her crimes. Plaintiff asked what crimes he was talking about, but he did not reply.”
The officers refused her requests to let her get dressed, Taylor says.
Police took her to a parking lot in Berwyn, where an “unknown agent approached plaintiff, who was seated in the back of the police car, and attempted to convince her to sign a release form for both herself and her son John Doe, which would allow Defendant Langley to use the footage of Kentrell and Plaintiff’s arrests on the television show ‘COPS.’ Plaintiff refused.
“Plaintiff, still barefoot and in her pajamas, was then taken to the Berwyn Police station, where she was to remain for the next twenty-four hours.”
Taylor says she spent the next day “shivering and cold, and embarrassed by being half dressed in a public place. Plaintiff was not allowed to get dressed or cover herself until sometime the following day.”
“While in custody, Berwyn officers interrogated plaintiff and her older son Kentrell Taylor, attempting to extract a statement showing that plaintiff knew it was her older son Kentrell Taylor, and not her younger son John Doe, who had been arrested on May 20, 2009. Plaintiff refused to admit this, since it was not true,” Taylor says.
Taylor says the police continued to pressure her to sign the “COPS” release form and that “one or more Berwyn officers indicated that the criminal case would go easier for her if she signed the release.”
She was finally released after more than 30 hours in custody. She says police falsely charged her with felony obstruction of justice, of which she was cleared in an October 2010 trial.
Taylor says that after she was freed from jail, officers showed up repeatedly at her house, and attended some of her court appearances, pressuring her to sign the release form.
She says she refused every time, but her older son did sign the release.
“It is unknown at this time if any portion of plaintiff’s arrest has been broadcast during an episode of the ‘COPS’ television show,” she says.
Taylor says the police arrested and searched her with excessive force, without a warrant and without probable cause. She seeks damages for false arrest, conspiracy, malicious prosecution and infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by Torreya Hamilton of Chicago.