Chicago Journalism Professor: Chicago Police Department Detained Him and Deleted Video of Arrest

EXCLUSIVE. Loyola University Professor Ralph Braseth in Chicago has shared with me a complaint alleging another incident of police ordering a citizen to delete videotape of an arrest taken in public. I have previously written about this worrisome trend. The difference is that Braseth is a journalism professor. The complaint raises some extremely serious allegations of censuring a journalist and violating core constitutional rights. If true, it is a telling retort to the taunting remarks of Judge Richard Posner recently about the “snooping” of citizens on police.

Professor Braseth contacted me soon after the incident and we have been discussing the case. Here is an account on a radio program where an alleged officer calls to suggest that Braseth was not only committing a crime by filming on CTA property but that he had some weird interest in teenage boys — a ridiculous personal attack that the host wisely slaps down. Braseth was producing a documentary on African American teenagers from the Southside that gather on Michigan Avenue on Saturday nights. He was shooting an arrest on Saturday, November 12, 2011 when he says officers spotted him and took him to their cruiser. They allegedly asked for his camera and erased the arrest footage and “told me I was lucky I wasn’t going to jail and let me go.” Notably, in the complaint below, Braseth notes that not only the other officer but the CTA camera system could supply corroboration for his claims. This account is troubling in itself, but Chicago has a history to pursuing citizens for filming officers in public(here and here). The Cook County’s State Attorney Anita Alvarez and other prosecutors in the state show little concern for the constitutional rights of citizens in such taping or the obvious effort to deter citizens from recording evidence of possible police abuse. This is ironic since Chicago is one of the cities installing hundreds of cameras to film citizens in public, as discussed in this recent column.

Braseth has now filed the complaint below with the Chicago Police Department. It is an important case raising core constitutional and journalistic values. I have no reason to doubt the account of Professor Braseth, though the officer deserve a full opportunity to respond. If found to be true, this is a cautionary lesson for his students at Loyola, but he is teaching by example by taking action in this way. Obviously, the CPD should immediately move to preserve the CTA film and separately question the officers in the incident so that the allegations can be fully investigated. We will be following the case closely.

Braseth Complaint

58 thoughts on “Chicago Journalism Professor: Chicago Police Department Detained Him and Deleted Video of Arrest

  1. Chicago…Honor… Integrity…Police Department….You Betcha….wink…wink…Chicago has the distinguished reputation for having the Best Justice….Money can buy….

  2. New York is in strong competition with Chicago to see who can eradicate the constitution first.

    A court has ordered New York Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD to allow the Liberty Park OWS to return after NYPD removed them last night.

    Link To Order

    Ok Chicago courts, your turn to step up.

  3. Yes Dredd,

    The police state banned news reporters from covering the removal of OWS. They shut down the Brooklyn Bridge, the subway, told news helicopters to stay out etc. Reporters were arrested.

    This is what a police state looks like.

  4. DonS,

    I think he would have to personally violate the order by ordering it to be ignored.

    I have heard some reports on the ground that some police are refusing to comply, but they may not have received a copy of the order yet.

  5. Interesting that the news reports I heard, on all 3 am ‘news’ shows, in the news segment, stated they would be allowed to go back but never mentioned the court, as though it was Bloomberg and the city. Similar stories leave out the legal issues on side of protestors or those that do not portray ows, in other cities, as the bad guys, Huff post had article entitled Occupy Oakland murder – had to go down in story to read that police believed was ‘normal’ Oakland violence having nothing whatsoever to do with Occupy. The ‘press’ is anti neutral, only helps a police state to mobilize, inciting the people against those who are protesting.

  6. The Chicago police officers should be sued personally (42 USC Sec. 1983) for destroying the video and harassing Professor Braseth.

    I did not see a link to the complaint … perhaps that will be sufficient without going to the courts.

  7. Prof. Braseth is doing a great job in teaching his students the value and importance in standing up and challenging your government when they cross the line. I am hopeful that the courts will do the right thing, but I do not hold out any hope that the CPD will sanction the cop. Was the Professor using a phone to video it? Could he have emailed the video to someone or downloaded it to Facebook before he deleted if for the police?

  8. Bloomberg had a deliberate news blackout last night during the raid at Zuccotti Park. That included isolating reporters from the major news networks so they could not get video or see what was going on. “For their own protection,” according to the police. These are reporters who have been covering wars, for Pete’s sake.” They are to be protected from…what? A bunch of DFH sleeping in tents or praying?

    Barbara Morrill has the story:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/15/1036622/-A-media-blackout-on-Michael-Bloombergs-raid-on-Zuccotti-Park?via=blog_1

  9. When confronted by a man with a gun the rational persons thinks quickly, “I don’t know this guy. I’ve done nothing wrong. Is he crazy enough to shoot me?”

    When that man with a gun can, through intimidation, in this case a badge, coerce you to into his vehicle then you really have to consider, “Is this guy crazy enough to shoot me?”

    When a man with a gun has forced you into his vehicle taken your personal property from you and destroyed your work, your question has been answered.

    This cop had a gun, he had a badge, he had a vehicle that could serve as a cell. What law was he enforcing? None. He did it simply because he could and that makes him no better than the junkie in the parking lot who sticks a gun in your face, forces you into your car and robs you.

  10. “News blog
    “11:20am: The New York public advocate, Bill de Blasio, an elected official who acts as a sort of watchdog for the city of New York, has issued a strongly worded statement condemning the actions of mayor Michael Bloomberg in evicting Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park. He said:

    Protecting public safety and quality of life for downtown residents, and guaranteeing free expression are not exclusive of one another. Mayor Bloomberg made a needlessly provocative and legally questionable decision to clear Zuccotti Park in the dead of night. That some media and observers were prevented from monitoring the action is deeply troubling.

    I know of no one – protesters included – who desires a permanent occupation of lower Manhattan. But provocations under cover of darkness only escalate tensions in a situation that calls for mediation and dialogue. I call on the Mayor to find a sustainable resolution –as other cities have done – that allows for the exercise of free speech and assembly, with respect for the rights of all New Yorkers to peaceful enjoyment of our great city.”

    The Guardian blog

  11. “Occupy Wall Street: NYPD attempt media blackout at Zuccotti Park

    Journalists report aggressive treatment as media blocked from protest camp during surprise police raid

    New York police attempted to impose a media blackout as they cleared Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park late last night.

    As police swooped on the park in the early hours of Tuesday, the city closed airspace in lower Manhattan to prevent news helicopters taking aerial shots of the scene. Vans were used to obscure views of the park and a police cordon effectively blocked accredited media from reaching the site. Some of those members of the press who were in the park or were able to get there say they were arrested, pepper sprayed or treated aggressively.

    One of the few reporters on the scene when the police moved in was Josh Harkinson, a writer for Mother Jones magazine. As police used tear gas to remove the last protesters from the park Harkinson identified himself as a member of the media and was physically dragged out of the park. He was told that reporters had to stay in a “press pen”.

    Reporters tweeted their frustration using the hashtag #mediablackout and said police were ignoring and even confiscating press passes.

    A New York Post reporter was “roughed up” according to the New York Times’ Brian Stelter. Lindsey Christ, of local cable-news channel NY1, said on-air this morning that “the police took over, they kept everybody out and they wouldn’t let media in. It was very planned.” (Guardian)

  12. The city has ignored the restraining order and is currently challenging it. The mayor has overridden the law. Word is out (on the BBC) that at least 18 cities coordinated their police attacks on OWS protesters. Police are currently beating OWS protesters and trying to black out the press.

    You think this might be a police state yet?

  13. The mayor had this raid start at (1) am this morning and the restraining order was issued about 8:30 this morning shortly after the mayors news conference had begun.By that time all of the protestors belongings had been thrown into dumpsters and hauled down to an area around 57th street and probably the 12th ave area.

    You can get your stuff if you can sort through the massive pile of stuff dumped there.

    What becomes of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that had been donated to the effort and who has control of that money,for it was put the Amagamated bank(a union bank)and Credit unions.Stay Tuned.Caught everyone in Liberty Square off guard.

  14. Lets hope that neighboring residents may have video of these events. Any individuals who have evidence of police wrongdoing will need to be cautious about how to release it as their location can presumably be identified and they will risk police retribution.

    In this environment it is important to send video and images up to the cloud in real-time so that agents of the government cannot easily erase evidence. Applications to do this include JustinTV, USTREAM, and Qik.

    I talked about this here:

    … citizens filming police capture events using applications like Qik or justin.tv so that images are pushed up to a cloud immediately and can’t be accessed or erased by law enforcement when the device is seized.

  15. Mayors’ Strategy Against Occupations: Let Them Eat Snow or Pepper Spray
    By: Jon Walker Tuesday November 15, 2011 9:50 am

    “The recent actions by Mayor Bloomberg in New York City shows he is trying to combine the two tactics into one strategy now that it appears winter alone may not put an end to the occupation. On the day of the first snow fall in the New York, the police took Occupy Wall Street’s generators. Now that winter is fast approaching, last night Bloomberg launched a major raid to clear out Zuccotti Park. The tents and tarps were torn down, with the claimed intent that protester would be allowed to return but without new tents or any other protections from the winter weather. The protesters were first pushed out with overwhelming military style force that resulted in over a hundred arrests, with the plan to freeze out anyone who might dare to come back.”

    http://firedoglake.com/

  16. It appears that we are drifting toward a society in which the right to privacy is to be limited to police officers in the public performance of their duties.

  17. The only way to harpoon this “police state mentality” on the part of municipalities and Universities in their response to this latest form of free speech, is to accelerate lawsuits against them– “money talks and bulls**t walks.”

  18. People should not need to take videos of arrests.
    There should be a growing expectation that the police take, have, and produce in court videos to document the charges. For now, certainly this should be the standard in cases of choreographed busts of demonstrations.

    This is a DC Appeals court reversing convictions because of an all-too-casual approach to proving either crime or guilt. The case was the type where the demonstrators pretend to break the law and the police pretend to enforce it.

    http://legaltimes.typepad.com/files/demonstration.pdf

    It is sad to say that this is a “good” decision. The convictions left standing in this decision are for “disorderly conduct”; almost certainly this means for blocking the sidewalk where the demonstrators have a permit to be on the sidewalk.
    It has taken 4 years to achieve this brief moment of partial clarity.

  19. He’s the liberal progressive who called people who wanted a public option “fucking retards”. Being a Democrat is your only option if you want to run for mayor in Chicago. He’s as liberal and progressive as he needs to be. Being a Democrat in Chicago is not the same as being one in Vermont. It’s still a crony-run cleptocracy here.

  20. Bron
    isnt Chicago’s mayor a liberal progressive?

    I am starting to see a pattern developing.

    —————————————————————
    You’ve got to be kidding, Mayor Rahm Emanuel … there’s a pattern alright but I don’t think you’re seeing it.

  21. 1) Remember the video of a guy punching an elderly man then running onto a subway train? That’s at the Chicago red line station – it’s the subway station closest to the area of Michigan Avenue where Prof. Braseth was probably videotaping arrests. And some of the folks being arrested were probably not dissimilar to the punch-er in that video. I’m not defending anyone here – just giving a bit of context to this story, and pointing out an interesting link.

    2) Did the police “erase” this footage in a competent manner? On most digital systems, when you hit “delete” for a file/recording, all you are doing is something equivalent to pulling a book’s card out of the library’s listing and throwing it in the trash. The “book” is still sitting on the shelves. (In other words the file/recording itself is still stored on the memory card or disk, it’s just that the reference to it has been “erased”.) There are tons of examples of both criminals and police doing an incompetent job of deleting files and those files later being recovered, sometimes with off-the-shelf software.

  22. raff,

    Bimgo … something else I couldn’t understand about all those democrats who thought Obama wasn’t a big-money kinda guy … you are who you hang with which is something we all should have leaned during high school.

    Emanuel, according to Congressional disclosures, made $16.2 million in his two-and-a-half-years as a banker.

    He served as a Director on Freddie Mac’ s Board during which time Freddie Mac was plagued with scandals involving campaign contributions and accounting irregularities. The Obama Administration rejected a request under the Freedom of Information Act to review Freddie Mac board minutes and correspondence during Emanuel’s time as a director.

    I could go on …..

  23. The Red Line station where that kid knocked out the old man is about 3/4 to a mile from were the professor was video taping the kids on Michigan Ave. But the Red Line is definately the main artery from “The Hood” to the Loop and the rest of downtown Chicago. It stretches from 95th Street on the far south side to Chicago’s northern boarder with Evanston. It can get dicey at night. The station were the old man was hit is actually in a pretty nice “safe” part of town.

  24. Bron
    isnt Chicago’s mayor a liberal progressive?
    I am starting to see a pattern developing.
    ————–

    It’s not about party, it’s about class and really, always has been.

    ****
    And what Blouise and Rafflaw (“He is in the pocket of big money.”) said.

  25. “The difference is that Braseth is a journalism professor.”

    Obviously this type of behavior from cops is infuriating and thank you for writing about this topic, but why is this criminal act any different from police deleting a non-journalism professor’s footage?

    Being a journalism professor or a credentialed journalist does not make the crime any more severe.

    More important, credentialed journalists or journalism professors are not super-citizens with special privileges.

    The First Amendment applies to all, even when you’re not carrying a press badge or a college ID.

  26. Prof, if you need to recover the footage, use ddrescue to “image” the drive and then use “Recuva” to get the footage. If that doesn’t work, “PhotoRec” is another option. These are all free. ddrescue and PhotoRec are available on the “Ultimate Boot CD” (free) and require a bit of patience to learn how to use since they are run from the linux command line, not a GUI.

  27. There is never a legitimate reason for a police officer to compel the deletion (or do it himself) of any photograph or video.

    If the photograph/video is not evidence of a crime, then the officer is, at the very least, destroying private property. But 18USC242 and 42USC1983 would seem to govern an officer interfering with first amendment rights, doubly so when the victim is a journalist.

    If the photograph/video is evidence of a crime, whether it captured a criminal act, or, under the Illinois wiretapping law, is itself illegal, then deliberately deleting it is destruction of evidence. Doing so absolutely requires a court order, destroying evidence without a court order is a crime, a class 4 felony.

  28. If journalists want to use their smart phones and have their recordings uploaded safely & securely to a website, they should check out QIK.com.
    From their website: “Videos are instantly uploaded to the web for sharing or safe-keeping. No cords! No waiting.” “Before you finish recording, your Qik videos are already saved to your online Video Gallery, ready for safe-keeping or sharing. Save up to 25 videos! What could be easier than that?”

    http://qik.com/

  29. “isnt Chicago’s mayor a liberal progressive? I am starting to see a pattern developing.”

    Bron,

    This is an ongoing problem with you. Your philosophical pre-judgment of politics is based on stereotypes. Emmanuel has little credentials as a liberal, much less progressive. He may be a Democrat, but many Democrats aren’t liberals, just as many Republicans aren’t conservatives, but radicals. All people on the political scene must be viewed in the context of not only their posturing, but also their actions. Ron Paul claims to be a Libertarian inspired by Ayn Rand, yet is anti-choice and a supposed religious fundamentalist. Don’t you see the inconsistency of a Libertarian believing that the government can interfere with a woman’s choice to not have a baby after being impregnated by rape? Do you also think as he apparently does that creationism should be given equal weight to evolution in the schools?

  30. Here is an account of what happened in Seattle from the minister who was pepper sprayed. Also a lot of up to date information in the comments. Note this was also the incident where the police clearly targeted a young woman who seemed to be giving people instructions. She managed to run away after she was shielded by other protesters who were guarding her. One of the others sprayed was an 84 year old elderly lady.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/16/1037069/-Occupy-Seattle-Message-From-Minster-Who-Was-Pepper-Sprayed

    1st Amendment
    1791-2011.
    RIP

  31. “Ron Paul claims to be a Libertarian inspired by Ayn Rand, yet is anti-choice”

    I have to get my kids, so briefly, I think that’s a distortion of his stance.

    Ron Paul does not believe it’s up to the Federal Government to dictate abortion stances.

    Citizen Doctor Paul is against (most) abortions but does not believe abortion is a federal issue one way or another.

    President Paul would leave it to the states to decide.

    That’s not accurately described as an anti-choice stance. In the sense of the states as 50 experiments, that is a pro-experiment stance.

  32. anon
    1, November 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    President Paul would leave it to the states to decide.

    That’s not accurately described as an anti-choice stance. In the sense of the states as 50 experiments, that is a pro-experiment stance.
    ————————
    Huh? From the point of view of most Libertarians, how is a State-level Government meaningfully different from a Federal-level Government?

    As with many so-called “States’ Rights” approaches, politician Ron Paul knows full well that leaving abortion prohibition to the states is a de facto pro-prohibition stance.

    I think that the vast majority of Libertarians would respond to Rep. Paul by saying something like, “I don’t care if it’s the Feds, the State or the municipal Dog Catcher, the government doesn’t get to say what happens inside MY body.” I’m sure that’s not true of all Libertarians, but most of them wouldn’t stand on a stage with Bachmann and Perry officially running for the nomination of the Republican Party, so that’s another strike against Ron Paul as primarily a Libertarian.

    Back on topic: As someone said above, the best approach for activists recording police is probably to not save the recording on the device, but to stream it wirelessly to a remote server – preferably a server located in a country that won’t adhere to US governmental/court demands to turn over materials. (It’s pretty sad that we have to have discussions like this.)

  33. There is also the fact that deleted stuff is not usually deleted. It just goes somewhere else. If I were the professor, I would take my camera to the univeristy computer science department and see what they could do to recover the data. Also, there are computer forensics companies that have sophisticated software that can recover stuff. The IT guy who works for our company used to be in the military and later with a government agency that does…….um….security. He says it is possible to burrow down through as much as seven layers of overwritten material and recover files. They may be somewhat fragmented, but nevertheless useable.

  34. “Braseth has now filed the complaint below with the Chicago Police Department. ”

    That is a completely pointless gesture. What he should be doing is suing the city of Chicago, as well as the individuals who violated his civil rights, and demanding federal prosecution.

  35. To Mike Spindell:

    Hello again, this is Gary T, we have had extended conversations here before, and I value your perspective.

    As you may recall I am a libertarian activist and theorist, so let me comment on Paul’s position on abortion.

    Most libertarians are pro-choice, about 99.5% of them, but there is actually some wiggle room in the libertarian theory that does not outright disallow a libertarian to be anti-abortion, even from a legal POV.

    That wiggle room is the legal recognition of when does a pair of gametes or a zygote become a person that has legal rights.
    I have pondered about that point from a libertarian pov and I cannot come up with an objectively valid argument of why it would be at any particular point in the development. It is an arguable point that runs anywhere between conception and live birth. Personally I would put it at the point where a fetus could survive outside the womb.

    However, if that point is instead, say, at the zygote stage, then the whole panoply of libertarian laws protecting one individual from violence from another come into play, and effectively would outlaw abortion.
    Of course there are other libertarian arguments that could be made, notwithstanding the legal status of the fetus, such as the fetus infringing upon the rights of the mother, but they are not as strong as the primary prohibition of killing another person.

    So, in sum, Paul’s stance against abortion is not intrinsically anti-libertarian, it is just extreme, and certainly does not comport with the spirit of libertarianism, insofar that the mother is already a full blown person with inalienable rights, who should be able to do with her body what she pleases.

    Also, I have issue with another poster here, that to argue that Paul is merely saying it shouldn’t be a federal issue but rather a decision for the states, is sophistry. From a libertarian POV, it shouldn’t make any difference from jurisdiction where the individual’s libertarian rights are upheld, it is simply a mandate that they ARE upheld.
    Many politicians who lean libertarian but are afraid of directly opposing a voting bloc, will sidestep the issue by claiming it is a state’s rights issue.
    That is disingenuous. Either it is a libertarian right, or it is not.
    Paul is a little bit of both, he is explicitly anti-abortion, but he also mitigates that opinion by saying the federal govt should stay out of it.

    Personally I think the federal govt should stay in it. The only issue I have with the federal govt’s upholding abortion rights is the legal premise upon which it is based in Roe v Wade. This is not privacy issue, it is a liberty issue.

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