When the police kill a civilian and that killing is justified, they shouldn’t be afraid of a recording of the incident right? Well, police in Miami Beach don’t like being recorded, as was evident after they shot and killed a motorist on Memorial Day weekend. A Channel 10 news camera was taken and there are allegations that the cops tried to destroy another witness’ camera phone. While the department denies any wrongdoing, this isn’t the first incident of local police confiscating cameras and possibly abusing the people behind them.
On Memorial Day, at the Urban Beach Week, police shot and killed the armed driver of a vehicle they say attempted to run down a cop. Several people caught the incident on camera and it has since made its way from YouTube to many news networks.
One of the cameramen, a regular onlooker with a camera phone, claims he was wrongfully arrested and his phone was destroyed simply because of his recording. He alleges he was pulled from his vehicle by his hair and his phone was stomped. They returned his phone only to take it again when he was at the station, but not before he stashed the memory card in his mouth, preserving the video footage.
While Miami Beach PD denies the phone was stomped, they released photos of the phone that showed cracks in the screen. Police Chief Carlos Noriega claims the cops don’t seize cameras to cover their tracks, but to preserve evidence.
According to the Miami Herald, there have been at least 11 incidents of the Miami Beach police confiscating cell phones or arresting those who were recording their actions.
Because the department’s police allows for officers to seize cameras “on the spot if necessary to safeguard evidence,” nearly any confiscation could be justified with some clever wording by the officer in question. What happens to the “evidence” after it’s seized for preservation remains to be seen.
Miami Beach isn’t the only city with problems like this. They are becoming more and more prevalent as most adults walk around with a recording device on their phones. You no longer need a video camera to record police, you simply need your phone and the courage to document an incident.
Could you be charged with a crime for recording police? While it’s not illegal, the police could interpret your actions as a “threat to the safety” of the public, you can be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. While it’s not likely these charges will stick, it’s been done before.
If you are facing charges for recording the police or for another disorderly conduct charge, contact our attorneys today.