Police Recording Sparks Debate In Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There’s growing criticism over a cell phone video of city police officers threatening to arrest a man who is recording them.

Derek Valcourt has the video and both sides of the controversy.

This video gets right to the need to balance First Amendment rights with the need to protect police officers.

As six officers stood over a suspect on a Federal Hill street this weekend, Scott Cover grabbed his cell phone and started recording.

“I have a camera. I’m supposed to be able to take video,” Cover said.

But the officers accused him of loitering and asked him to leave or they would arrest him.

“They seem more interested in Mr. Cover and his camera than with the man they were arresting,” said ACLU Legal Director Deborah Jeon.

WJZ showed that video to the ACLU. They’re already challenging Baltimore police in court for confiscating and deleting cell phone videos of a 2010 arrest at the Preakness. Their lawsuit sparked a new police policy on how city officers should handle being video-recorded. The ACLU says in this case, the police officers were wrong.

“He wasn’t loitering. He was, in fact, engaged in his First Amendment activity, which the police order says he has a right to do,” Jeon said.

“Those officers did not seize that phone. Those officers did not even arrest that person. They just asked him to move along,” said FOP President Bob Cherry.

Cherry agrees with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who told WJZ for police protection, there should be guidelines on how far away citizens with cameras should stay.

“I don’t know what the distance is but I think that our officers need to have that flexibility again to keep themselves safe, as well as the person they just arrested,” Cherry said.

This issue is far from over. Police have launched their own internal investigation into the actions of the officers in that video. The video is now evidence in the ACLU’s ongoing lawsuit against the police department. They say it’s possible Cover could now be called as a witness in that case.

Cover says he’s not planning legal action against the police department but does want an apology.

To see the video, click here.

More from Derek Valcourt
  • Sandi

    What about the rights of the police officers and the person being arrested. I seriously doubt Mr. Cover would want someone recording him and put it on You-Tube if he were being arrested.

    • Trish

      Apart from the fact that anyone can be filmed in public (why should police be the exception?) the police are PUBLIC SERVANTS who get their paychecks from our tax dollars. They have no “rights” to privacy when they are doing their PUBLIC jobs in PUBLIC. The only reason they don’t want to be recorded is because recordings have shown a staggering amount of previously hidden physical and rights abuses. They can no longer get away with it to the degree they once did. An honest cop doing an honest job has nothing to fear from being recorded. It’s the abusive jerks who have something to worry about, and they don’t belong on the force in the first place.

    • RustysChaos

      So you think the police should be allowed to operate in secret and conceal their actions from public view. Not a wise choice.

      • Sandi

        Arrests usually take place in public places, not in secret. How would you like someone to come into your work an tape you doing your job, then place it on You-Tube without your permission?

      • Sandi

        How is it in secret? Arrests usually take place in public. I just don’t feel it should wind up on You-Tube. I believe the people involved are entitled to their rights. How would you like someone coming into your work and video taping you doing your job and putting it on You-Tube without your persmission?

      • Steve

        Agreed. Unfortunatly for the police, the Supreme Court ruled last year that a citizen has every right to film police officers. They are public servants being paid for by the taxes every citizen pays, and the police have NO assumption of privacy when they are out on city streets, just like private citizens. (Taht is you and I)

  • RavenLude

    another anti police federal hill liberal yuppie

  • George

    Let’s be sure to stop people from filming police. Can’t have anyone know what is really going on!

    A sympathizer in Syria

  • Dave

    police just need to increase the sixe of their crime scene then can back that loser up real qiuck

  • Dave


  • Lisa

    I think that this actually made news is rediculous. The first line in the report is that six police officers were standing over a suspect. It already sounds as if they were doing something wrong. They were obviously called for a reason and if that susupect was arrested, then he did something wrong. The only thing that spectators do when recording their videos of officers doing their jobs is causing more disturbance and encouraging bad behavior. What’s really going on is an investigation! The officers put their lifes on the line everyday and for idiots who have been drinking to video tape them protecting us is completely disrepectful. Yes, you have a right, but no common sense. There is no need for the police to appologize for stopping more chaos that could have been caused by this idiot. Let them do their jobs without giving them a hard time or trying to give them a bad name by trying to catch them doing something wrong. I saw nothing wrong with what was going on and if you don’t break the law then you have nothing to worry about. What is wrong with society these days? Congrats idiot you made it on tv. Call your mom and let her know to watch. I’m sure she would be so proud.

    • Tom


      I can show you at least 100 videos of police beating up people for no reason, and lying about it. Weren’t it for the video some of these innocent people would be in jail now because the police said they attacked them.
      Trust me, you want to be able to record the police. If they are not doing anything wrong, they shouldn’t worry.

    • Trish

      The only idiot here is you. Someone standing by filming is not getting in the way of anything. The police are public servants. If a cop can’t do their job just because someone is looking (a camera is no more intrusive than the eyes of the bystanders witnessing it live), then they need to find a new job. And please take note, idiot, that rights are rights, and they are for EVERYONE or they are for no one. You don’t get to decide that someone shouldn’t have a particular right just because you personally don’t like it. If cops weren’t being abusive, they wouldn’t be worried about being filmed. Maybe you should watch a few of the thousands of videos out there of police brutality; they are shocking to say the least, and it is clear that police forces around the country need to work out a better vetting process to keep out the psycho control freaks who are naturally drawn to this kind of profession (and disgrace it). You assume that every person they abuse is guilty – that’s been proven time and again to be untrue. And even the guilty ones have rights. The police do not have the right to needlessly brutalize people or to violate their rights. They have training to prevent those very things. Too bad some give the whole force a bad name. Thankfully the videos that surface are helping weed out some of those nutjobs.

      • Lisa

        Trish, I certainly don’t mind being called an idiot. lol If you read my complete comment, you would have read that I said that you do have the right to video tape. Yes, there are videos that show brutality and yes the bad seeds need to find a new profession. But if spectators, video taping or not could possibly cause more problems and encourage other’s bad behavior, then the police should be allowed to stop it from going further. I don’t feel that they are trying to hide anything in this video. I don’t assume every person is guilty, just like I don’t assume all police are trying to abuse their authority. I do know that police don’t just put handcuffs on people for no reason. If you were to visit the court system you would see that many people who break the law get many many chances. Yet they end up right back in court because they broke the law again. If everyone showed support to the police for risking their lifes everyday so that we could feel safe then this world would be a better place. Like MR reminded us about the video of people attacking an officer while trying to arrest someone. Thank goodness someone was catching that on video. I am not against people having recorded anything, just don’t agree with the fact that it could have made others, who were drinking escalate the situation. That is what the officers were trying to prevent. For what the officers go through everyday, I thank them and respect them. I would suggest instead of watching all those videos you go for a ride along and see what an officer does throughout the day and maybe then your opinion would change.

  • MR

    Reading through these comments I realize the concern of limiting individual rights of citizens is a concern as well as combating police brutality. Let’s envision the whole scenario though. Nine times out of ten when you see a video of any event, you see a partial video. Whether it be police officers apparently “brutalizing” an individual or a chopped up scene of a celebrities words taken out of context. It happens everyday and that is the reality of society. We edit to portray things in a negative connotation at times. That’s not to say that instances of police brutality does not occur, because it certainly does, however; how do we as spectators know we are getting the whole story? We don’t, and we are so quick to jump on and judge those individuals in videos not knowing if the full encounter was caught on tape. Sure police are public servants, but they are also citizens who have families as well. Baltimore definitely needs to weed out those bad apples, but with all the publicity I think even good cops are on edge of a situation being misconstrued in the media. Someone mentioned earlier the amount of cops as an indicator of them doing something wrong……They are outside of a bar where this individual is more than likely intoxicated and combative. To ensure the safety of officers and the suspect, the probably called for backup and considering what happened weeks ago where a cop was DOING HIS JOB in apprehending a suspect and a bystander ran up and attacked him…..I would say police officers are trying to ensure their own safety. I think it needs to be kept into perspective that in this day and age where many have cameras on their phones, that pertinent details may be missed by the time they engage that video phone. Should police expect a bystander to not be allowed to video? No but I don’t think that good officers should feel on edge. That’s not to say they are doing something wrong or are going to, again this leads to what did not get captured on camera. You may very well see an officer defending himself and it would be ruled “Excessive force/ brutality”. That may have been the case a few weeks ago when that individual attacking an officer during an arrest, had someone else not caught the whole thing. If I were an officer I would feel on edge simply for the fact of me doing my job and it taken out of context. That may be something to consider. These are individuals risking their lives for our safety, who have families and lives as well. The bad apples need to be seeded through yes, but that doesn’t mean you attack the ones doing their jobs.

  • The grump

    Yeah, I’m so sure the orrificers have their side of the story ready for the police captain. Like when they shoot an unarmed man, or beat up on a homeless person, or break a skateboarder’s board in half, right in front of their eyes, and dare them to do anything about it.

    Most police are simply better armed and trained THUGS – most have failed marriages because they can’t turn off the brutality at home. They are angry, bitter, and they have the authority to, well, do anything they want – if they can explain it, and no one videotapes it. Rape, beating, breaking property – it’s all good with the boys in blue.

    If Baltimore can videotape everyone on the street without consent, we should be able to tape the police. They clearly can’t police themselves.

  • Kay

    Let’s face it, Cover only went out on that kind of night looking for his 15 minutes of fame. How long did it take for him to notify the news media? He purposely wanted to harass police officers over “his” rights. I challenge anyone to do that job, and then you can make a comment on how it’s done. Can you imagine constantly having to monitor your surroundings the entire time you are at work? And for what, obviously not for the appreciation of the public! When the police are conducting an investigation, whether it’s one or six or twenty, those around them create a distraction particularly for their own safety. Because, let’s face it there is always someone who wants to make them look foolish, or even dead!

  • Sharon

    If the police officers are not doing anything wrong while making an arrest, why should they oppose someone video taping them doing their job? There are cameras on the street….everywhere….video taping us. Therefore, what’s the problem. They could use the video as a training exercise to eliminate some of the problems of force and/or excessive force. I don’t think its anything wrong with video taping. Look at the Rodney King video. Now that was an extreme case of excessive force.

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