New incidents added to “War on Cameras” map (May 12, 2011)
Earlier this year, I launched a project called “The War on Cameras: An Interactive Map” using Google Maps to track incidents where police and other government officials have harassed, detained, threatened, attacked, arrested, or charged people with a crimes for using cameras, incidents where cameras have been seized, and incidents where government officials attempted to cover up video evidence or censor photographers.
It’s been a while since I updated the War on Cameras Map, so I have a lot of catching up to do. Yesterday, I started working on the map again and added three recent incidents. All occurred in 2011. As usual, I have included the full text of the new markers in this update.
In the first incident (which was discussed in a recent CopBlock.org post), police from Orlando, FL arrested a Copwatch activist who was recording them, jailed him for seven days, and charged him with crimes that could potentially result in a six year prison sentence. Police say the Copwatcher shoved one of them, however, he denies this accusation. After he was released from jail, he found out that his camera — which could prove his innocence — had mysteriously gone missing.
Orlando, FL police officers “lose” Copwatcher’s camera after arresting him
During the early hours of New Year’s Day 2011, police were investigating a domestic violence call. John Kurtz (full name Johannes Michael Germann-Kurtz), the founder of Orlando Copwatch, approached the officers while they were arresting a man on a public sidewalk. According to a statement from Kurtz, the arrest “included the use of tasers, a violent take down, and a pepper spraying AFTER the suspect was subdued and in handcuffs.”
Officer Adam Gruler arrested Kurtz and charged him with “battery on law enforcement officer,” “resisting an officer without violence,” and “obstructing or opposing a police officer.” According to the police, Kurtz was arrested because he ignored an order to back up and shoved one of the officers. Kurtz denied that he shoved an officer and stated that he was thrown to the ground and arrested for merely telling the officers that he had a right to record them.
Kurtz was held in jail for seven days after being arrested. When he was released, the police did not return his camera with the rest of his belongings. The cameras had not been filed as evidence either despite the fact that the police acknowledged in their report that that Kurtz had been recording, meaning that the police had lost, hid, or destroyed it.
Kurtz currently faces six years in prison.
Gruler, the officer who arrested Kurtz, was nicknamed “Hunter” by fellow officers and had more taser-deployments than any other officer in his department. In one incident, Gruler was accused of using a taser on a man for trying to swallow drugs, a violation of department policy.
- Anthony Colarossi and Jim Leusner, “Tough Solutions For Parramore” (May 8th, 2006), OrlandoSentinel.com
- John Kurtz, “Trial of John Kurtz, Facing 6 Years in Prison for Videotaping Police” (May 10th, 2011), OrlandoCopwatch.com
- Jeff Weiner, “Police: Cop watchdog group founder among 19 New Year’s Eve arrests in downtown Orlando” (Jan. 2nd, 2011), OrlandoSentinel.com
In the next incident, a Las Vegas, NV officer beat and arrested a man for filming in his own driveway and was rewarded with a paid vacation.
Las Vegas, NV police officer beats man and arrests him for filming
On March 20, 2011, Mitchell Crooks was testing out a new video camera in his front yard when he spotted a group of police officers in the process of arresting a group of burglary suspects in his neighborhood. After Crooks had been filming for about an hour, one of the officers, Derek Colling, got into his car and drove up to the foot of Crooks’ driveway and asked “Can I help you, sir?”
“Nope. Just observing,” Crooks replied.
“Do you live here?” the officer asked.
“Nope,” Crooks lied in response. Crooks later said that he regretted lying to the officer, but did so because he felt nervous.
After hearing Crooks’ response, the officer exited his vehicle and said “Turn that off for me.”
“Why do I have to turn it off? I’m perfectly within my legal rights to be able to do this,” Crooks asked.
The officer told Crooks to turn his camera off several more times and Crooks continued explaining that he wasn’t doing anything illegal.
“You don’t live here,” Colling said.
“I do live here!” said Crooks, correcting his earlier statement.
“You don’t live here, dude!”
“I just said I live here.”
The officer grabbed Crooks, threw him to the ground, and began assaulting him. Crooks can he heard on his video of the incident screaming at this point. He says he was screaming because the officer kicked and repeatedly punched him in the face. Colling screamed at Crooks to “shut up” and “stop resisting” as he attacked him. Colling said that Crooks fought with him during the arrest.
After Crooks was placed in handcuffs, Colling mocked his rapid breathing and told him “when you don’t do what I ask you to do, then you’re in a world of hurt.”
As a result of the beating, Crooks suffered a broken nose, a deviated septum, and a chest wall injury. He also said that he believes his ribs were broken, however, he never got X-rays to prove it.
Colling later claimed that he arrested Crooks because he suspected him of trespassing, however, he did not actually have any reason to suspect Crooks of trespassing since no complaint had been made by a property owner. As ACLU attorney Allen Lichtenstein stated after reviewing the case, “Even if the officer didn’t think he lived there, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have permission to be there… [T]hat question was never asked.”
Crooks was charged with “battery on a police officer” and “obstruction of justice.” These charges were both dropped by the Clark County district attorney’s office four days after the story was covered in a newspaper.
Colling was suspended with pay pending the completion of an internal investigation.
This incident was not the first time that Mitchell Crooks had recorded police misconduct. In 2002, he filmed Inglewood, CA police officers beating a 16-year-old boy.
- Mike Blasky, “Las Vegas officer suspended in videotaped beating case” (Apr. 23rd, 2011), Las Vegas Review-Journal
- Mike Blasky, “Police beating of Las Vegas man caught on tape” (Apr. 22nd, 2011), Las Vegas Review-Journal
In the third incident, police in Galesberg, IL charged several teenagers with felony eavesdropping for recording them break up a party. The article about the incident from the local TV station is a real head-scratcher. The reporters quote a police captain as saying that it’s illegal to record police without their consent. They then quote the captain as saying that recording interferes with police and accept it as fact even he never actually explains how. Finally, they absurdly quote the same captain as saying that he “always tell[s his] officers, if you’re doing the right thing, there is no problem with being recorded.”
Galesburg, IL police charge teens with felonies for recording party bust
In May, 2011, police arrested a number of people for allegedly drinking while underage at a house party. Andrew Cree and several other party attendees recorded the police with and where arrested on felony eavesdropping charges.
After the incident, Captain Rodney Riggs told a local TV station that recording police without their consent is illegal. Riggs also claimed that recording is annoying for police and interferes with their ability to do their jobs. “It’s a hindrance,” he said. “Following the police officers around, it’s two in the morning, we have officers trying to do their jobs, and at times, we have to take action to get our job done.”
Riggs also bizarrely told the TV station, in complete contradiction to everything else he said about the subject, that officers benefit from being recorded by the public. “I always tell my officers, if you’re doing the right thing, there is no problem with being recorded,” he said.
- “Videotaping Police” (May 11, 2011), KWQC.com
If you appreciate this project, please consider sending me a donation via PayPal.