What Good Is A Legal Right To Record Police Activity - If The Cops Target You When You Do It?

This is the kind of tough journalism I'd like to see in more urban dailies. This Philadelphia Daily News reporter takes a national topic (the legal right to record police action) and looks at whether the right is even applied in day-to-day

This is the kind of tough journalism I'd like to see in more urban dailies. This Philadelphia Daily News reporter takes a national topic (the legal right to record police action) and looks at whether the right is even applied in day-to-day police work in the city's police force:

TAMERA MEDLEY begged the police officer to stop slamming her head - over and over - into the hood of a police cruiser.

Thinking they were helping, passers-by Shakir Riley and Melissa Hurling both turned their cellphone video cameras toward the melee that had erupted on Jefferson Street in Wynnefield, they said.

But then the cops turned on them.

Riley had started to walk away when at least five baton-wielding cops followed him, he said, and they beat him, poured a soda on his face and stomped on his phone, destroying the video he had just taken.

Meanwhile, two officers approached Hurling, urged her to leave and, after exchanging a few words, slammed her against a police cruiser, Hurling said. They pulled her by her hair before tossing her into the back of a cop car, she said.

Although it's legal to record Philadelphia police performing official duties in public, all three were charged with disorderly conduct and related offenses, and officers destroyed Hurling and Riley's cellphones, erasing any record of Medley's violent arrest, the pair said.

Charges against Hurling and Riley were dismissed, but Medley was found guilty last month of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, harassment and related offenses. She was fined $500 but has filed an appeal.

Echoes of the incident, which was corroborated by a half-dozen witnesses, have been reverberating nationwide in recent years as the combination of cellphone video and police officers has simmered into what is an increasingly explosive formula. A growing number of bystanders have been misled, arrested or worse for using their cellphones to record what they perceive as excessive force by cops making arrests, watchdogs say.

"I grew up in the neighborhood and I saw stuff go down but it never happened to me," Riley said recently, adding that he did nothing wrong. "They stomped my phone and said it was a federal offense."

About Susie Madrak

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