ACLU: Philly Police Still Arresting People for Photographing Police

Commissioner Ramsey told his officers to stop. Two years later, a new lawsuit.

The Inquirer reports that the ACLU is suing the Philly Police Department — again — because officers are illegally arresting people who take pictures and video of officers doing their duty.

The ACLU says it’s the fourth lawsuit (full suit below) it has filed over the issue.

Today’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of Temple undergraduate student Rick Fields, who was walking on the 1900 block of 18th Street on the night of September 13, 2013, when he noticed about 20 police officers across the street evidently clearing out a party. After he took a photo with his iPhone, a police officer ordered him to leave. After Fields refused, he was handcuffed and searched and his phone was confiscated. He was detained for 20-30 minutes in a police van before being given a citation for disorderly conduct for “standing in the area of a police invest[igation] videotapping [sic] w phone.” When his phone was returned to him, Fields realized that police had opened multiple photo and recording apps, apparently in an attempt to find the recordings he had made that evening.

All charges against Fields were dismissed in October 2013.

The Inky reminds us we’ve been down this road before:

Two years before Fields’ arrest, (Commissioner) Ramsey issued a memo reminding officers that they could be recorded doing their jobs. Reggie Shulford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said that policy has been ignored.

Calling the continued arrests a “failure of police leadership,” Shulford said, “Rank-and-file officers clearly have not gotten the message that arresting innocent people simply for photographing or recording police is unconstitutional and unacceptable.”

City officials and the Police Department declined to comment on the case or general policies regarding the taping of police, citing the ongoing litigation.