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. 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.

  2. “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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 …..

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. isnt Chicago’s mayor a liberal progressive?

    I am starting to see a pattern developing.

  10. 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.

    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.

  11. 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.”

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