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Penn. police ordered to apologize to man they harassed for filming them

On three separate occasions in 2007, Pennsylvania police detained, handcuffed and/or charged Richard Hookway after he videotaped them against their wishes, citing him for “harassment” and “disorderly conduct,” and telling him it was “against the law” to fi


On three separate occasions in 2007, Pennsylvania police detained, handcuffed and/or charged Richard Hookway after he videotaped them against their wishes, citing him for “harassment” and “disorderly conduct,” and telling him it was “against the law” to film police in public.

In November 2008, these same officers were forced to write a letter of apology to Hookway as well as undergo new training that would educate them on basic Constitutional rights. In fact, the two small-town police departments were required to draft new policies informing their officers that citizens have the right to film them.

Under the settlement guided by the ACLU, the East Vincent and Spring City police departments also had to each pay $3,200 for Hookway’s attorney fees.

It sounds to me as if they got off extremely easy. Even easier considering the media completely ignored this story with the exception of the local newspaper.

Hookway’s complaint states that he began filming the officers in late 2006 after he suspected them of  “spending time outside their respective jurisdictions, and running personal errands while on-duty and in uniform.”

On January 19, 2007, Hookway was pulled over and informed that he was suspicious because he had been filming the officers.

A few days later, he received citations in the mail for “harassment” and “disorderly conduct,”, which I will once again state is the fallback charge for all officers when they can’t think of an actual crime that was committed.

If you take a look through this site, you will see that the majority of people arrested for photographing or filming police were charged with disorderly conduct, including me (as well as eight other misdemeanors).

On Feb. 1, 2007, Hookway was once again pulled over after filming police making a traffic stop.

Officer Stofflet informed Mr. Hookway that videotaping police officers in the
conduct of their duties on a public street is “against the law” and that his conduct was a public
safety hazard, constituting harassment and disorderly conduct.

Officer Jones told Mr. Hookway, “You want to bother me, I’m going to bother
you,”
and informed Mr. Hookway that he would be receiving a citation for harassment and
disorderly conduct in the mail.

On Feb. 19th, he was pulled over once again after filming police making a traffic stop. This time he was handcuffed.

Officer Smythe told Mr. Hookway that he intended to charge him for videotaping
him, but he was calling the District Attorney’s Office to “make sure he could make these charges
stick.”

Officer Smythe kept Mr. Hookway handcuffed in the back of his patrol car for
over an hour.  During this time, Officer Smythe cursed at Mr. Hookway, threatened to confiscate
his car and his video camera, and otherwise taunted him.

The settlement states that these two police departments need to have completed and implimented their “Policy on Observation of Police” by January 15, 2009. I’ll see if I can get a copy and post it online in the hopes that other police departments will get the hint.

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I am a multimedia journalist who has been fighting a lengthy legal battle after having photographed Miami police against their wishes in Feb. 2007. Please help the fight by donating to my Legal Defense Fund in the top left sidebar. And feel free to join my Facebook blog network to keep updated on the latest articles.

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