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Baltimore Police Change Policy; Say Public Can Record Officers

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Baltimore police back down. A new rule means officers can’t stop citizens from videotaping encounters with officers. This comes on the heels of a WJZ investigation into the videotaped arrest of a woman at the Preakness.

Kai Jackson explains why police changed their tune.

The police department has changed its policy regarding the videotaping of officers, but that may not be enough.

A mobile phone video of an arrest taken by a citizen at the Preakness last year started a constitutional firestorm for Baltimore City Police.

“It’s illegal to videotape anybody’s voice or anything else,” one police officer said on the recording.

That statement is constitutionally incorrect. Regardless police confiscated and erased that video.

“The way it was explained to me was, it was evidence and I had to give it to them,” Chris Sharp, who recorded the arrest at the Preakness, said.

“It’s a very important issue because the Department of Justice has gotten involved,” said Meredith Curtis of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland. “It involves the First Amendment rights of citizens to record police action in public.”

Sharp is suing police for violating his constitutional rights. As the case heads to court, the department has reversed its policy.

The department has issued these new general orders. With a few exceptions, no member of the police department can stop a person’s ability to observe, photograph or record police doing their job in public.

“Well, we looked at an incident that we had at the Preakness and we looked at the state law. We wanted to make sure we took a proactive stance,” Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the Baltimore City Police Department, said. “You know, we’re probably one of the first five departments in the entire country that put out policies and procedures informing our officers of what these laws are.”

The United States Department of Justice has sided with Chris Sharp and so has the ACLU. Both have condemned the initial police action.

The hearing is set for Monday morning in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

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