Saturday, July 30, 2011

A disturbing trend: many innocent Americans arrested for legally filming on-duty public servants

Flickr/ photographer padawan *(xava du)
Madison Ruppert, Contributing Writer
Activist Post

In recent years an unsettling pattern in law enforcement interactions has emerged. American citizens, innocent of a crime, filming a public servant performing their duties in public, have been targeted and had their constitutionally protected rights destroyed.

The cases continue to pile up, some more disturbing and egregious than others. One of the most shocking examples is the case of the Las Vegas man, Mitchell Crooks, who was brutally assaulted by an on-duty police officer for filming the officer from his own property.

There is video of the event and while you cannot see the beating, the sound and pictures of Crooks after the fact are unsettling enough.  This represents one aspect of this disturbing trend: some of these innocent people film the police from their own property.

In another instance of individuals being arrested on their property, a young woman named Emily Good was forcibly removed from her property and arrested for filming Rochester, NY police performing a routine traffic stop.

To make matters worse, the police harassed the supporters of the woman who was wrongly arrested by giving frivolous tickets. While real crimes are going on in Rochester, the police prefer to spend their time ticketing innocent people who are supporting a member of their community.

In 2009, Father James Manship of New Haven, Connecticut, was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for filming police officers in a store run by Ecuadorian immigrants. Father Manship claimed he was recording a case of police harassment which was part of a campaign of “systematic intimidation and racial profiling” against Latinos at the hands of police.

The evidence presented by Manship supporting the alleged campaign of harassment, violence, and terrorism carried out against Latinos in his community is compelling and the video evidence of his arrest is damning.

The following video, which clocks in at less than 30 seconds total, captures the moments before Father Manship’s arrest.

First the officer says, “Sir, what are you doing? Is there a reason you have that camera on me?”

To which Father Manship replies, “Yes.”

The officer asks, “Why is that?”

Father Manship replies, “I’m taking a video of what’s going on here.”

The officer then says something that is unintelligible as he quickly approaches Father Manship.

Manship says, “Hm?” and the video ends.

One of the police officers involved, David Cari, falsely reported that he witnessed Father Manship holding an “unknown shiny silver object” which made him fear for his safety.

We can clearly hear in the video that Father Manship declares exactly what he is doing in a calm and friendly manner to which the officer responds aggressively. The video provides irrefutable evidence that officer Cari filed a false police report, a crime for which he needs to be held accountable.

However, in direct contradiction to the visual evidence you just witnessed, the East Haven Attorney Hugh Keefe responsible for representing the East Haven police department claimed the video was “clearly inconclusive.”

Keefe claimed that the video did not discredit the police report as Cari’s police report alleges that Father Manship fought with the officer when he tried to see what Father Manship was holding.

In April of this year, a man was arrested for “interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duties” when he was filming a cop from his own property.

The police officer trespasses onto the man’s property then illegally demands the individual’s phone as “evidence.”  When he refused to give his phone to a police officer when it was completely unnecessary to do so, he got arrested.

Another individual, this time a young female high school student, was arrested for refusing to turn off her cell phone which she was using to film police on a city bus. Before the police released her from her illegal detention, they erased the video evidence from her phone.

After 16-year-old Khaliah Flitchette refused to turn off her phone and stop filming the officers, one officer grabbed her by the wrist and forced her off of the bus.  She was then handcuffed and taken to two detention facilities, both a juvenile and adult facility, while one of the officers destroyed the evidence on her phone. Due to the fact that the officers had absolutely no legal grounds to arrest or detain the teen, they simply dropped her off at her mother’s place of work.

This 2010 incident was the third time the Newark Police had been accused of abusing citizens for attempting to film them in only three years. One CBS cameraman sued special police officer Brian Sharif after he claimed he was put in a chokehold and handcuffed for filming an anti-violence protest in Newark in 2008.

In 2007, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a man named Brian Kelly was arrested for filming police during a routine traffic stop with his friend, Tyler Shopp.

This is a case of the “we can record you, but you can’t record us” mentality of some law enforcement, because after the officer, David Rogers,  announced that he had been recording the traffic stop, he noticed that Kelly had been recording him as well.  In an example of near-absurd hypocrisy, Rogers then claimed that Kelly was in violation of the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control act.  Rogers then demanded Kelly’s camera, which Kelly complied with. Rogers called the Assistant District Attorney to get advice on the situation. However, Rogers only gave a part of the picture and didn’t mention that Rogers had been filming the encounter as well.

Based on the incomplete picture presented by Rogers, the ADA said he thought it appropriate to arrest Kelly. Three units were called to the scene to arrest the completely compliant Kelly.

During sworn testimony, Kelly revealed that while being transported from the scene of the arrest, one officer commented, “When are you guys going to learn you can’t record us.”

Kelly was held for 27 hours in Cumberland County Prison and after several weeks the District Attorney dropped all of the charges.

In a case in 2007 in Boston, Massachusetts, a lawyer named Simon Glik was arrested for filming three police officers “struggling to extract a plastic bag from a teenager’s mouth.”

Glik thought the treatment was a bit rough and in his attempt to capture video evidence of the event was arrested and charged with illegal electronic surveillance.

In 2008, a webmaster at Boston University, Jon Surmacz, was arrested and charged with illegal surveillance when he filmed officers being unnecessarily rough when breaking up a holiday party.

Massachusetts has been plagued with these types of egregious infringements on our constitutional rights.

Michael Hyde was charged with illegal wiretapping when he used a secretly recorded video of a police encounter as the basis for a harassment complaint.

A Cambridge sound engineer by the name of Jeffrey Manzinelli was arrested and convicted of illegal wiretapping along with disorderly conduct for recording MBTA police officers at an anti-war rally in 2002. While he openly recorded the officer, which is completely legal, a 2007 court case upheld his conviction on the basis that he had a hidden microphone in his sleeve.

Peter Lowney was arrested and convicted of illegal wiretapping in 2007 when Boston University police officers claimed he had hid a camera in his coat during a protest.

In these Massachusetts cases, the key factor is if the individual had been openly or “secretly” filming the police. I take issue with this, as I believe it should be our right to film every single encounter with any public official at any time with or without their consent or knowledge. They can film us whenever they want, why can’t we film them? They are public servants not the other way around.

The harassment isn’t always immediate, evidenced by the case of Anthony Graber, a man who captured a police officer stopping him at gunpoint.  After he posted the video online, the house of Graber’s parents was raided by police and he was charged with violating wiretap laws. The police also confiscated his camera, computers, and external hard drives.

Eventually the case was dropped against Graber, like so many others, but the element of harassment and intimidation is still present.

After an innocent, unarmed black man was executed by a white Bay Area Rapid Transit officer in 2009, the police attempted to confiscate the phones of those who had captured the murder.

Luckily, they were not able to collect all of the video evidence against them and the officer was charged. However, in a classic example of the American injustice system, the officer was released after less than a year of imprisonment.

The officer used the laughably unbelievable excuse of confusing his .40 caliber police issue firearm with a taser. If this officer was not lying, which seems a bit ridiculous to me, then it shows that he was woefully incompetent and the training that police officers receive is far from adequate. Either way, it does not reflect well upon his department.

A New York Times article published January of this year profiled two cases in Illinois of people being charged under eavesdropping laws which carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

One was a woman who had recorded two Internal Affairs investigators who spoke to her while she filed a sexual harassment complaint against another officer. The other was a 60-year-old man who used a recorder to capture his 2009 arrest for selling art without a permit.

Both of these encounters were non-violent, yet these individuals were treated by the justice system like felons guilty of violent crimes.

In an even more insane case, Michael Allison, a 41-year-old backyard mechanic, also in Illinois, faces up to 75 years in prison for the high crime of recording public officials.

Thankfully, the Illinois ACLU has stepped up to the plate and fought back against the tyrannical legislation that allows these kinds of cases to be brought forth.

In 2010, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago that challenged the Illinois Eavesdropping Act.

One of the cases pointed to by the ACLU in their suit was the case of Adrian and Fanon Perteet who were passengers in a car at a McDonald’s drive-through.

The officers realized they were being recorded and Fanon Perteet was arrested and put in a squad car.  While this was occurring, Adrian Perteet took out his phone and filmed his brother’s arrest.  Because of this, both brothers were charged with violating the state’s eavesdropping act, which is a felony crime.

As AlterNet pointed out, this case will be a landmark decision for the rest of the 12 states that have these anti-democratic totalitarian police state laws in place.

There are very few people who support these kinds of arrests from my experience. I have yet to meet anyone who could manage to put forth an argument in support of these first and fourth amendment violations.

However, if you disagree with me and would like to tell me why you think this and why it is acceptable, please do not hesitate to e-mail me at I would love to hear from you and I might address your concerns in a future article.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at

This article may be re-posted in full with attribution.


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Anonymous said...

The problem with the police is that they're all the returning vets from decades of wars. The military is trained to kill people and break things. Period. NO vet should ever be allowed to become a 'peace' officer. Remember folks, this is an all voluntary military, the people that sign up, want to kill. It has nothing to do with protecting our nation. They are sick people, and guilty of war crimes. We are all the enemy now, at least in the eyes of this corrupt government and their POS law enforcement arm.

Anonymous said...

Madison Ruppert,

Your article is unquestionably the best article on the subject I have yet encountered. You have compressed a huge quantity of very volatile information into a very clear, and articulate piece. This is a subject which very much has my attention and contempt. Please make the exception to distribute this work aggressively and with confidence. I cannot think of a single person for which I would exert my urine for if on fire, who would not find this a necessary read. Great work, and a service to liberty.

Talisman said...

I'm not surprised because filming incidents is one of the best ways to fight back. Years ago, we got an action alert from our local peace group encouraging mass filming of any suspicious police activities at rallies.

People film things while chanting "the whole world is watching" and then post it on YouTube. It's a victory for The People, and therefore cannot be tolerated!

Anonymous said...

Now a days we upload to the internet as we are filming with some phones. These cops are screwed. We now have a weapon of mass dissemination, it's called the INTERNETZ!

Kieron said...

Anon 1:12pm:

To paraphrase Ben Franklin: "If you can keep it."

Anonymous said...

police are being aggressive because the people they are supposed to be protecting hate them. not because they are all returning blood-thirsty vets. and where do you get off making *that* assumption? I'm not saying a whole lot of people join for the "right" reason, or even most of them, but I can say that most of them are trying to pay bills, and do a little civic duty. many of them are medics or paper-pushers.

that being said, try to use live-broadcasting/recording web services, and clearly announce what you are doing before and during any event. you're not doing anyone any favors if you are hurt and the evidence doesn't get out.

Anonymous said...

@ anon above, I agree, you should always let the cops know you are filming them and be as courteous as possible.

There are still plenty of nice, honorable officers out there, we just don't hear about them enough!

Anonymous said...

"There are still plenty of nice, honorable officers out there, we just don't hear about them enough!"

Cuz they are lost beyond the Blue Wall of Silence(read: Corruption shield).

Anonymous said...

what if i publicly wire myself for audio and video 24/7 and tell everyone about it? would it then be illegal to just be recording my life openly 24/7 ? i am considering wiring my car inside and outside for audio and video 24/7 as a protection against eager ticket-dispensing traffic officers. Would this also be illegal to do? The technology is here and doesn't cost much.

Anonymous said...

There are no bad apples and there are no honorable officers, there is only the game.

The game is that the US has become an open-air Stanford Prison Experiment.

"One-third of the guards were judged to have exhibited 'genuine sadistic tendencies,' while many prisoners were emotionally traumatized..."

Anonymous said...

This is the result of the militarization of police: a standing army of occupation.

Welcome to Stalinist Russia

Anonymous said...

whenever someone comments: "the problem is" then only lists part of the problem, it's pretty much a waste of time reading it

Anonymous said...

My message to the police is this. . "If you're not doing something immoral, or illegal, what's the big deal"? The chickens are coming home to roost, and many are forced to pay for the sins of the few, and they don't like it. .

And why would any citizen not like the police, especially when even at a simple traffic stop you are treated as a potential terrorist, the average citizen is considered a "perp" by the "new wave" of police. I believe the words, "to serve and protect", should be followed by "whom".

Our "ruling class" from DC all the way down to the local level feel as though they are "entitled". They were elected, not born into their positions via "divine right". They have run over us roughshod for so long, they finally realize that they're going to need protection from those they've wronged for so very long.

The American people have been far too silent for far too long, but I fear that may at some time change. . and not for the best. "They have sown the wind, and shall reap the whirlwind". . or so it goes. .

Anonymous said...

The police are doing this because they work for a private "government" corporation. They do not work for you or me. We are not their employers. That is a myth from the past.

All "governments" in the uSA are corporations, from the top down. The UNITED STATES is a corporation. So is the STATE OF that you live in. So is the CITY OF or the COUNTY OF that you live in. SO is the DISTRICT (fire, school, police, water, and so on) that you live in.

Their business model is not based on consumer choice, but instead is based on fees, fines, confiscations and prison incarcerations (involuntary servitude where you are forced into labor). The police are part of these corporations, and are literally in the business of law enforcement, which is the enforcement of statutes (which are not laws) and thus of corporate policy (the same root word, by the way, as police). None of those corporations are actual, lawful governments of by and for the people.

Anonymous said...

Fear is contagious and it seems they have alot of it.Aren't there demons(subconcious idea machines)that feed on fear and pain?You are being sterilized by GMO foods.Does that make you angry?Some idea machines feed off anger too.ITs going to get more interesting and then its going to get downright dangerous and then everything will die and we all go home.So what if your scared its all part of the plan.Lets fatten up those demons and run wild in time for our passage through the comets(weird dwarf star objects)tail.What have you got to loose?Everything is poison here.FTW its useless.Life is insulted and does not like it here.Delude yourself and try not to comply.Funny is in the plan too.I don't know how that works on your end and I don't care.Drink the koolaid please.

Anonymous said...

Its too bad that we have lost our way as a nation.
I'm seeing this first hand the militarization of civilian police.This is a horrific event taking place in front of us. The very idea that they are taught to see us as some kind of threat tells me that this country is being attacked from the inside. This is war and we the people need to see this as such and do something to stop it before we see real Tanks and not just APCs driving around posing a threat. Personally I think its too late, they are already using drones to watch us and its only a matter of time before they find justification to arm them. Then we will have real trouble.

Anonymous said...

A newcameraman from LI News 12 was arrested while filming a cop just 2 days ago. The Suffolk County Police Officer nearly ran over the News 12 cameraman. The video is on the NEWS12 Long Island site.

Anonymous said...

use a telephoto lens next time.cops are all scum.we're in a fascist police state.i've tried to wake up fellow sheeple for years.seeing the cops armed to the teeth like nazi's in our israeli government(usa) .boycott any oursourcers.the sheeple (population of usa deserve this for being in denial,on medication and addicted to sex,mindless sports,and reality television,and using there credit cards for buying a candy bar.humans through time if you know history which many americans don't,can see that we can't handle power especially cops-surprised?this is where all your tax money and bailouts went to .not terrorist funding.but huxley's sci-fi brave new world of corporate,police government/ fascism for the white collar criminals in washington d.c.&israel and to the commies in never do business with commies-never!if we don't overthrow these criminals there is no future here.

Anonymous said...

There's only one thing to say : the US is a Police State.It is as undemocratic as any other totalitarian State on the planet.

Anonymous said...

I know there are a lot of 'jack booted' thugs in the police forces, but there are also some good cops. Unfortunately if people are filming a good cop the video seems to get erased by the person filming them and never seen by the public.
Perhaps someone should start a website with video's of good cops so people could show what a good cop is like. Then you could inform the cop you were filming him and that you will be posting the video to either the good cop website or the bad cop website, whichever is appropriate. Of course, if it's a bad cop then the video person doing the filming may find it out the hard way!

Anonymous said...

The police are just following orders. ALL police within the US are now under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security. DHS was created out of the 'plane crashes' of 9-11. THERE WERE NO COMMERCIAL PLANE CRASHES ON 9-11. Think about it.....all the US police are under the control of authorities that have staged the deaths of millions of people based on murderous lies. What kind of orders do you think they will be enforcing to keep their jobs? Probably criminal orders that we see being enforced like in this article.

Anonymous said...

The USA is indeed a criminal police state. You americans need to get off your collective asses, switch off the boob tube, and organise meetings in your communities to work out how to deal with these problems. The longer you leave it, the harder it will be to reverse this trend, and the easier it will become for "them" to round you all up for orderly disposal.

Blayze Kohime said...

Saying the people who sign up for the military want to kill is ignorant!
What about the people that join as engineers or medics and never fire a weapon?
What about the people that join and then end up with office jobs? The military has those too.
What about people that are hungry, desperate, and unable to gain a job or afford an education and the military is their last and only option for survival?

Anonymous said...

There is a cell phone ap called QIK Video which instantly uploads the video as you are recording it. If Police take away your phone, the video still exists and can be downloaded and used as evidence against the police.

Anonymous said...

Even if you get film you still have to go to "their" courts to get a conviction. The judge,bailiff,DA,cops are all paid for by the state. Your lawyer is a friend of the court because,he is licensed by the state. if he beats the state continually he may find himself photographed with coke and a hooker.

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