War on Cameras

Baltimore Cops Illegally Delete Cellphone Images: City to Settle for $250,000, Disputes Allegations

Government runs through taxpayer money like water


this image thankfully not deleted
via CBS

The city of Baltimore is set to approve a settlement for $250,000 next week over a 2010 incident where Baltimore cops confiscated Christopher Sharp's cellphone and deleted images from his phone, explaining to him that it was illegal to videotape people in the state of Maryland. It's not, which is why the city government is ready to settle, with taxpayers' money, while not accepting legal responsibility. CBS in Baltimore reports the details of the incident:

Christopher Sharp was recording an arrest at the Preakness almost four years ago when officers got angry.

"Do me a favor and turn that off. It's illegal to videotape a person's voice or anything else. It's against the law in the state of Maryland," an officer told Sharp.

It's not, and Sharp claims officers illegally confiscated his phone and deleted other images from it, leading him to file suit with the help of the ACLU.

"If this is happening to me, I can't imagine what's happening to other people," Sharp said.

Indeed. CBS reported that the ACLU didn't want to speak ahead of the actual settlement being approved, but the station did talk to Carlos Miller, of the Photography is Not a Crime blog, an essential resource on police misconduct and cameras. Miller told them these kinds of cases usually don't settle for more than $100,000. And why would city officials in Baltimore, and other cities rife with police abuse, try to pay for mistakes themselves, by accepting responsibility and firing people, when they can make taxpayers do it, apparently without fearing retribution at the polls?

Sharp and other Marylanders should consider themselves lucky in at least this respect: other states, like Illinois, consider the harmless and actually good-for-accountability act of videotaping a police officer felony wiretapping.

Reason did a report on the nationwide war on cameras in the January 2011 issue, and you can watch the related Reason TV video below:

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  1. To Protect and Serve!

    1. To Protect and Serve Each Other!

      1. It’s a cookbook!!!

  2. Hey, the only way these cops and their departments can be held liable is if the cases actually go to court and the plaintiffs win. These settlements, while the prerogative of the plaintiff, do nothing to end the serial abuse of the law in the name of the state. Why? Because the settlements essentially guarantee that every offense is a first offense in the eyes of the court.

    1. In these cases the defendant can draw things out in court indefinitely. Plaintiffs really have no choice but to settle if they are going to see it resolved in their lifetime.

    2. I would only accept the settlement and the non-liability of the city if it came with the prosecutor filing charges against the cop.

  3. When cops by and large throw a fit that their departments might actually have to release the names of officers involved in shootings, you know we’ve made the transition to a police state and a separate system of justice for the king’s men and commoners.

  4. It looks like those law enforcement professionals need to delete some donuts from their diet.

  5. The problem here is that this is like any other grey area the cops operate in. Sure, it’s legal to videotape in Maryland. So what? At the moment you’re doing it, if the cops decide you can’t, you can’t, unless you feel like resisting and being beaten to death. So, in effect, the law is what the cops say it is at that moment.

    The fact that the taxpayers have to pay up for this well after the fact does not change in the slightest the fact that if the cops say–in the moment–that you can’t do something, you can’t. And that is the heart of the problem. The only possible way to fix this is actual direct punishment for the specific officers involved when suits are won. Without that, the cops, like Judge Dredd, are the law in the moment. After the fact doesn’t really matter at that point.

    1. Didn’t a court recently uphold a law that says you cannot resist an illegal entry or enforce your rights but can claim that your rights have been violated only after the fact?

      As if any rights exist for a bullet-riddled corpse that felt like making a “furtive movement” when an armed gang busted his door down without a warrant while wearing masks and de-identified uniforms.

      1. That was specific to Illinois I believe.
        On the other hand a guy recently got away with claiming self-defense after shooting a cop in a botched raid.

        1. Illinois said cops can do whatever they want while neighboring Indiana said people have a right to resist an illegal raid, IIRC.

    2. False imprisonment charges.

      If a bank teller gives you the wrong amount of money, it may have been a mistake. If you can show that they knowingly gave you the wrong amount of money, or that they habitually give the wrong amount of money, you may have enough to charge them with theft.

      Why shouldn’t cops be held to that same standard? If the prosecutor can show they knew the law or should have known the law, and they knowingly or recklessly disregarded it, then they didn’t have probable cause, and they should be prosecuted for false imprisonment.

      1. We’ve been told on here by our fearless police officer/powerlifter/mathematician/surfer/rock star that police officers should never, ever be charged with a crime unless they were directly trained on the law and its proper application. That goes for them being held accountable for laws that were on the books when they were hired as well as laws that were changed after the fact…even if the change or passage of the law was widely reported and common knowledge.

        I shit you now.

        Hey, where has that asshole been? I figured he would have come out while I as on hiatus.

        1. Banging Morgan Fairchild is too tiring to allow for posting.

        2. No, he hasn’t shown for months. I think we finally ran that piece of shit off. Now Tulpa is down for the count. We’re doing pretty damn well!

          1. He was only here because he was laid up with an injury.
            As you know, being a cop is not a job, it’s a lifestyle.
            He’s likely working all kinds of extra hours, getting paid overtime for what he’d happily do for free.

          2. I wonder if Tulpa was dunphy…..

            1. Tulpa can’t even keep one sockpuppet straight, no way he could be behind all the other trolls.

  6. This is why we all should have the Bambuser app – instant upload to the cloud.

    1. Did you say Rowsdower?

  7. Look, until we start throwing police officers like this asshole in jail instead of putting them on desk duty, we’re fucked as a society.

  8. I think that the reason dishonest cops are rarely if ever prosecuted is because the prosecutors themselves have an interest in cops being dishonest.

    Falsified reports and false testimonies mean higher conviction rates.

    If cops had to worry about facing criminal charges when they lie on their reports and lie in court and lie to citizens about the law and so on and so forth, conviction rates would likely plummet.

    So yeah, no self-interested prosecutor (redundant I know) is going to go after bad cops.

    1. It doesn’t hurt that they both share the same qualified immunity or that any prosecutor that vigorously charged or pursued conviction of a crooked cop might just find himself unwittingly afoul of several traffic laws a day until the charges disappeared.

  9. “We never did that! Here, take this money we got from the taxpayers and shut up.”

    1. Where did you get a copy of the settlement and release?!

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