Anne Arundel County, MD — Even though a young Texan named Phillip Turner won a lawsuit at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, setting a precedent for Americans to record their interactions with police, some clueless officers simply don't get it.
Anne Arundel County police officer Cpl. Scott Wolford is one such cop. He was caught on camera attempting to take a video camera from a citizen and just got suspended as a result.
Officer Wolford responded to a business dispute whereby a man was claiming a homeowner did not have the right to put his hands on him. The homeowner was accused of pushing the man out of his home. Wolford responded to the call for police intervention and began to explain to the man that the homeowner was within his rights to remove the man from his premises.
Neither the man who was complaining, nor the other gentleman who was recording were at all angry or disrupting the peace, but the presence of the camera was enough to set Wolford off.
“Are you recording me? That’s really nice,” Wolford said to the man who sounded like he may be Latino (Elias Crespo Tejada reportedly uploaded the video to social media but it cannot be confirmed if Tejada is the man recording the incident).
Knowing the company the man worked for would want to know precisely what transpired at the address, the man responded by saying, "I’m in my right.”
Wolford then scoffed at the idea that citizens have a right to record police interactions and then immaturely mimicked the man like a child when he asserted his right to record in public.
“I’m in my right to do that – for my company,” continued the man who was filming. At that time, Wolford lost his composure, one could say, and grabbed for the recording device. “Let me see that real quick,” he said. There appeared to be some sort of struggle, and the man recording ran away.
The unnamed man who was recording exclaimed, "he's trying to push me, hit me!" Wolford said a few inaudible things, got into his police cruiser and left the scene. But the attempted camera confiscation was not the end of the incident.
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Anne Arundel County police later issued a press release which reads in part:
...members of the general public have a First Amendment right to video record, photograph, and/or audio record officers while they are conducting official business in any public space, unless such recordings interfere with police activity.
Such a response by the police department was likely given because of the great number of lawsuits being brought against officers who have confiscated and destroyed citizens' cell phones, video cameras, and other recording devices.
The settlements of such lawsuits cost money for counties and police departments when they have to pay for the violations of free speech.
Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare made the following statement.
The Anne Arundel County Police are 100% committed to providing courteous service and protecting the rights of the citizens we serve. When we see these standards not being met, we will deal with violations of our policies forthrightly and with integrity. We are doing so in this case.
Internal Affairs is now conducting its own investigation into the camera grabbing officer. Meanwhile, Officer Wolford has been suspended, probably with pay, and will likely resume his official police duties once the matter has been resolved. In other words, the officer has been given a free vacation at taxpayer expense.
Remember, always film the police.