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Judge Rules Deleted Videos Case Can Go Forward

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—A controversy is brewing over your rights. City police now say you can record them on the job, but that’s not enough to satisfy a federal judge.

Mike Hellgren takes an in-depth look at a lawsuit over what’s legal.

During Preakness 2010, a witness used his phone to record a police officer using excessive force to make an arrest.

“Do me a favor and turn that off,” the officer told him. “It’s illegal to videotape a person’s voice or anything else.” 

But in this case, it is legal. And Christopher Sharp– who shot the video during the Preakness in 2010–says city police went beyond a warning by detaining him, seizing his phone and deleting his videos.

So he sued.

And a federal judge just ruled the case can move forward.

Sharp says the process has “been more difficult than I anticipated to begin with, but I’m going to continue going forward.  Absolutely.”

“I really want to see justice done. This is bigger than just me,” Sharp added. 

The city wanted to dismiss the case, arguing a new policy–mandating officers allow people to record them–fixes the problem.

“Out of a majority of the departments in the nation, we’re one of the first to promulgate rules, so take that for what it is.  I think it’s a first good step,” said Mark H. Grimes, lawyer for Baltimore City Police.

But on Friday, just 14 hours after that policy went public, another video surfaced—of a Baltimore City police officer appearing to threaten a man with arrest.

“I’m leaving,” the officer said. “Give me your ID.”

In court, Sharp’s lawyer used it to keep their case alive.

“These are fundamental constitutional rights. They affect citizens everywhere—not just in Baltimore. This is an issue we’re seeing nationally,” said Mary Borja, Sharp’s pro bono attorney.

“It was absolutely awful. The way I felt then, the way I feel now about it. The humiliation was enormous,” Sharp said. “If they’re doing this to me, who else are they doing this to?” Sharp added. 

Police have yet to publicly indentify the officers involved in Sharp’s incident.

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