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Baltimore Pays $250K Over Police Seizing and Deleting People’s Cellphone Video

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Baltimore Police Commissioner (left), Christopher Sharp (center) at a press conference regarding the settlement.

Four years after the “unlawful seizure and destruction” of video from a citizen’s phone took place, and thanks to some pressure from the US Department of Justice, The City of Baltimore has agreed to pay a fine to the tune of $250,000 to set things right.

The lawsuit that lead to this was initially filed through the ACLU by a gentleman by the name of Christopher Sharp after he was stopped by the police for recording members of the Baltimore Police squad beating and arresting an acquaintance of his. It was said that the officers seized his cellphone, looked through the videos, deleted the videos he had recorded, and even deleted some personal videos Sharp had of his son.

A frame from the footage captured by Christopher Sharp.

A frame from the footage captured by Christopher Sharp.

Now, after said pressure from the DOJ and in keeping with the basic principles of good PR, the police have acknowledged their faults, apologized and paid the hefty fine. Not only that, but they were legally obligated to publicly recognize our First Amendment, which covers the right to record members of the Baltimore Police Department. The Commissioner of the BPD shared the following with the press:

I think it’s pretty clear people have the right to film what we do. You guys are doing it right now so it should be a norm for this organization. As part of the new policy, all officers going through training will be taught that they can never tell you to stop recording as long as you’re somewhere where you have a right to be and no officer can confiscate your phone just because you have video that they don’t want you to see.

Below is the coverage from Baltimore CBS Local News.

While we can all agree that this event should’ve never happened in the first place, such a result is a win across the board for photographers. Not only were they forced to pay a fine and apologize, but an entirely new structure of training is being added to the police force — something that should be happening everywhere — to make sure these laws are understood by all parties involved.

(via DIY Photography)