There is another disturbing account of police reacting abusively to citizens attempting to videotape them in public in an Associated Press account out of Hauppauge, New York. Thomas Demint began filming police who were arresting two of his friends and allegedly body slammed their mother. Dement says that he was tackled by police who took away his smartphone and erased the video. However, they failed to delete the right one. The actual video is below and shows the eight minute encounter. The videotape itself shows how these situations are highly explosive and came be seen from both the perspectives of the police and the citizens in the use of force, including whether the person videotaping was getting too close. The alleged attempted deletion however is another matter entirely.
Dementia can be heard in the video below saying “I’m videotaping this, sir. I’m just videotaping this.” The 20-year-old Long Island college student has filed a complaint. The AP story includes other recent cases.
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.
In this case, Chief Kevin Fallon, a Suffolk County police spokesman, declined to comment on Demint’s case but noted “Video is certainly here to stay and people have a right to take video. But they don’t have a right to interfere.”
The videotape captures the complexity of these cases for both police and citizens. The videographer in my view was properly told to step back and seems far too close at points. For most of the time, however, the videographer is at an appropriate distance. The angry confrontation appears to be over concern of the mother who lays on the ground without active medical attention. She then jumps up and runs toward her son and is slammed on the ground by an officer trying to keep them separate. The level of force can be viewed from both the perspectives of the officers (who are trying to control the situation) and the citizens (who are reacting angrily to the lack of medical attention). However, none of that matters. If the police did try to delete the videotape, it should be grounds for termination. There is no valid police purpose or recognized authority for such an act (again if it really did occur).
What do you think?