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


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)

  • Peteris

    That’s all good everything, I completely agree that the police should be aware of this, but 250,000$, really? Seems a bit over the top.

  • ryfter

    To me, $250k seems a little light for abridging someone’s rights, and more importantly destroying videos taken of your child, which has nothing to do with the 1st amendment faults. That was just petty. Of course, I do think that the hefty fine for the deletion of the family videos should fall on the shoulders of the officers, and not the police department.

    Destroying videos recording a person, that doesn’t want to be recorded… that is ignorance of laws (unless the officer(s) were breaking the law to begin with, and the video proved it… that changes it into very criminal). Destroying family videos not related, that is a malicious abuse of power, and definately should be pegged on officer(s)

  • Charles L Thompson Jr

    Probably not enough when those who pledged to serve and protect are either ignorant, willfully ignorant or fully know yet break the law.

  • Toby Hawkins

    Most of it was legal fees.

  • Toby Hawkins

    But what happened to the officers involved? Anything?

  • pvbella

    It seems cheap. There should be consequences so severe it teaches a lesson.

  • Aaron Mirenzi

    i bet it wont happen again

  • Beaugrand_RTMC

    I’m sure it will.

  • Xavier Ancarno

    don’t worry U.S taxpayers you will pay the bill for BPD officers fault !!!

  • Matt

    Not US taxpayers, Baltimore ones will though. I can see where one would have the point of view that it is not exactly the right thing to do, that is taking tax payers money. But, the tax payers should be ensuring their employees are better trained.

  • Lee

    How were they able to show a frame from the film if it was erased?

  • realisticus

    wanna guess?

  • Land of the free, huh?

    The joys of living in a police state…

  • woofa

    “as long as you’re somewhere where you have a right to be”
    We’ve seen this play out as well. This just means they are going to be even more difficult and probably abusive about where they say we can be when something is taking place. Refuse to obey and they arrest you for not obeying a police officer, we’ve seen it happen to legit news crews.

  • woofa

    The article doesn’t state but just because some pig erases it doesn’t mean it’s gone. Don’t even need expensive forensic tools to recover it.

  • Rob S

    Um, no. We are not even close to a police state. Heck, we don even make the top 50.

  • Rob S

    Cheap. Lawyers will get 40%.

  • Ryan

    It’s time to start streaming these videos live to a cloud service to protect them and yourself.

  • Eric

    Really? Seems extremely low to me for blatantly violating the constitution.

  • Frodo

    I’ll bet $250,000 that some baltimore cop somewhere is snatching someone’s phone and deleting their video right now. There are cases like this in other parts of the country and despite winning has done nothing to curb this type of behavior.

  • Frodo

    It’s happening right now as we speak.

  • Frodo

    How much are your civil rights worth? That’s cheap.