With one of the worst reputations in the country for violating the rights of citizens with cameras, the Baltimore Police Department is being sued for attacking a woman and smashing her camera, marking the second time in two years it has been sued for destroying footage.
The first suit earned them a federal reprimand. The second will hopefully earn them a federal investigation.
In that suit, which was filed last week, Makia Smith says she was stuck in stand-still rush hour traffic in March 2012 when she saw a group of cops beating up a man.
She stepped out of her car, stood on the door sill and began recording.
She was quickly confronted by an aggressive cop named Nathan Church, who grabbed her phone, threw it on the ground and smashed it with his foot.
“You want to film something, bitch? Film this,” he yelled.
He then proceeded to beat her.
“Officer Church pulled plaintiff out of her car by her hair and beat her. Officers Pilkerton, Ulmer, and Campbell then ran to plaintiff’s car and joined Officer Church in beating plaintiff and arrested her using excessive force. At all times described herein, plaintiff’s two year old daughter witnessed her mother’s beating and arrest by the Officers, as did others.” Smith claims the cops taunted her and threatened to take her daughter away. She says they refused to call her mother to her toddler.
“The officers, despite the pleas of plaintiff, refused to call plaintiff’s mother. Instead, the officers tormented plaintiff by telling her that her daughter would be taken from her and sent to Social Services. Seeing plaintiff’s distressful reaction to these tormenting threats, they continued,” the complaint states. Smith says claims she was arrested and taken to jail on bogus charges that she assaulted Church and resisted arrest. She claims Church failed to appear for her trial – twice, and prosecutors dropped the charges, but she had to hire a lawyer and spend more money recovering her impounded car.
The Baltimore Police Department has been under federal scrutiny since 2010 when it deleted footage from a man’s camera during the Preakness Stakes horse race, who was recording them aggressively arresting a woman.
Christopher Sharp filed a lawsuit over the incident at the Preakness, which prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to issue a set of guidelines outlining the laws when it comes to dealing with camera-wielding citizens.
But that didn’t stop Baltimore police from embarking on a campaign to intimidate and harass Sharp.