Baltimore Police Sued For Allegedly Beating and Arresting Woman Who Filmed Them In Public

114px-Baltimore_Police_Department_logo_patchWe have yet another case of police being accused of beating a citizen for filming them in public. Makia Smith says that Baltimore police beat her up and smashed her camera when they filmed them beating a man in the street. She is now suing the Baltimore Police Department, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and police Officers Nathan Church, William Pilkerton, Jr., Nathan Ulmer and Kenneth Campbell in Federal Court.

We have been following the continuing abuse of citizens who are detained or arrested for filming police in public. (For prior columns, click here and here). Despite consistent rulings upholding the right of citizens to film police in public, these abuses continue.

Smith says that she was in rush hour traffic when she saw the officers beating a young man. She pulled out her camera and says that “Officer Church saw plaintiff filming the beating and ran at her,” the complaint states. “He scared her and she sat back in her vehicle. As he ran at her, he yelled, ‘You want to film something bitch? Film this!’

She accuses Officer Church of grabbing the camera and smashing it on the ground and then pulling her out of her car by her hair and beating her. She says that Officers Pilkerton, Ulmer, and Campbell then joined in on beating her while her child watched from the car. She says that the officers taunted her that her child would be taken away and would not call her mother. She claims that she was charged with assaulting Church and resisting arrest, but that Church failed to appear in court twice. Only then did prosecutors drop the charges.

She is now seeking $1.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages for civil rights violations, conversion and infliction of emotional distress.

I have not been able to find the response of the Baltimore police to the lawsuit. However, I find the dropping of the charges telling. If she was charged with assaulting an officer, that is usually a charge that receives priority treatment from prosecutors and police. However, it is also a charge that we have seen made in cases of abuse to silence victims or justify an arrest.

Source: Courthouse News

33 thoughts on “Baltimore Police Sued For Allegedly Beating and Arresting Woman Who Filmed Them In Public”

  1. OT:

    Judge Criticizes ‘High Error Rate’ of New York Police Stops

    By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN

    Published: May 20, 2013

    After listening to two months of testimony on the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin left little doubt about her views of their effectiveness in helping detect criminal behavior.

    “A lot of people are being frisked or searched on suspicion of having a gun and nobody has a gun,” Judge Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, said on Monday during closing arguments in the trial. “So the point is: the suspicion turns out to be wrong in most of the cases.”

    Judge Scheindlin’s remarks punctuated more than five hours of summations, as civil rights lawyers and those representing the city offered dueling interpretations of many weeks of testimony from scores of witnesses. And her remarks were far more critical and blunt than those she had previously made during the trial.

    Observing that only about 12 percent of police stops resulted in an arrest or summons, Judge Scheindlin, who is hearing the case without a jury, focused her remarks on Monday on the other 88 percent of stops, in which the police did not find evidence of criminality after a stop. She characterized that as “a high error rate” and remarked to a lawyer representing the city, “You reasonably suspect something and you’re wrong 90 percent of the time.”

    “That is a lot of misjudgment of suspicion,” Judge Scheindlin said, suggesting officers were wrongly interpreting innocent behavior as suspicious.

    During closing arguments, civil rights lawyers and those representing the city picked over the accounts of 10 black or biracial men and one woman who testified about being stopped, and the explanations of the officers who stopped them. They discussed the revelations of whistle-blowing officers and the contents of station house recordings in which supervisors can be heard exhorting officers to issue more summonses and conduct more stops. And the lawyers invoked the explanations of police commanders who testified about the day-to-day crime-fighting efforts of a 34,000-member Police Department, most of whose officers are members of minorities themselves.

    But Judge Scheindlin, who will decide the case, Floyd v. City of New York, within a few months, frequently interjected with questions and impressions of her own. The class-action lawsuit, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and other civil rights lawyers, claims that the Police Department had long been stopping and frisking black and Hispanic New Yorkers without evidence they were engaged in criminality.

    On Monday, Judge Scheindlin asked the lawyers what evidence was required before she could conclude that a police officer’s decision to stop someone had been influenced by race. It is a critical question, particularly because there is no evidence that the officers used racial slurs or overtly racial language when stopping any of the individual plaintiffs who testified in court.

    In the absence of overt racial slurs, Judge Scheindlin repeatedly asked a city lawyer, would it be appropriate to infer that a police encounter was racially motivated if an officer stopped a black man with no apparent basis? “If the court were to conclude there was no fair basis for the stop, but the stop was made, there has to be a reason,” Judge Scheindlin said, suggesting it might be a fair inference to find that it was a race-based stop.

    Heidi Grossman, the city’s lead lawyer, cautioned Judge Scheindlin, “You’re speculating what the reason is.” She noted that an improper stop could have been a mistake or based on an officer’s misunderstanding of the law, rather than a racial motivation.

    Other moments revealed Judge Scheindlin to be struggling with an essential difficulty of the case: how to measure the constitutionality of not one single street stop — that is a familiar task for judges — but millions of stops conducted over many years. The lawsuit claims to represent all the minority men and women who have been stopped not because their behavior was suspicious, but because of the color of their skin.

    As it is impossible to consider the individual circumstances of each stop, lawyers for each side instead relied on their own statisticians to measure the circumstances and outcomes of those stops, and assess their constitutionality.

    Much of the statistical testimony revolved around a single, stark fact: black and Hispanic people represent an overwhelming majority of people stopped, more than 85 percent most years. The city has long argued that this reflects crime patterns. City lawyers claim that the percentage of stops involving black individuals either mirrors, or is lower than, the percentage of violent crimes committed by black suspects.

    But when a lawyer for the city, Brenda Cooke, raised this on Monday as evidence that the city was not engaged in racial profiling, Judge Scheindlin took issue with it.

    Calling it a “worrisome argument,” Judge Scheindlin wondered if this line of thinking could lead police officers to rely on racial profiling in deciding whom to stop for suspicious behavior. She said a police officer might lean toward stopping a black person because “it’s more likely that he’s going to be committing a crime than a white person, so that gives me further reasonable suspicion.’ ”

  2. I wonder why officials are allowed to keep their qualified immunity when they do/say the things alleged here. I would think there should be a penalty placed upon those individuals above and beyond the penalty the taxpayers will pay for employing these monsters.

  3. As the old saying goes, “A fish rots from the head down.” This is a failure of leadership…again.

    I just finished interviewing a new officer. He said the first thing he was told when interviewed for the job was that, “There are cameras everywhere, and always assume you are on camera being recorded.” Most departments hand out the same admonishments. One would think the Baltimore PD, of all places, would have learned something from the case of Officer Salvatore Rivieri.

    Of course, one has to ask why a seventeen year veteran of the police department is doing sidewalk patrol.

  4. I imagine the company I work for will be serving these papers. We do a majority of the serves on police officers over rights abuse allegations. I love it.

  5. Bettykath asked:
    “If she wins her lawsuit will any of the officers or their commanders be criminally charged..”
    ~+~
    I can say if these events alleged are true Officer Church could be charged with the following types of crimes (I am using WA law for now since I don’t have time presently to research Baltimore City Code or Maryland State Law)

    Criminal Atempt of Tampering with Physical Evidence
    Robbery in the First Degree (taking of property and assaulting another)
    Assault in the Second Degree (Assault in the commission of felony)
    Theft in the Second Degree (Access Device / SIM Card in phone)
    Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree (breaking the phone)
    Vehicle Prowling in the Second Degree (removing woman from vehicle)
    Unlawful Imprisonment (restraint without lawful purpose)
    Coercion (threat against person engaging in lawful activity by use of force)
    Harassment (threat to take away child)

    In my view there would be probable cause to arrest on all of the above charges.

    There also could be a federal criminal charge of Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law:

    http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/18/I/13/242

  6. http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2013-05-15/news/bal-claim-woman-arrested-camera-destroyed-after-recording-baltimore-police-20130515_1_christopher-sharp-camera-phone-wbal-tv

    “She was taken to Central Booking, where she was charged with second-degree assault, resisting arrest, failing to display a license, disobeying a lawful order, and obstructing a roadway.

    WBAL-TV reported that the charges were dropped when the arresting officer failed to appear in court.

    Police declined to comment on pending litigation.

    The department is still locked in court with a man who said his camera images were deleted by officers at the 2010 Preakness, a case that has seen the Justice Department jump in to assert the right to record officers in their public duties.

    Baltimore Police have drafted new general orders addressing the issue, though the Justice Department said they did not go far enough.

    In March, the judge overseeing the case said police were conducting a “witch hunt” against the plaintiff, Christopher Sharp.”

    =====

    Repeating…

    About another, similar case in Baltimore:

    In March, the judge overseeing the case said police were conducting a “witch hunt” against the plaintiff, Christopher Sharp.”

  7. Police owe than woman a camera. Get her a good one. A Sony A65. A 24 megapixel camera that is a video camera too. Put up the money for a USC to stabilize her atlas on top of the spine with the rest of her spine alining normalizing. upcspine or upper cervical health centers. Police are not acting like Jesus. That is for sure.

  8. Makia took 1-year to file charges. Look at the article again. She stopped in RUSH HOUR traffic to INTERFERE with an BCPD operation. There was no reason for her to hold up traffic and take pictures.

    Even journalists will pull over in break down lane and show their credentials. She had none as she is not a journalist. I think we are only getting one side of the story here. I’m sure when BCPD decides to release the incident report you will see that Makia did a lot more than what she is telling the press which instigated her rough treatment.

    I think the cell got broken in the scuffle to arrest her for not moving the car out of traffic and mind her own business (as Makia says she will in the future). Disobeying a lawful order, police interference, disorderly conduct, traffic violations, etc. may all be presented by the police chief to the MSM as the original DROPPED charges.

    I’m sure the officers involved need some sensitivity training. However, I just feel in lieu of the new nosy public persona with camcorders and cell cameras no LEO in his/her right mind is going to have another Rodney King incident for the world to see. I think if she just obeyed the officers and kept moving with no arrogant replies (with profanity) would have changed the scenario a bit in her favor.

    I’m sure the little likely drug dealer they were arresting got a great great Public Defender (at taxpayer expense) and is now back out on the Baltimore streets peddling his poison. Or his kingpin boss had a Bruce Cutler lookalike waiting at Central Booking with a GREAT WRIT already signed.

    That’s just my opinion, FWIW.

  9. The police all over this country need to be told that they will be prosecuted if they attack citizens for no cause. This is supposed to be a free country. A presidential executive order to put them on notice??? Yeah, I know… wishful thinking.

  10. Darrel,

    Maybe it already i….

    BettKath,

    The Criminal Justice is full of Rhetoric……

    To the story…. It was only after the cop did not appear TWICE…come on….issue a contempt citation…..after all he is the complaining witness….he knows his duty….

  11. This may require outsourcing the criminal justice element to the Mafia?????

  12. Mark, I understand your sentiment but I assure you the money could not come out of the pockets of a cop. And, her attorney wants the pocket w/ money. That’s his duty to his client. Because, even in righteous cases like this, even if the plaintiff says, “It’s not about the money,” it’s about the money.

  13. Too bad those charged with enforcing the law don’t understand it. I bet if that $1.5M came out of their pocket- then they might and so to would other police officers. Something to think about in these budget strapped times.

  14. If she wins her lawsuit will any of the officers or their commanders be criminally charged? Yea, I know, it’s rhetorical. [sigh]

Comments are closed.