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ACLU Seeks Policies Ensuring Right To Video Police

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Many police departments have cameras to record you. Now, a civil rights group says you should be able to turn the cameras on police without fear.

Adam May has the latest twist in this ongoing legal debate over videotaping police.

Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union reached out to almost three dozen police agencies across Maryland. The group claims some are not protecting your constitutional rights.

A 2010 scuffle between Baltimore police and a woman at Preakness set off a legal firestorm when police seized the phone of an eyewitness who took video. When Chris Sharp got his phone back, the video–and other videos of his child–were all deleted.

“The way it was explained to me, it was evidence and I had to give it to them and the guy said, `That’s what you get for taping it,'” Sharp said.

Videotaping police has been an ongoing issue in Maryland.

“Citizens have a right to do it under the First and Fourth Amendments,” said Deborah Jeon, ACLU.

That’s why the ACLU is urging police agencies across the state to write new policies.

“We’re trying to work with police departments to prevent problems in the future,” Jeon said.

Like another incident in 2010 when a motorcyclist was stopped by state police and arrested under a wiretapping law for recording it but was later acquitted.

Maryland State Police call that incident a tough lesson. Now all troopers are trained that it’s OK for people to take video.

A Baltimore City police spokesman provided WJZ and the ACLU with a copy of a new seven-page policy.

“It’s a better policy than what was in place before, which was no policy,” Jeon said.

Baltimore police defend it.

“It’s being read at every roll call across the city and reinforced at the police academy. It’s something we take very seriously,” said Anthony Guglielmi, Baltimore City Police spokesperson.

In a rare move, the U.S. Department of Justice got involved in the issue a few months ago. They sided with the ACLU.

Civil lawsuits in some of these cases are pending.

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