Baltimore police have issued new rules governing how officers deal with a public increasingly armed with cameras and video records, saying that in most instances, cops cannot stop people from filming crime scenes.
The general orders, issued in November and made public Friday, come days ahead of a federal court hearing in a civil suit brought by a man who says an officer confiscated his cell phone camera and deleted images of an arrest at the Preakness Stakes in 2010.
The rule state, in part: "No member of the Baltimore Police Department may prevent or prohibit any peson's ability to observe, photograph and/or make a video recording ... of police activity that occurs in the public domain."
There are several caveats, such as allowing police to seize a camera if evidence of a crime is captured. That could include taping a license plate number on a get-away car from a hit-and-run accident.
The issue has come up several times in Maryland. A judge in Harford County threw out charges filed by the Maryland State Police against a man who videotaped his own traffic stop, and posted the video to YouTube.
And city police are still grappling with the incident at the Preakness Stakes. Another bystander did film that arrest and posted to YouTube as well. The man who had his images taken is fighting in court, in a lawsuit backed by both the ACLU and the U.S. Department of Justice. Read story here.
Video has both exonerated officers and cost them their jobs. A recent video showed a Baltimore officer being attacked and the department used it to highlight dangers on the job. Earlier, a video captured a city officer berating a teenaged skateboarder at the Inner Harbor, which cost him his job.