The police are afraid of cell phones that shoot videos and other YouTube-eligible videos. They are taking steps to make sure citizens do not use these tools in a disorderly way. Example:
Mannie Garcia says he was within his rights when he filmed Montgomery County police officers arrest two men last summer in Wheaton.
The Kensington photojournalist, who has covered the White House, Congress, wars in Eastern Europe and genocide in Africa, was walking out of the Woomi Restaurant on Hickerson Drive on June 16 when he noticed three officers arresting the men across the street. He took out a new camera he had been showing off to a friend at dinner and started recording.
Garcia said he identified himself as a member of the press, but during the next few minutes, an officer grabbed him by the neck, dragged him to a police cruiser and handcuffed him before taking the recording chip out of his camera. He was charged with disorderly conduct — a charge a district court judge threw out in December.
Mr. Garcia does not understand how disorderly his conduct was. It threatened orderly police practices. These practices are ignored by voters. This is how the police prefer things. YouTube videos of violations of basic civil rights are a threat to public order.
Mr Garcia has a different view.
“Everyone in this country has the same right to document public officials in the performance of their duty, as long as it’s not interfering with them,” Garcia said. “Everyone has a right, and people need to know that it’s OK to stand on public property and pick up your phone and record the police activity that’s happening across the street.”
His is one of a number of Maryland cases involving the right to record police officers.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division last week urged a federal court to side with a Howard County man in a lawsuit about his cell phone being seized by Baltimore police after he filmed officers making an arrest. Federal attorneys wrote in a “statement of interest” that recording police officers performing their duties is protected by the Constitution, promotes accountability and instills public confidence.
The police are, of course, stonewalling.
Capt. Christina Faass, director of the Montgomery County Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division, said Garcia’s formal complaint still is under investigation and the investigation was delayed because of several postponements to the criminal trial.
The fact that he was arrested has disrupted his profession.
Garcia, who in October could not renew his White House photo credential because of the pending charges, said he’s frustrated by the lack of a response from police.
As video technology spreads, the police feel threatened. There will be lots more incidents like these.