first of several lawsuits filed against philadelphia police for arresting people who observe or record them

by Tim Phillips

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed the first of several lawsuits yesterday regarding Philadelphia police officers’ pattern of fabricating criminal offenses to arrest people for recording their conduct. Yesterday’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Philadelphia resident, Christopher Montgomery, who an officer arrested for using his cellphone to videotape police. The ACLU press release describes Montgomery’s arrest:

On the evening of January 23, 2011, a crowd of young people were involved in a verbal altercation in Center City. As police began arresting some of those involved, Montgomery, a Temple student and bystander, began recording audio and video with his iPhone. … An officer at the scene, David Killingsworth, approached Montgomery, shouted at him to stop recording, and grabbed the hand he was using to hold his iPhone. Killingsworth then arrested Montgomery, took his phone, and drove him to a local police district.

Montgomery was cited for disorderly conduct. When he subsequently received his phone back, his video of the incident had been erased. Yet he was ultimately found not guilty of the trumped-up charge. According to yesterday’s complaint,

Documenting police officers’ behavior in public by way of audio and video recording is expressive activity protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is not and, under our Constitution, could not be a crime.

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