The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU) on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore City Police Department on behalf a man whose personal videos were deleted after he filmed officers subduing and arresting a woman.
“Police officers doing their jobs in a public place are accountable to the public they serve, and camera phones have become an important accountability tool,” said ACLU Legal Director Deborah Jeon. “It is antithetical to a democracy for the government to tell its citizens that they do not have the right to record what government officials say or do or how they behave in public.”
The lawsuit alleges Christopher Sharp was detained and harangued by police officers after he recorded the arrest.
He handed over his phone to officers after being told to surrender it as "evidence." Once the cell phone was in the officer's possession, they deleted the video of the arrest and all other videos contain on the cell phone.
"I’m heartbroken over the videos I lost of my son and I doing things together,” Sharp said. “The videos were keepsakes of memories like his soccer and basketball games, times at the beach and the Howard County fair. It kills me that the police acted as if it was okay for them to could just wipe out some of my fondest memories."
"I used to trust police, but now I don’t anymore, because of how wrongly the police acted here, and because it seemed like this was just routine procedure for them."
During the 2010 incident at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, a 22-year-old woman allegedly punched another person in the face, and then punched a police officer and resisted arrest. She was charged with three counts of second-degree assault and one count of resisting arrest.
Although the video of the incident was deleted from Sharp's phone, another bystander recorded the arrest and uploaded it to YouTube. In the video, officers can be heard shouting, "They're taking pictures" and other officer later says, "It's illegal to record anybody's voice or anything else in the state of Maryland."
Maryland’s wiretap law prevents citizens from recording audio if subjects have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their communications.
Watch ACLU of Maryland's interview of Christopher Sharp below:
Watch video of the arrest at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore below: