|Flickr/ photographer padawan *(xava du)|
Madison Ruppert, Contributing Writer
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.
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.
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 [email protected] I would love to hear from you and I might address your concerns in a future article.