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Cop harasses photographer, steals his cellphone battery and tries to get YouTube to pull the video

Recording a police officer in public isn't a crime.
Well, it isn't anything a cop can cite or arrest you for doing.
Instead, a bunch of vague infractions are listed in hopes that something
will stick and deter future citizen recordings.

Shawn Randall Thomas, a New
York photographer, was approached by NYPD officer Efrain Rojas when he
noticed Thomas filming another officer's interaction with a turnstile
jumper in a subway station. "Approached" is putting it mildly. Rojas confronted Thomas and got physical when the photographer refused to stop filming. (via Techdirt reader Tony Loro)

A New York City cop beat up and arrested a man for video recording
him inside a subway station from 30 feet away Saturday night, walking up
to him and getting in his face all while claiming the man was invading
his personal space…
Thomas also obtained footage from another man who had recorded
Rojas with his knees on Thomas’ back as he lay face down on the sidewalk
just outside the sub station, seconds after Rojas had bashed his face
into the pavement, busting his lip.

The injury was so bad that they had to transport him to the
hospital twice during his 24-hour incarceration where doctors described
him as a victim of assault.

As if the impromptu "use of force" wasn't enough, Thomas was also charged with the following:

[Thomas] is still facing charges of resisting arrest, trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing government…

Here's the video:

Note that Rojas had to come
over to where Thomas was filming (nearly 30 feet away) in order to be
"obstructed." Note also that Thomas was filming in a public location,
where it's almost impossible to "trespass." And note that the de rigueur
"resisting arrest" is included only because Thomas didn't apply his own
handcuffs, hoof it to the nearest cruiser and slide into the back seat.
Here's the description of "resisting arrest" from the arrest report itself:

Deponent further states that, at the above time and place, defendant
did resist a lawful arrest by crossing defendants' arm across
defendant's chest while deponent attempted to place defendant in

But it gets worse. Officer
Rojas apparently grabbed Thomas' cellphone and either deleted the
footage or removed the battery in order to prevent Thomas from filming
any further. (PINAC's account of this event mentions "deletion" and
Thomas using Recuva
to recover the deleted footage, but the description of events only says
Rojas took Thomas' phone and pocketed the battery.) Thomas then took
out his backup phone (a Blackberry) and tried to continue filming, at
which point Rojas "knocked the phone out of [Thomas'] hand" and slammed
him to the ground.
Either way, Rojas made an
effort to prevent any further filming. The incident report filed by
Rojas makes no mention of the fact that he seized a cellphone and either
deleted footage or seized the phone's battery. He also undermines the
charge of trespassing by noting the area where Thomas was filming was
public, which is contrary to Rojas' filmed assertion that Thomas was
"violating" his "personal space."

Apparently, Rojas wasn't done with feeling "violated" by Thomas' filming. According to PINAC's Facebook page,
Officer Rojas filed a privacy complaint asking YouTube to remove the
video. YouTube, fortunately, turned his request down, which means that
Rojas will now have to deal with a recording that contradicts (or
severely weakens) many of the claims he made in his sworn statements
(the arrest report).

As PINAC and Thomas point out,
the obstruction charge is especially baseless, given Thomas' distance
from the officers (approx. 30 feet compared to the report's "close
proximity") and the fact that the entire situation appears to be
completely under control by the time Officer Rojas arrives. Rojas seems
to be the only cop there who viewed Thomas and his camera as somehow
interfering with police business. Rojas then abandons his "partner" --
who is presumably dealing with an actual criminal -- solely to
harass someone with a camera. If nothing else, Rojas has problems with
prioritizing, giving the non-criminal (and protected) act of filming
precedence over an actual law enforcement work.

Officer Rojas had multiple paths to take when he noticed a citizen filming him performing his public duties in a public place. Unfortunately, he decided to take the well-worn path
and violate the rights of the photographer. And like many others, this
decision has done nothing more than heap more negative publicity on the
police department and the officer involved. The correct response --
ignore it and do your job -- still remains largely untested.

Added: Feb-24-2014 Occurred On: Feb-24-2014
By: dcmfox
Regional News
Tags: Cellphone, Battery, , police, officer, , Shawn, Randall…, , , , YouTube
Location: New York, New York, United States (load item map)
Marked as: repost
Views: 13900 | Comments: 102 | Votes: 8 | Favorites: 3 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 2
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