Baltimore Police Sued Once Again for Deleting Footage from Citizen's Camera (Updated)



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.

According to Courthouse News, which is charging $35 to access the lawsuit attorneys have since sent me a copy of the suit:

“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.

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

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  • Rail Car Fan

    As I’ve said before… “”Badge Bully” cops like this need to be immediately arrested, taken before a judge and found guilty (without any type of trial) and then sent to the town square gallows for all the public to see the hanging.

    S**t like this will continue to happen until drastic measures are taken to rein in “Badge Bullies”.

    Rail Car Fan

    • ExCop-Lawyer

      OK, we can do that as soon as you agree to the same procedures for you, your family, and friends that are accused of a crime.

      People that would disregard the protections offered by the Constitution for others have no grounds to cry if they are deprived of their rights in any way.

      The Constitution protects the rights of everyone, you idiot.


        I believe Rail Car just means that an officer should be held to a higher standard and deserve harsher punishment because his betrayal is worse than any citizens.

        • ExCop-Lawyer

          That’s not what he said.

          • chessamerika

            Lighten up Francis. That pressure you and your buddies are feeling is called “justice” and technology is bringing it to you!

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            How so, Ernest?

            First, I’m feeling absolutely no pressure, which is why I posted a copy of the complaint in the lawsuit on my blog (link above). Second, anyone who advocates that someone be denied their Constitutional rights is an idiot, for once you find a reason to deny it for one, you find that you have a reason to deny it to all. Third, try reading my other comments–you’ll find that I am all for holding people, including officers, accountable for their actions.

          • Wandering_Bard

            Equal protection under the law, as well as equal accountability.

            It makes me very sad when I see people decrying the brutality of police, or claiming things to be unconstitutional, and then revel in their own hypocrisy as they scream for blood and the denial of due process.

            If found guilty, these officers deserve to be fired, sued and incarcerated – not lynched.

            Mob justice is no justice at all.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            “Mob justice is no justice at all.”


        • agilecyborg

          Yes, but it doesn’t deserve a hanging. Cops that murder should be dealt the most extreme measure under civilized law, of course, but cops that are physically violent should be treated exactly as you and I which would be a considerable advancement over how they are currently disciplined- if they are at all.

      • Ian Battles

        Yeah, just say you “feared for your life” and shoot them right there.

        Works for the cops.

        And before I end up on 40 watch lists, I don’t own a gun, I have zero interest in owning one, and I’ve never fired a gun or even held one.

      • paulthecabdriver

        Actually, the Constitution simply claims to protect the rights of everyone. In fact, it protects no one. as Lysander Spooner once said, (It) has either authorized such a government as we now have or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.”

    • TEXAN

      So… who gets to decide that you should be arrested, convicted without trial (that means not being able to defend yourself), and executed in public if you ever commit a crime?

      We live in a civilized society with laws. Those laws should apply for everyone and should treat everyone equally. That’s the whole point of a site like this… cops aren’t above the law and don’t deserve special treatment.

      Comments like yours are disgusting.

  • ExCop-Lawyer
  • Carlos_Miller

    Here is a copy of the lawsuit, which was just emailed to me by the plaintiff’s lawyers, if anybody is interested.

  • agilecyborg

    Zero leadership over these smug and dimwitted sacks of worthless flesh. Too much unaccountable power is being concentrated at the top of bureaucracies in this country. Without leaders acting with strong integrity and consistent ethics unruly and violent bullies will behave with impunity which fosters a corrupt culture. Law enforcement is a haven for the sneering oppressor.

    Clearly, this is a serious threat to the open society. People need to get off their partisan asses and start finding some political commonality to bring this massive machine of oppression to a grinding halt.

  • paulthecabdriver

    Abolish the police and we won’t have this problem.

  • macewan

    What does Baltimore Police Office “Nathan Church” look like?

  • Barking Dog

    Why do these stories, and I’ve collected thousands, always say sued and never say arrested?

  • FilmingDrones

    So it doesn’t just happen in America, it happens in Australia too. I saw this video where cops thought they deleted footage. Lol!

  • Guest

    Because like the police, the DAs that have the power to charge and prosecute these officers are mostly all traitors too.

  • Don Kenner

    If you want to preach about constitutional rights, preach it to your cop buddies. They are the ones who need the lesson. Rail Car was just venting, most likely after reading a thousand stories over a thousand days of cops (like you?) who shoot people’s dogs, beat homeless men to death, fire bullets into a van with a mom and five children (accused only of exceeding the speed limit), and anally rape a man roadside, searching for drugs that were non-existent, while denying him his rights. Seriously, spare us your righteous indignation. It rings hollow.

    • ExCop-Lawyer

      I do preach the same thing to cops, as well as the public.

      Rail Car has a long and distinguished history here. You ought to go look at previous posts. This isn’t the first time the idiot has proposed two classes of Constitutional protection.

      If supporting the protections of the Constitution for everyone rings hollow to you, then it is a good thing that you are not in a position to make that call.