A video posted to Facebook by someone using the name Francesco DaDon Guglielmette appears to show a Memphis police officer violently tackling a man who was filming a group of officers with his camera-phone.
At the start of the video, several police cruisers can be seen in the street as officers speak to an unidentified black man. Shortly thereafter, an officer approaches the man holding the camera and orders him to the sidewalk.
Then, the officer changes his command, saying "the sidewalk's made to walk, not to stand. You feel me?" The man with the camera says "I'm walking" and the officer responds, "Matter of fact, leave the scene."
As the man walks away from what the officer calls a "crime scene," the officer grabs him and throws him to the ground, where several other officers join him in detaining the man, all of which is captured on video by another bystander who picked up the camera-phone.
"Guglielmette" writes in the Facebook post that he was the one holding the camera and that he was arrested:
When did simple recording become a crime???
I was assaulted by Memphis Police department just for recording… Arrested on false charges and treated like an pure animal…
A spokesperson with the Memphis PD told Reason that the officer in question has been identified and an investigation by the Inspectional Services Bureau into the incident has been initiated. The department addressed the incident on its Facebook page:
"I understand the outrage from the community concerning this video; however, I do ask that you all allow us to conduct a thorough investigation into the actions of this officer," said Interim Director Michael Rallings.
"This investigation will be handled expeditiously and the findings will be released to you all at the conclusion of the investigation. The Memphis Police Department takes all citizen complaints seriously and I can assure you that this investigation will be handled appropriately."
In a 2012 incident, Memphis police reportedly detained a journalist recording an arrest and subsequently deleted the footage from his phone. This led to the department updating its policy regarding "public recordings" to affirm the First Amendment right of citizens to record police "as long as the bystander has a legal right to be present where he or she is located." Sidewalks and streets are specifically listed in the policy as settings where "the individual has a legal right to be present."
When encountering a citizen recording police activity, officers are specifically forbidden from ordering them to stop, demanding identification, detaining them, "intentionally block[ing] or obstruct[ing] cameras, and "in any way threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage an individual from recording."
It is not clear if any of the officers involved in this recent incident were wearing functioning body cameras, but a quirk in the Memphis PD's policy allows body cameras to be turned off at a superior officer's discretion.