Long Island college student Thomas Demint, 20, is being charged with obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest after recording an interaction with police officers that involved the arrest of two of his friends and their mother in Hauppauge, NY, during a family feud.
During the eight-minute video that Demint took of the interaction, his voice is only heard for a brief moment as he calmly explained his intention. “I’m videotaping this, sir,” he says to an officer on the video, “I’m just videotaping this.”
Demint claims that he was driving to work when he spotted the arrest of a close friend, that friend’s brother and their mother. He began to record the altercation on his phone, which resulted in the immobilization of the mother via police stun gun. Once they noticed he was recording, three officers tackled him in attempt to take his smartphone away from him. When they retrieved the phone, the officers then tried to erase the video. However, the video still remained on Demint’s phone.
”I am 100% innocent,” Demint said to reporters in early August, “I didn’t do anything wrong. I was just there to videotape.”
With the recent news coverage of police brutality, more citizens are calling for methods for better police officer accountability. This includes the installation of body and in-car cameras. These cameras allow law enforcement to identify and address inappropriate police behaviors, and can be used as evidence in court cases.
PoliceOne.com reports that civil liberties experts have noticed a growing trend of citizens getting arrested after trying to record police interactions. More and more citizens have been using their First Amendment right to record police interaction, which can later be used as evidence for police brutality cases.
In response, some officers have found other means of taking those citizens in, such as charging them for obstruction or resisting arrest.
”Exercising this right has consistently and uniformly been upheld by state and federal courts; they have made it abundantly clear that citizens have right to film police in public,” says Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. “What is alarming is the degree to which police are ignoring this clear precedent and continue to threaten citizens.
Many cities have now opted to require police to have body cameras on and recording during any outside interaction with a civilian. Citizens have also been using an app created by the NYCLU, which automatically uploads citizen videos to a server so it cannot be deleted.
Currently, Demint is considering a civil case against the police, who have arrested him under charges of being combative and refusing to obey orders.