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ACLU sues Baltimore Police over right to videotape

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department on behalf of a Howard County man who says his camera was confiscated at the Preakness last year after he recorded officers arresting a woman.

The ACLU had notified the department on Aug. 3 of its intent to sue but said a lawsuit could be avoided if police worked to develop clearer policies and acknowledged that the man should have been able to record the incident. The group said the Police Department did not respond.

"Because we believe this incident is part of a larger pattern of unconstitutional interference with citizens' rights to hold public officials accountable for their actions, we also seek a court injunction to stop this type of police misconduct" as well as monetary damages, said ACLU legal director Deborah A. Jeon in an e-mail.

Christopher Sharp said he witnessed officers roughing up his female friend and he began recording. The officers asked to see his camera, and deleted not only the videos of the arrest but also family movies of him with his son. Videos of the woman's arrest, showing her bloodied on the ground, later surfaced on YouTube.

According to the ACLU, the First Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in a Massachusetts case that people have a First Amendment right to record police acting in their official capacity.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton

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