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. 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.

  2. 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/

  3. “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?

  4. 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

  5. “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.

  6. 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.)

  7. 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.

  8. “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.

  9. 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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