New additions to the War on Cameras Map (March 20, 2011)

Art by Rui Ricardo (Source: Popular Mechanics)

Over the past week, I’ve added 14 markers to the War on Camera map which brings the total number to 80. I’ve also made a few corrections, spelling/grammar fixes, and updates to several entries. I still have a sizable backlog of stories that I’m looking into, but I would appreciate it if people would continue to send me suggestions via email.

Several people have sent me incidents that occurred in Canada and the UK and asked me about the possibility of including international events on the map. At present, I do not plan to include incidents that occurred outside the US, but I would still appreciate it if people would email them to me. If I get enough suggestions, I might consider expanding the scope of the map.

I’ve also uploaded a .doc file to the website that includes the titles and text included with the markers on the map.

As always, if you’d like me to keep working on this project, please keep in mind that donations are much appreciated. You can send me a donation here.

Below I’ve included the text of the 14 new events:

Carlisle, PA police officer arrests man for recording traffic stop

On May 24th, 2007, Brian Kelly’s friend was pulled over by officer David Rogers. Rogers cited Kelly’s friend for speeding and having his truck’s bumper too low. Kelly, who was sitting in the passenger seat, began filming the traffic stop after the officer allegedly started yelling at his friend.

Rogers saw Kelly’s cameras and demanded that he hand it over. Kelly complied and then Rogers placed him under arrest. Police consulted with a district attorney and then decided to file wiretapping charges against Kelly.

Kelly was held in the Cumberland County Prison for 26 hours. Kelly’s mother had to use her house as security to get him out of the prison because she couldn’t afford the $2,500 bail.

Kelly maintained that he did not realize it was illegal to record police officers without their consent. The prosecuting attorney David Freed commented that “Obviously, ignorance of the law is no defense.” In fact, it was Freed who was ignorant of the law.

After receiving numerous critical phone calls and emails from concerned citizens and reviewing court cases about Pennsylvania wiretapping law, Freed dropped the charges and admitted that Kelly hadn’t done anything illegal. Freed said he would seek to turn his decision not to prosecute Kelly into a policy for all police departments in his county. “When police are audio- and video-recording traffic stops with notice to the subjects, similar actions by citizens, even if done in secret, will not result in criminal charges… I intend to communicate this decision to all police agencies within the county so that officers on the street are better prepared to handle a similar situation should it arise again.”

Kelly filed a federal lawsuit against the police alleging that his civil rights had been violated when he was arrested. In 2009, judge Yvette Kane dismissed the lawsuit. She claimed that Kelly could not sue the police because the officer who arrested him was acting in good faith. Kelly appealed this decision.


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Court security harass man for filming outside Phoenix, AZ courthouse

Doug Hester was filming outside the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse in Phoenix to see how long it would take before he was harassed by court security. After just a few minutes, he was confronted by two security guards one of whom demanded to know why he was filming. Hester asked if he was free to go and was told “Not yet.” Hester continued to ask if he was free to go and the security guard finally changed his mind.

Before Hester left, the guard said “If I catch you videotaping the building again you will be arrested by the Phoenix Police Department.”

“On what charge?,” Hester asked.

“On the charge of… We’ll talk to the Phoenix Police Department,” the guard said.

“You’re not supposed to videotape any federal court building,” said the second guard.

Hester asked what law made it illegal to record federal court buildings.

The second guard said National Security Act — a law which has absolutely nothing to do with filming outside courthouses — and the first added “Oklahoma City, that’s why.” (The Oklahoma City bombing has nothing to do with the National Security Act which was, in fact, passed several decades prior to the bombing.)

“It all comes down to Homeland Security and all that,” said the second guard.

“If you want to talk to our Homeland Security people, we can arrange that right now and we will detain you,” said the first guard.

Hester asked if he was free to go and the security guards left him alone.



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Federal officers arrest videographer and seize his memory card

On November 9th, 2009, Julian Heicklen was passing out Fully Informed Jury Association pamphlets outside a federal courthouse in New York City while Antonio Musumeci filmed with a video camera. Federal officers ordered Heicklen to leave despite the fact that he was not breaking any laws. Heicklen refused to leave and was subsequently arrested.

Inspector Clifford Barnes of the Federal Protective Service and a second federal officer then confronted Musumeci and demanded to see his ID. When Musumeci asked why, Barnes told him that it was against a federal regulation to videotape on federal property for commercial purposes. Musumeci informed barnes that he was not filming for commercial purposes and Barnes responded by telling he was under arrest and grabbing his camera away from him. The officers spent about 20 minutes questioning Musumeci and belittling him before issuing him a citation. Musumeci’s camera was returned, but the officers kept his memory card.

Unbeknowst to the officers, Musumeci was able to record the entire incident on a small spy camera. Using the video as evidence, Musumeci sued the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Protective Services with the help of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

As part of a settlement, Musumeci was awared $1,500 in damages and $3,350 in legal fees. The government was also forced to recognize that people have the right to filming and take photographs on federal property and to provide federal officers with written instructions about this right.

The government refused to return Musumeci’s memory card,. They said they planned to use it as evidence against Julian Heicklen even though they obtained it through illegal means.



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Lindenhurst, IL police officer arrests man for recording traffic stop

Louis Frobe took up nocturnal animal watching and late-night movies as hobbies when medicine he was prescribed for chronic back pain made it difficult for him to sleep at night. He was stopped dozens of times by police officers so he began carrying video and audio recording equipment to document his encounters.

On April 15th, 2010, Frobe was pulled over by officer Ralph Goar who informed him that he had been speeding. Goar returned to his cruiser and Frobe switched on a recording device. When Goar approached Frobe for the second time, he noticed the device and arrested him.

Frobe was charged with “eavesdropping” and “possession of a controlled substance” for what was actually medication legally prescribed by a doctor. Both charges were later dropped.

In 2011, Frobe filed a federal lawsuit against the Lindenhurst police with the help of attorney Torri Hamilton with the intention of getting the state’s eavesdropping law overturned. Hamilton pointed out that Illinois wiretapping law exempts police officers and therefore is based on a double standard. Police officers in Illinois frequently record people without their consent using dashboard cameras.


* * * * *

MTA police arrest MTA employee for photographing trains

In 2009, hobbyist Robert Taylor was taking pictures of trains at the Freeman Street station in New York City. Taylor started boarding his train when he was confronted by police who demanded that he get off the train. The officers told him that it was illegal to photograph trains. Taylor, an MTA employee, was familiar with the MTA’s rules about photography and used his phone to show them to the officers in order to prove that photography was perfectly legal.

The officers arrested him anyway. They charged him with “unauthorized photography,” “disobeying a lawful order,” “impeding traffic,” and “unreasonable noise” and locked him in a jail cell for approximately two hours.

All the charges were eventually dropped. Taylor sued the city with the help of attorney Gerald Cohen and was awarded $30,000 in a settlement.

After the settlement was reached, Taylor returned to the station with a Fox news crew to film a segment about the lawsuit. During this time, the the news crew was confronted by a transit supervisor who harassed them and used his hand to block their cameras. The suprvisor left them alone when he realized they were “working press.”


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Nashville, TN police officer lies about existence of dashcam video of arrest that lead to pregnant woman being shackled to a hospital bed

On July 3rd, 2008, Sgt. Tim Coleman stopped Juana Villegas, a pregnant woman, for allegedly driving carelessly. Coleman asked Villegas to see a driver’s license, however, she only had a Mexican ID. Normally people without driver’s licenses are cited, however, Coleman decided to arrest her because he believed her to be an undocumented immigrant. “If she is here illegally, I can promise you she is going back to Mexico. They will deport her,” Coleman said.

After being arrested, Villegas was forced to give birth while in police custody. She alleges that she was shackled to a hospital bed while giving birth. Police admit that she was shackled to the bed, but claim the shackles were removes two hours prior to her giving birth and were put back on several hours after. The charges against Villegas were later dropped due to mishandling by Sgt. Coleman.

In court, Coleman was asked about the video his dashboard camera recorded of the incident. Coleman testified that his camera was malfunctioning the day of the traffic stop so no such video existed. Later, the department released the video in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The video opened with Coleman explaining that he had tested the camera and that it was working properly.



* * * * *

New Haven, CT police officer grabs camera from man and turns it off

In 2010, Jamie Kelly was filming a group a police officers arresting a man. One of the officers confronted Kelly, blocked his camera, threatened to arrest him, and told him to “watch [the arrest] on the 6 O’clock news.” The officer left Kelly alone and he continued filming.

A few seconds later, a second officer approached Kelly and grabbed the camera out of his hands.

“I was taking a picture,” Kelly said.

“You don’t take pictures of us. How’s that?,” the officer responded. The officer then shut the camera off.



* * * * *

New Orleans, LA police officer knocks man’s cell phone to the ground

In March, 2011, New Orleans police officers arrested a dozen people who had allegedly been acting violently at a parade. Ritchie Katko used a cell phone camera to film one of the arrests. Katko’s footage shows several officers standing over a man while screaming “Get on your fucking knees!” repeatedly. One of the officers then approaches Katko, yells at him to “Get out of here,” and then strikes the cell phone with his hand, knocking it to the ground. Katko was able to retrieve his phone and continue filming.



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New York City, NY police officers arrest woman for filming at public school meeting

In October, 2010, Larisa Beachy was filming at a Community Education Council (CEC) hearing about a potential charter school. Noah Gotbaum, president of the District 3 CEC, told Beachy that she needed a permit to film and ordered her to leave. Beachy refused and the police were called. Beachy was arrested and charged with “refusing a lawful order.”

A formal complaint was filed with Schools Chancellor Joel Klein asking him to confirm whether or not it was legal to film at the meeting. The complaint prompted lawyers from the city’s Education Department to issue letters to all CEC officials explaining that they “may not prohibit members of the public or press from making video or audio recordings.”


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NJ transit guards harass photographer, tell him that public property is privately owned

In March, 2010, photographer and blogger Carlos Miller was taking pictures with a friend in a parking lot outside the Liberty State Park Light Rail Station when he was confronted by a security guard who told him photography was against the law. Miller began audio-recording the incident and informed the guard that no such law exists.

“This is private property. This belongs to the state,” the security guard bizarrely responded.

Miller continued telling the guard that he had the right to take pictures, so the guard called in a supervisor. The supervisor also claimed that the public parking lot was “private” and threatened to call the police.

Miller and his friend decided to leave the parking lot. Miller said that they were followed by the supervisor as they left.


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San Diego, CA trolley cops harass man for filming brutality

On September 5th, 2009, Rob Hurlbut said he witnessed a group San Diego Transit Police tackle and arrest a man for smoking — an offense people are normally cited for. He began filming the incident while the trolley cops piled on top of the man. Hurlbut’s footage shows the security guards yelling at the man to “stop resisting” despite the fact that he was not resisting in any way. The man explained to the guards that he was trying to cooperate but that they were hurting him, but they continued to use force against him.

A female officer spotted Hurlbut filming him and told him that he was not allowed to take pictures. Hurlbut took a few steps back, but continued filming as the security guards brought the man to their cruiser.

After the man was placed in the cruiser, a male trolley cop approached Hurlbut, demanded to see his trolley pass, and told him to stop taking pictures. Hurlbut asked if it was against the law and the guard replied that it was. Hurtlbut asked again and the guard responded “It’s against out rights.” Hurlbut asked the guard what law made it illegal to take pictures, but the guartd refused to give him an answer. Finally, Hurlbut shut off the camera out of fear that the trolley cops might confiscate it and delete his footage.

Hurlbut said that several minutes after he shut off his camera, he was approached by another trolley cop who demanded to see his pass. Hurlbut said he produced it and the officer grabbed it out of his hands and threatened him.

On September 18, Ken Moller, president of Heritage Security Services, the company that employed the trolley cops, issued an apology to Hurlbut and confirmed that it is legal to take pictures and shoot video. “We have no right to tell people they can’t shoot down there,” he said. “My officers were wrong in telling him that. And I put that word out as soon as I saw the video. It’s a public place and people can certainly shoot video down there if they want to.” However, Heritage Security Services refused to release the arrest report for the smoker despite the fact that Hurlbut’s video showed the trolley cops using excessive force.



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Spring City and East Vincent, PA officers cite man for filming twice and illegally search his car

In 2006, Richard Hookway began filming Spring City and East Vincent police officers because he suspected them of spending time outside their respective jurisdictions and running personal errands while on-duty.

On January 19, 2007, Hookway was stopped by Spring City police officer Stofflet for filming. Several days later, he received citations in the mail for “harassment” and “disorderly conduct.”

On February 1, Hookway was filming a traffic stop when he was confronted by Stofflet and East Vincent officer Karl Jones who told him it was against the law to film. He received citations for “harassment” and “disorderly conduct” in the mail again.

On February 19, Hookway was filming a third traffic stop when he was confronted by Spring City police officer Smythe who locked him in the back of his police cruiser for an hour and illegally searched his car twice. Hookway alleged that officer Smythe cursed at him, taunted him, and threatened to confiscate his video camera and car.

The ACLU filed suits against the Spring City police and East Vincent police on behalf of Hookway. Both departments were forced to adopt a new written policy about video-recording, train their officers properly, and pay for the $3,2000 in legal costs Hookway incurred defending himself against the charges. The officers who harassed Hookway were also forced to write letters of apology.


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Terrebonne Parish sheriff’s deputy harasses videographer on behalf of oil company

In June, 2010, Drew Wheelan, conservation coordinator for the American Birding Association, was filming himself standing in a field near the BP building/Deepwater Horizon response command in Houma, Louisiana. Wheelan hoped to obtain access to the building and talk to a company representative about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

While Wheelan was filming, he was confronted by a Terrebonne Parish sheriff’s deputy who asked him for personal information. When Wheelan asked if he was violating any laws, the deputy responded “Not particularly. BP doesn’t want people filming.”

Wheelan told the deputy that he was not on BP’s property and therefore the company had no right to stop him from filming.

The deputy responded: “Let me explain. BP doesn’t want any filming. So all I can really do is strongly suggest that you not film anything right now. If that makes any sense.” The deputy continued pestering Wheelan with personal questions which he answered.

After Wheelan left in his car, he was pulled over by the same deputy. The deputy detained Wheelan for approximately 20 minutes while Kenneth Thomas, a man identified as the chief of the BP building’s private security force, interrogated him.

Wheelan said that after he was allowed to leave, he was followed by two unmarked vehicles for 20 miles. “Maybe I’m paranoid, but I was specifically trying to figure out if they were following me, and every time I pulled over, they pulled over, ” Wheelan recounted.

It was later confirmed that the sheriff’s deputy was off duty and working for BP when he detained Wheelan even though he was driving his department-issued police cruiser



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TN lawmaker tries to ban reporter from house chambers

In May, 2010, Tennessee House Speaker Kent Williams collapsed while giving a speech in the house chambers. It was later determined that Williams, who is diabetic, had passed out due to low blood sugar.

Associated Pess reporter Erik Schlezig was sitting at a desk inside the chamber’s press box when Williams collapsed. Schlezig climbed up on the desk to take a picture of Williams. After he took the picture, a number of Tennessee legislators approached the press box and began yelling at Schlezig and trying to block his camera with their hands. Some of the lawmakers demanded that Schlezig be removed and a group of state police escorted him from the building.

Joe Towns, a Democratic representative, drafted a proposal to have Schlezig’s press credentials revoked. The proposal claimed that by taking pictures of Williams, Schlezig was “needlessly hindering emergency medical personnel from providing necessary medical care” despite the fact that he was on the other side of a glass barrier when he took the offending photograph.

Williams said in an interview that he had no problem with Schlezig taking pictures of him and called him a “good reporter.” He urged Towns to drop the proposal to ban Schlezig which Towns subsequently did.



  • Swank

    I love how in the first one the photog would be prosecuted because “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” But when it turns out that there was no basis for the arrest, a judge throws out the photog’s civil suit because “the officer acted in good faith.” I.e, he “thought” there was a law that allowed him to make the arrest.

    So, as usual we have a double standard. If joe civilian is ignorant of the law they get the book thrown at them (even if its a victimless crime). If a cop is ignorant of the law, well gosh, they meant well, so its okay and they shouldn’t be punished.

    What crap.


    i JUST FOUND THIS SITE & EMAILED MY STORY.A SMALL PART OF IT ANYWAY,ENOUGH to get thier attention as to I know! I live it & still living it!And I follow the laws~ Back to the vid about the girl they slamed,heres the prolem she was being combative and she was swinging & beating someone else down.She also got in the way of a investigation that was under way.It was a crimes she commited, on vid as far as I can make out.That was piss poor evidence.She was acting out of controll! You must have an innocent person like that elderly women who the task force beat down & she was alone with no help what so ever!That’s the kind of things you need here,this won’t hold shit in court.She looks/looked like she was asking 4 trouble, truth be told.I may be wrong but a picture tells a thousand storys don’t it.I know they are out of control ,but get it right! Show that the person was NOT’ doing anything wrong is all im trying to say.You know im right,unless i saw something diferent or missed a thing or 2.Thanks for letting me voice my opinoin here~I’m all about fairness & fighting 4 the underdog. I hate unfairness God bless the peace keepers,ppl like us,this site.Keeping them honest, or at least as honest as ones aloud to be.