Nine incidents added to War on Cameras map

Published On May 27, 2011 | By Dr. Q | Articles

Over the past week or so, I’ve added nine new incidents to the War on Cameras Map. Expect more updates in the near future.

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Below are the text of the nine new markers that I added to the map.

In four of the incidents, people were arrested and/or criminally charged for using a camera.

Seattle, WA police arrest man for photography, tell him he could be charged with “provoking a riot”

In 2006, Bogdan Mohora photographed two police officers arresting a man. Mohora was approached by a friend of the man being arrested who told him the officers were wrongfully arresting him on a quashed warrant.

The two officers, James Pitts and David Toner, confronted Mohora and ordered him to hand over his camera. Mohora asked what he had done wrong and the officers arrested him. They locked him in a jail cell and later released him withoout charges, but said they could have charged him with “disturbing the peace,” “provoking a riot” or “endangering a police officer.” The officers failed to file a police report about the incident, a violation of department policy.

Mohora sued the police with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. He was awarded $8,000 in a settlement.

The two officers who arrested Mohora were issued written reprimands.

Sources:

Arkansas state trooper who arrested man for photography is photographer himself

In December, 2007, photojournalist Bill Lawson was taking pictures of a house fire when when he was confronted by state trooper Tom Weindruch who ordered him to stay near his car. Lawson took Weindruch’s picture and the officer arrested him for “obstructing governmental operations” and had his car towed. He wrote in his arrest report that the flash on Lawson’s camera made him fear for his safety.

Lawson said that after he was arrested, Weindruch roughed him up, screamed at him, threatened him, and refused to let him sit down.

Lawson’s charged were dismissed four days later. He filed a complaint against Weindruch.

A review board looked into the incident and suspended Weindruch for two days and transferred him from the State Police’s Highway Patrol Division to the Administrative Services Division. Weindruch was also made ineligible to compete for promotions or receive special assignments for a year. The board noted that Weindruch had a history of “unacceptable” and “unprofessional” behavior.

The board also noted that Weindruch had a dashcam in his car, but failed to begin recording with it until he had placed Lawson in handcuffs.

Several years after the incident, blogger Carlos Miller noticed that Weindruch had a profile on the website “Capture Arkansas” which allows amateur photographers to share pictures. In his profile, Weindruch deascribed himself as “an Arkansas State Trooper who loves taking photos of all kinds of things in my spare time.”

Sources:

Boynton Beach, FL police arrest man for recording officer with iPhone

On May 5, 2011, Joshua Mandel was using his iPhone to record a police officer. According to police, he was chanting “first amendment” while recording. Police also claimed that by recording, he had caused a crowd of people to surround the officer.

Every single on-duty Boynton Beach police officer showed up to the scene. Mendel was arrested, jailed, and charged with “disorderly intoxication,” “resisting arrest” and “illegal interception of communication.”

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MTA police cite man for photographing armed soldiers

Joey Boots was taking pictures of several armed, uniformed soldiers who were on duty at Penn Station in New York City. According to Boots, he took a few pictures of the soldiers and one of them ordered him to stop. Boots explained that he had the right to take pictures in public and continued photographing the soldiers. The soldier began approaching him, so he began recording with a camera phone, and explained again that what he was doing was not against the law.

Two Metropolitan Transportation Authority police officers confronted Boots, called him a “creep,” and accused him of “harassing” the soldiers.

The officers detained Boots and ordered him to turn his camera off and put it back into his pocket, hinting that it might have been a weapon. “Don’t point that camera at me again. I don’t know if it’s a real camera or not,” screamed one of the officers. Boots put the camera in his pocket, but did not turn it off.

When Boots gave the officers his military ID, they accused him of disrespecting his fellow soldiers.

The officers continued to detain Boots, call him names such as “smart ass” and “idiot,” and mock him while they contacted a supervisor to try to find out what to charge him with.

At one point during the encounter, Boots told the officers that he has the right to film and public and one of the officers sarcastically asked him if he worked for Channel 7 News.

Boots asked the officers multiple times if they were aware of any laws restricting his right to take pictures or film, but the officers were never able to give him an answer. Finally, after about 10 minutes of detaining Boots and harassing him, the officers issued him a citation for “interference with traffic.”

Sources

Videos:

In three of the incidents, police covered up or refused to release footage from dashboard cameras.

Jennings, MO police try to cover up police brutality dashcam video

In 2009, police arrested a man at a traffic stop who was wanted on a warrant. A family member of the man approached the officers and asked why they were arresting him One of the officers, Corporal Paul Bachman, grabbed the family member, threw her to the ground, and arrested her.

The woman went to the police department in an attempt to obtain dashcam video of the incident, however, the police repeatedly denied the existence of the video.

14 months after the initial incident, a DVD containing dashcam footage of the incident mysteriously appeared on a City Councilman’s door step.

Police Chief David Orr and Mayor Benjamin Sutphin wanted Corporal Bachman to be demoted, however, the city council unanimously voted to fire him. Lt. Shawn Lane was also fired for participating in the cover-up. Lane was already being investigated by the Missouri Highway Patrol and FBI for allegedly misusing federal grant money.

Chief Orr claimed to not have any idea how the video disappeared for 14 months. He denied taking part in the cover up.

Sources:

Videos:

Fairfax County, VA police refuse to release video of traffic stop during which officer killed unarmed man

In November, 2009, a Fairfax County police officer stopped motorist David Masters who was wanted for allegedly ripping some flowers out of a planter at a landscaping business. During the traffic stop, a police officer shot and killed Masters. Masters was seated in the driver’s seat of his car and unarmed at the time of the shooting. Masters was also reported as being bipolar, though the officers present at the traffic did not know this at the time.

Masters had also been stopped by the police the day before the shooting for speeding. During this first incident, Masters allegedly drove slowly for over a mile before stopping and accepting two traffic violation tickets.

On January 27, 2010, prosecutors announced that no charges would be filed against the officer who killed Masters. According to Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh, the officer was justified because he thought he saw Masters reaching for a weapon. Several other witnesses were interviewed about the shooting, but not a single one of them reported seeing Masters make this alleged movement including two other police officers who were present.

According to Police Public Information Officer Mary Ann Jennings, police recorded the traffic stop with dashcams, however, she said the video does not include the shooting. Police and prosecutors have refused requests to release this video to the public. In fact, the police and prosecutors have refused to release police reports about the incident and even the name of the officer who shot Masters. “What does the name of an officer give the public in terms of information and disclosure?” Jennings asked rhetorically. “I’d be curious to know why [members of the press] want the name of an officer.”

Sources:

Seattle, WA police cover up video in police brutality case

On April 24, 2010, members of the Seattle gang unit detective responded to a fight. One of the men present at the fight, David Rengo, claimed that he and a group of a friends had been attacked by another group of people. Despite claiming to be a victim, Rengo was arrested by Detective Shandy Cobane.

Cobane accused Rengo of assaulting him during the arrest. Rengo denied this accusation and claimed that, in fact, it was Cobane who had assaulted him. According to Rengo, the detective choked him multiple times “just for fun” while he was handcuffed in the back of his police cruiser.

Rengo’s lawyer Peter Connick subpoenaed the dashcam footage of the incident from Cobane’s police cruiser, however, crucial portions of the video were missing.

When Rengo’s charge for felony assault on a police officer went to trial, Judge Joan DeBuque dismissed it. “I have not seen a case this poorly prepared or investigated in my 22 years on the bench,” she said.

Just a week before he arrested Rengo, Cobane was caught on assaulting another person. In this first incident, Cobane threatened to “beat the fucking Mexican piss out of” Martin Monetti, Jr. as he laid on the ground compliantly. Then Cobane and a fellow officer, Mary Woolum, began stomping on Monetti’s head and arm. Monetti was released shortly after the assault when police realized he wasn’t the person they were looking for.

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Two of the incidents involve public statements — one by a police detective, one by the director of the Fraternal order of Police — made against recording the police.

Fraternal Order of police director claims that recording police violates their civil rights

In a 2010 interview with Reason magazine, Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said that he supported police arresting people for recording them. Pasco claimed that recording a police officer is a civil rights violation. “Police officers don’t check their civil rights at the station house door,” he said.

Pasco also said that only video recorded by the police should be admissible as evidence in court. “There’s no chain of custody with these videos,” he said, referring to video shot by non-police. “How do you know the video hasn’t been edited? How do we know what’s in the video hasn’t been taken out of context? With dashboard cameras or police security video, the evidence is in the hands of law enforcement the entire time, so it’s admissible under the rules of evidence. That’s not the case with these cell phone videos.”

Pasco ridiculed the idea that video evidence is useful for showing when a police officer lies on a police report. “You have 960,000 police officers in this country, and millions of contacts between those officers and citizens. I’ll bet you can’t name 10 incidents where a citizen video has shown a police officer to have lied on a police report… Letting people record police officers is an extreme and intrusive response to a problem that’s so rare it might as well not exist. It would be like saying we should do away with DNA evidence because there’s a one in a billion chance that it could be wrong. At some point, we have to put some faith and trust in our authority figures.”

In a later interview with USA Today, Pasco claimed that people video-recording police is a safety issue. “The proliferation of cheap video equipment is presenting a whole new dynamic for law enforcement,” Pasco said. “It has had a chilling effect on some officers who are now afraid to act for fear of retribution by video. This has become a serious safety issue. I’m afraid something terrible will happen.”

Pasco reiterated this thought during an interview with National Public Radio. “[Police] need to move quickly, in split seconds, without giving a lot of thought to what the adverse consequences for them might be,” Pasco said. “We feel that anything that’s going to have a chilling effect on an officer moving — an apprehension that he’s being videotaped and may be made to look bad — could cost him or some citizen their life or some serious bodily harm.”

Sources:

Police detective claims video cameras are an “officer safety issue”

In May, 2011, the Chicago Police Department hosted a convention called the Social Media, Internet and Law Enforcement conference. One of the speakers at the convention, Detective CJ Wren of the Phoenix Police Department, said during his speech that the proliferation of video cameras was a safety problem for police officers. Wren claimed that being on video creates pressure for officers that could make them “just a little less effective.” “When you start worrying about what the perception is, you may second guess that extra second, and that could be an officer safety issue,” he said.

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About The Author

Dr. Q is a police accountability activist who resides in Massachusetts. He is the founder and editor of Massachusetts Cop Block. He is also the creator of the War on Cameras Map. You can connect with him on Twitter.