Jul 28, 2014

'Inappropriate': Baltimore County Police Chief Criticizes Officers Who Threatened Videographer

One officer was placed on administrative duty after a weekend blowup on York Road in Towson was caught on camera.

'Inappropriate': Baltimore County Police Chief Criticizes Officers Who Threatened Videographer
Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson said that officers' demands for a man to stop filming in Towson over the weekend were "inappropriate" and "not helpful."

The man was recording two people being arrested in the 400 block of York Road at approximately 1:45 a.m. Sunday when police officers aggressively said he needed to stop filming and later said he lost his Constitutional right to free speech, according to the video.

One officer ordered the videographer to "walk away and shut your [expletive] mouth or you're going to jail," in the recording.

Johnson condemned the actions of the officers involved in the incident in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

"The words of and demands to cease filming by sworn personnel and citizen volunteer auxiliary officers were incorrect, inappropriate and unnecessary," Johnson said.

"...all personnel will be held accountable for their actions," he added.

The officer who told the videographer he lost his right to free speech has been restricted to administrative volunteer duties as authorities investigate the incident, police said. He is an auxiliary sergeant who has been a member of the auxiliary for 22 years, according to police, who said his name is being withheld pending the outcome of the investigation.

Auxiliary police officers receive 115 hours of training by the Baltimore County Police Department and provide support with patrol, calls for service, crowd control, community events, traffic patrol and details, police said. There are 80 auxiliary officers who volunteer with the Baltimore County Police Department.

Some of the auxiliary officers have arrest powers, including the one whose powers have since been restricted as a result of this incident, according to Elise Armacost, spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Police Department.

Supervisors reminded their staff Wednesday morning about citizens' right to film, police said.

"The question of whether citizens may record video of police officers was settled by the Maryland courts several years ago," Baltimore County Police said in a statement Wednesday. "Since that ruling, BCoPD has directed its personnel to respect the legal right of citizens to record officers on duty, in a public place, unless the person filming has violated a law or statute. BCoPD’s command staff reminded sworn supervisors of this legal right this morning."

Police said that the videographer in the Towson incident has not come forward to file a complaint and the department would like to speak with him.

"Investigators are trying to identify and contact him because they believe his story will help them build a complete picture of what happened," police said.

"The videographer committed no crime," Armacost noted. "This [video] generated an investigation because we have concerns about the behavior displayed by some of the officers."

In addition to "incorrect, inappropriate and unnecessary," the Baltimore County police chief said the officers' behavior was unhelpful.

"They were not helpful in bringing this incident to closure," Johnson said of the officers. "...all aspects of this encounter are under investigation..."

Related: Video Captures Baltimore County Police Threatening Videographer

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