Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore police launch an investigation into a cell phone video that shows officers threatening to arrest a man who was recording them.
Derek Valcourt has the video and talked to the man who shot it.
This video is the latest in the controversy over how city officers treat citizens with cameras.
It was early Saturday morning along Cross Street in Federal Hill. Six officers all hovered around a man who appears to be detained on the ground. When Scott Cover saw it walking home, he broke out his cell phone camera.
“Didn’t know what was going on. I just, it was happening. It was live. I have a camera; I’m supposed to be able to take video,” Cover said.
He’s right, at least according to the new police policy issued Friday in response to court challenges to how city officers handle being recorded. But this is what happened next:
“Take a walk, sir, we’re asking you,” an officer said. “You’re loitering. Sir, you’re standing in front of the border. I’m asking you to leave.”
Officers never tell Cover to stop recording. Instead, they threaten to arrest him for loitering and order him to leave the area.
“Turn around and walk,” an officer said.
After Cover said he was leaving, an officer asked to see his ID.
“That seems to be their way of, `Well, we have this policy and instead of telling you you can’t do that, we’re going to tell you you can’t be here,’” Cover said.
Baltimore’s mayor says for officer protection, there should be guidelines on distances at which you can videotape.
“Because if you are a police officer, that puts yourself in a life or death situation every day when you show up to work. You don’t want the extra burden of having to worry about if videotapers are friend or foe,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.
Ironically, Cover says had the officers ignored him, his video wouldn’t have gotten any attention.
“Worst thing that happened, I would have probably tweeted something that mentioned `Some poor schmuck got arrested on Cross Street’ and went to bed,” Cover said.
Cover says for now, he isn’t planning any legal action but he thinks the police department ought to acknowledge its mistake and owes him an apology. The ACLU agrees with Cover and has asked for a copy of his video.
A police spokesman would not comment on the story, citing the pending internal investigation.