We 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