The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit today against the City of Philadelphia on behalf of photojournalism student Chris Montgomery, web editor of The Temple News.
The complaint asserts Montgomery was arrested in January 2011 while using his cell-phone to record an arrest near 15th and Chestnut streets and charged with disorderly conduct (he would initially be found guilty, but then cleared on appeal). His video was also deleted.
Law enforcement officers in Pennsylvania, and particularly in Philadelphia, often “misapply criminal statutes to punish citizens who observe, photograph, or otherwise record police activity,” the suit alleges.
Police officer David Killingsworth, the arresting officer, is also named in the suit.
Listed in the complaint are similar instances in which citizens were allegedly stripped of their rights while recording police officers on the street; including the case of Ian Van Kuyk, a film and media arts major who, in March 2012, was allegedly arrested for filming police action in South Philadelphia.
A spokesman for the Philadelphia Police Department declined comment to the Daily News.
Staff attorney at the ACLU Mary Catherine Roper told the paper: “Clearly there’s a pattern of Philadelphia police trying to discourage people from watching what they do by arresting them and charging them with crimes.”
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey in September 2011 issued a memorandum, reiterating police officers’ expectation to be “photographed, videotaped or audibly recorded” by members of the public and by individuals temporarily detained.
[Editor’s Note: Chris Montgomery, web editor of The Temple News and the plaintiff in this case, took no part in the reporting, editing or posting of this story.]