As we’ve seen in cases throughout the United States, the Philadelphia Police Department’s guidelines to officers stating that citizens have the right to record went pretty much ignored, leaving the ACLU no choice but to sue them.
And considering Philly cops have committed so many violations against citizens who record them, the ACLU has enough plaintiffs to file a series of lawsuits, which is exactly what they plan to do.
The first lawsuit, filed Wednesday, involves a photojournalism student named Christopher Montgomery who was arrested and had video footage deleted from his iPhone in January 2011 after he video recorded cops making an arrest.
Montgomery was charged with disorderly conduct, which is the usual catch-all charge police use when they can’t find an actual law that was broken.
And he was convicted, which shows just how broken the system can be.
But he appealed and had the conviction reversed, which opened up the avenues to allow him to sue for First Amendment retaliation, malicious prosecution, illegal search and seizure and false arrest.
Although the lawsuit does not list the spoliation of evidence as a cause of action, they plan to make that an issue as the suit progresses.
“Spoliation of evidence is not a claim for damage but it will certainly come up as we litigate,” said ACLU attorney Mary Catherine Roper in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.
Roper said they are putting the finishing touches on two more lawsuits, which they expect to file in the next few days. And they have several more lawsuits planned following those.
At least two of those incidents took place after September 2011 when the department issued new guidelines to its officers, stating that citizens have the right to record.
In this week’s lawsuit, the ACLU detailed several other incidents, giving us a taste of what to expect in the future lawsuits.
Check out the guide compiled by the ACLU on your legal rights to record in public.