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People on the street witness police on the beat and record them with their cell phones

People on the street witness police on the beat and record them with their cell phones

Police are probably used to bystanders who watch them as they perform their duty, but the widespread use of cell phones with video-recorders is changing the observation game. More and more people are using the video-recording technology of their phone to capture police on duty, but some folks who thought they were passively making a video end up being put in police custody for the creation of the video.

Last year, one 16-year-old girl from Newark, New Jersey was detained after she made a video of police officers on duty. The high school girl was riding a city bus when two officers boarded the bus to handle a man who supposedly had too much to drink. Like many curious teenagers, she got out her cell phone and documented the scene. Then one of the officers noticed the 16-year-old filmmaker and told her to turn off her phone.

The 16-year-old refused to shut off her phone, and the police officer grabbed the teenager, took her off the bus and put her in the squad car. The police deleted the video from the teenager’s phone. Even more, she was handcuffed and held in the back of the police car for two hours before she was released. No charges were filed. Even though criminal charges were not filed and any criminal defense was not needed, the 16-year-old filed a civil suit against the city to enforce her civil rights. Her attorneys argue the teenager was arrested illegally.

A former police officer who now teaches at Boston University says many police departments around the country are dealing with the use of cell-phone cameras. The former officer says recording an officer by itself is not enough to warrant a lawful arrest. Because of her experience, the 16-year-old girl says she will think twice before filming the police again.

Source: NPR.org, “This is the police: Put down your camera,” Joel Rose, 5/13/11

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