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'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.

Screenshot from video filmed in Towson in Feb. 23, 2014.
Screenshot from video filmed in Towson in Feb. 23, 2014.
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
Valarie February 27, 2014 at 09:57 AM
This is a sad situation of power going to someone's head.
PH February 27, 2014 at 10:42 AM
It's a shame the videographer is scared to come forward for fear of retaliation by LEO. No doubt he's probably right not to do so. Police protect their own, rightly or wrongly. I hope citizens continue to record misconduct by the cops. It IS their right and the cops should know this!
Eastsider February 27, 2014 at 05:18 PM
I'm leaning on the side of the police here. Yes this person has rights but when ask to move along he became very vocal and inciting. You can hear the crowd get even loader when the young man begins his I have rights speech. The young man should have just walked away without running his mouth and jamming a camera in the faces of the officers.
Gene Bertoni Sr February 27, 2014 at 07:19 PM
Everyone take a look on YouTube Man attacks Baltimore officer. This will explain via video how this Towson story coulda went very quickly if the Towson officer didn't show sign of control to move the mouth videographer Look and see with an open mind and then see if the inciting of a videographer and his mouth is completely necessary at the moment he could have videoed as he walked from the officers safe zone... Just watch and I'll wait to see if you see it just a little bit different Thanks for looking
Steven Duhig February 27, 2014 at 08:21 PM
Thank you Police Chief Johnson. IMHO It was not polite for the photographer to film the arrests. The photographer should have respected that he could have further inflamed the situation by his presence and, should he be politely asked to move on/cease filming, should have done so. However it was not right for the photographer to be intimidated by the Police Officer when he has not broken the law. I might add that at The Filipino Festival 18 moths ago, again in Towson, I was myself ordered not to photograph a senior female Baltimore County police officer in the street in the peaceful sunshine. It did and still disturbs me that that incident took place. What was the senior officer afraid of? Isn't visibility part of public service? My motive was one of celebrating her public service. Interestingly my images have been praised elsewhere and even used in literature by The Capital Police and Metropolitan in DC too.

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