Photography Is Not A Crime (PINAC) reports on a video shot in Towson recently. They identify the officer involved as Towson University Police initially and later clarify that it is Baltimore County Police. However, you can clearly see a state police officer on the scene as well, but the officer interacting with the videographer does appear to be from the county.
In a chaotic video out of Maryland, a horde of cops were struggling to arrest two suspects in the middle of a road for unknown reasons when an officer storms up to the videographer standing on the side of the road and tells him, “get out of my face.”
The videographer asserts his rights to record, so a police sergeant then storms up to him and starts shoving him, telling him to “get the hell out of here” and “leave” and accusing him of “diverting my attention” from piling on the two suspects who were not resisting – even though there were countless other people standing around watching, none of them, however, holding a camera.
The videographer starts walking away, but keeps pointing out that he had not broken any law, which prompts the sergeant to storm up to him again and say the following:
“Look at me, do you see the police presence here? Do you see us all. We’re not fucking around, do you understand? Do not, do not disrespect us. Do not, not listen to us. Walk away and shut your fucking mouth or you’re going to jail. Do you understand.”
The sergeant walks away and the videographer asks if he had committed a crime, prompting the sergeant to walk back to him, grab him arm and twist it behind his back.
“Don’t open your mouth,” the cop barks.
“I thought I had freedom of speech,” the videographer responds.
“You don’t, you just lost it,” the cop says.
In recent years, Maryland passed a law reinforcing the fact that citizens have the right to videotape the police. The videographer was well within his rights to do so. Nothing the videographer said changes that fact. However, the way he talked to the police officers likely influenced how they treated him as well.
I have one friend who videotapes crime and fire scenes without incident in an urban area in Maryland. The one time she almost had a problem with an officer she talked to her calmly and asked her where she could go to be out the way and still film and everything was fine.
As a lawyer told me recently, one of the things he learned at law school was that a dark alley at 3 a.m. is not the time to try to argue your constitutional rights with a police officer. Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor and you handle it through the police administration and elected officials later. In this case, PINAC is posting the number of the Police Department and soliciting calls. County council might be an even better place to make calls or send emails. It is an election year, after all.
I don’t reflexively jump to the defense of the police, but I also think the situation was exacerbated by the onlookers to some extent. It doesn’t make the police reaction the right one, but it is also not an unexpected one under the circumstances. There are good police officers and bad police officers, but like any profession the bad ones get the publicity – especially when they have the right to use deadly force as part of their job.
The police officers on the scene deserve a great deal of scrutiny and an investigation to clear things up. The videographer’s recording and the testimony of the other witnesses will all aid in that greatly. Of course, I’m really not surprised with all the past issues with people being hassled for trying to record traffic stops or other police action in the People’s Republic of Maryland.
Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore since 2006. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He has been involved in the pro-life movement nationally and locally since 2010.
Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.