A federal lawsuit against is underway against cops in St.Charles, Missouri, alleging that officers seized a phone from a man who was recording them using what he considered to be “excessive force” while making an arrest.
Kyle Hamilton, has filed suit with the ACLU following the incident which happened last year. Hamilton says he started filming the cops from around 30 to 40 feet away when he saw them mistreating a young woman in the street, chasing after her and pushing her to the ground.
Hamilton says that the officers noticed his phone, then snatched it and deleted the footage while manhandling him.
“An officer came up to me and took my phone and then I was held by an officer on a horse by the back of my shirt,” Hamilton told kmov News 4.
“He was holding the back of my shirt, pulling me against the horse,” Hamilton said. “He held me so hard that part of the shirt ripped.”
When the police took his phone, Hamilton says he attempted to protest by stating “this is my personal property. This is a public space.”
“It’s a situation where I know the law and I wish — I would hope — that those that enforce the law are also aware of it,” Hamilton said.
“Hamilton recognized [defendant Officer] Jane Roe because he recalled seeing her use what he considered to be excessive force against other individuals in the past,” the complaint notes, referring to the two cops only as “John Doe” and “Jane Roe”
“Doe held Hamilton’s shirt collar, choking him, bruising his neck, and ripping his shirt,” the complaint also states.
Hamilton claims Roe threatened to throw him in jail, despite the fact that she “had no reasonable suspicion that he had committed a crime.”
The cops are said to have then demanded Hamilton’s pass code for the phone and wiped the footage from the device.
ACLU Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman believes Hamilton’s constitutional rights were violated.
“Court after court has said the right of the public, the right of a citizen in a public place to observe and record police is vital and protected.”
Indeed, in the past eighteen months, both federal and Supreme Court judges have ruled that Americans have a right to film police under the First Amendment. In cases all over the country, police have attempted to use wiretapping laws against citizens who have filmed them while on duty.
Hamilton is seeking a judgment that the police violated his rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as damages for assault and battery. He also wishes to have it entered into the record that St. Charles police have a “policy or custom” of targeting citizens who attempt to film them.
The case is the latest in a string of documented incidents where cops have been caught attempting to seize cell phones, and even deleting footage recorded by law abiding people they have come into contact with.