Baltimore Police to Pay $250,000 Settlement over Video Deletion Incident

The City of Baltimore is set to dish out a $250,000 settlement to a man whose footage they deleted after he video recorded them making an arrest at the Preakness Stakes horse race in 2010.

Not that the settlement forces them to admit they actually did delete Christopher Sharp’s footage.

But the $250,000 settlement, which will be one of the largest yet in these type of cases, pretty much speaks for itself. Not to mention the legal statement from the U.S. Department of Justice the case prompted in 2012, which not only spelled out the legal guidelines Baltimore police must follow in dealing with citizens who record them in public, but set the bar for police departments around the country who were also clueless about this issue.

According to the Baltimore Sun:

Baltimore is set to pay $250,000 to a man who says police seized his cellphone and deleted the video of an arrest at the Preakness Stakes in 2010, according a settlement proposal that will be presented to the city’s spending panel this month.

Police “vigorously” dispute the allegations by Christopher Sharp who claimed officers violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights when they took his phone after the arrest of his female friend at Pimlico Race Course.

But the city lawyers said in the two-page document that because of “factual disputes,” a settlement will help the city “to resolve this litigation economically and to avoid the expense, time and uncertainties” of a potential jury verdict.

The case led to new city policies that uphold the right of citizens to record police.

George Nilson, the city solicitor, said the settlement was reached because both the police and law departments “thought it was the right thing to do.” He declined further comment, saying the matter was expected to come before the Board of Estimates on March 12.

The ACLU of Maryland, who filed the lawsuit in 2011, has not posted the news on its site yet because it is still not finalized, but they have many more details on about the case. They also produced the above video where Sharp talks about what took place that day.

Baltimore police have at least one other pending lawsuit in which a woman accuses a cop of grabbing her phone.

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.

Sharp also accused Baltimore police of engaging in a campaign of intimidation against him because of his lawsuit.

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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  • FtP

    Baltimore PD assholes.

  • tsk tsk

    Has The City of Baltimore police department forgotten about officer SALVATORE RIVIERI already, and what happened to him?

    • sicpigs

      Or, The University of Maryland student they almost beat to death for no reason.

    • Frodo

      why should they care, it’s not their money they’re shelling out. I believe NYC paid 175 million in settlements in 2012. What do they care? The city will pay for it.

      • tomc100

        The people need to personally sue the officers involved and the police unions for allowing dirty cops to remain on the public dole. That will hurt much more than suing the city or department. If criminal conduct is involved then they need to file criminal charges as well in order to permanently place criminal records onto officers so they can’t be rehired at another city or state which often happens when these officers are allowed to “resign”.

        On another note, all phones use flash drives so it’s possible to retrieve that data if you give it to an expert.

        • Ian Battles

          If you have a smartphone, you should be livestreaming.

          The police can’t delete a video that’s being broadcast live, all over the internet!

      • Chef Timothy

        By the city, you mean the citizens, whose tax dollars could be well better spent.

        • http://www.fija.org/ Free-Born John

          Maybe the submitizens of Baltimore should get their collectivist heads out of their collective heinies, and vote Libertarian, so they can at least plausibly claim that they did their part to avoid just this kind of totalitarian malevolence.

          If they’re so unwilling to lay claim to the only political philosophy that even somewhat lays a plausible claim to basic human morality, then perhaps they deserve to get further stretched from behind by the government they voted for, and so very richly deserve.

  • ray brown

    What are the factual disputes?

  • SteamFan

    I’m happy that Christopher triumphed over the lying snakes but sad that he lost the pics/videos of his kids and family. I shoot digital photos and videos, too, but the first thing I do when I get home is back them up to my computer and eventually to the cloud. Even if the cops didn’t delete the images, he could have lost the phone or have someone steal it. There are lots of ways to protect your digital images.

    • Frodo

      Videos and pictures can be recovered.

  • Mike Meagher

    This why I now record everything to the cloud. Sure delete my phone buy I will restore it from the cloud.

    • $910553

      If the swill who get your phone have the right connections, it will be gone from the “cloud” as well. The big tech companies in this country have pig dick stuck all the way down their throats, providing backdoors into their softeware and granting access to ANY communications without requiring a warrant. Your local pigs are not likely to have enough pull to get your cloud “lost”, but the FedPigs sure do.

  • f.x.koch

    Who would like to update the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_Police_Department page .
    It has a notable incident page this should become part of.

  • Rusty Gunn

    This man is a naive fool!! First he does not have his phone secured with a pin number and then he trusts a police officer to not erase it!! I don’t feel sorry for him. Ya can’t fix stupid and this guy showed plenty of it.

    • NoCtrl

      Yeah… $250K worth of stupid… Oh, noooooo!

      • zebra

        more like he will get less than half. the blood suckers (attorneys) will get more than he does.

      • Frodo

        I think he got very lucky. How do you prove the police deleted anything when you have no evidence? Either way, he should have simply recovered the deleted data.

    • Joseph Murray

      Who the hell’s asking you to feel sorry for him?!?

  • quadeddie

    I’m not on the cops side at all, but this guy is just playing the weepy “son’s video” card for sympathy. I don’t buy it. In the end, he wanted money. He’s an idiot if he never backed up his phone in the cloud or on his personal computer in the last 2 years.

    • Kirkus1964

      No, the cops are idiots for illegally deleting his property. Just because I don’t lock my car doesn’t mean you can steal it.

    • http://www.fija.org/ Free-Born John

      It’s a measure of a civilization’s benevolence how well it suffers fools. The cops are the ones to blame here, plain and simple. Also: they took an oath to uphold the constitution, and didn’t. Doesn’t that –by way of self-filtering– make them idiots as well? Indeed, since most of what cops are asked to do violates their oaths, doesn’t that mean that virtually all cops are either idiots, or sociopaths?

      (Stealing money from peacefully traveling motorists is most of what cops do, BTW. Speeding isn’t unsafe, tailgating is. Almost everyone tailgates, but there’s no easy mechanical way to determine whether someone was tailgating. So, cops write tickets for “speeding” even when the “speeder” is not doing anything unsafe, and is in complete control of his vehicle.)

  • inquisitor

    Lets not forget the slugs and parasites that stand to make a ton of money off conflicts between assertive citizens and abusive militarized police…the lawyers.

    “behavioral economics”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cass_Sunstein

    • G

      Blame the cops for making the lawyers rich especially if one of these days, it comes out of the cops own bank accounts instead of the taxpayers.

  • IcedTeaParty

    My favorite part of this discussion is how it’s just assumed now that the cops are going to take action to destroy our lives and it’s the victims who are criticized for not taking extra measures to keep it from happening.

    PINAC in two years; “it’s that fools fault for going to the grocery store without wearing body armor. WTF did he think that cop was going to do with that gun!”

    • Difdi

      If you know there is a bear that likes to eat people in the middle of the woods, and you walk through the woods anyway, without taking any precautions against a bear attack…yes, you are worthy of criticism.

      Bears are bears, bad cops are bad cops. Muggers are muggers. Only fools don’t take precautions.

      • Guest

        You have a point. I teach my kids to stay away from stray dogs, raccoons, cops and other dangerous animals. But it’s tragic that it’s come to this. The servants of the people have become the predators.

      • kraz

        The sad truth is that in the US the majority of people still think that bear in the middle of the woods doesn’t eat people, if I may use your analogy. We know it but most people still think the police are honest and are there to protect them. Hell, most people still think they actually work for them and not the state (which is no longer us.) I’ve watched a lot of people’s eyes open to it over the past two decades but it usually takes something happening to them or a loved one by the police to open their eyes.

  • uh oh

    This is not looking good for Ron Gunzburger and the Broward cowards.

  • jimmyt

    Citizens everywhere are filming police. Great

  • jcfromnj

    Well, it’a looks like Chris got his cherry busted on this one. He will certainly be a poster boy for HOW NOT to trust your local PD in the future ! It’s painful to see just how naive some people can be, but 250 K goes along way sooth the pain.Carlos, can you post the settlement ? I’d like to show this to MY lawyer, it’s an inspriation to us all . When will the insurance company who bonds the City drop them and make the self-insure ?

    • http://www.fija.org/ Free-Born John

      Your last sentence makes a great point. How much abuse will the submitizens take before they decide that sitting idly by while the totalitarians act in their name is “too expensive”? …After all, they don’t care about anything else, such as morals, decency, the law, etc.

  • Boomer

    Let’s not get too carried away with shrieking about Mr. Sharp being and “idiot” or a “fool” for what happened to him almost four years ago. Can we put into perspective that maybe some citizens didn’t truly understand how violent and dishonest the police can be, given the slightest nudge in that direction? Thanks to Carlos, Jeff Gray, ExCopLaw and a few others I’ve learned how likely it truly is that any encounter I have with law enforcement has to be made with all the sensors on high, because my very freedom is at stake. I never speak to police, for any reason. And I never will.

    As for Mr. Sharp not being a tech savvy photographer in 2010, those of you who’re trashing him for that need to step back. I consider myself fairly up to speed on the capabilities of my phone, and the digital cameras I own. I sure wasn’t familiar with lost data recovery capabilities from a cell phone camera, or for that matter from a card until I read information to that end here on PINAC. Am I a “naive fool” because for a while I wasn’t current with the nuance of hardware and software related to photography back in 2010? I don’t think so. Am I an “idiot” because in 2010 I didn’t know a damn thing about backing up data to “the cloud”? I don’t think so.

    Let’s just celebrate that Mr. Sharp managed to get some measure of satisfaction, and stop with the attacks.

  • Desiree Seifert

    Shady fucking cops, They really do earn the title of PIGS!

    • http://www.fija.org/ Free-Born John

      I heartily concur.

  • Lefim

    The settlement has been finalized on March 12th: http://www.baltimorebrew.com/2014/03/12/city-to-pay-250000-to-man-who-says-police-deleted-cellphone-video/ and a copy of the settlement statement: http://www.aclu-md.org/uploaded_files/0000/0486/sharp_v._bpd_final_signed_agreement.pdf

    One thing to add is there was an attempt by BPD to gather evidence in an attempt to smear Sharp into dropping his suit: http://www.aclu-md.org/press_room/113 and judge’s protective order: http://www.aclu-md.org/uploaded_files/0000/0400/sharp_protective_order-combined.pdf