While there has always been some level of corruption in any occupation, an increasing number of reports regarding law enforcement have created distrust of police among many Americans. Whether the use of no-knock warrants or incredibly invasive searches conducted on suspects, the spotlight on improper actions by officers has created widespread concern.
Such unease, combined with the prevalence of camcorders built into smartphones and other devices, has led to a related increase in citizens recording the actions of on-duty officers. According to recent reports, it now seems some law enforcement personnel are targeting these individuals with threats and, in at least one woman’s case, jail time.
When a Broward County, Fla., sheriff’s deputy pulled over a woman for possibly violating a traffic ordinance, the conversation progressed in a manner typical of such interactions. When Brandy Burning decided to inform the officer that she had been recording the exchange, however, Lt. William O’Brien shot back with an outrageous accusation.
“You are committing a felony,” he exclaimed. “Hand me the phone.”
She naturally bristled at the accusation, denying that she had done anything wrong and asserting, “I am not giving up my phone.”
O’Brien then reportedly forced his way into Burning’s vehicle, took her phone, and placed her under arrest. During the struggle, the driver pleaded with the intruder to get off of her, again declaring her innocence of any supposed felonious crime.
While charges can be filed against individuals interfering in police business, there was no evidence whatsoever suggesting Burning was guilty. After allegedly sustaining injuries at the hand of O’Brien and spending the night in jail, any charges related to her recording were dropped. She still faces traffic charges, however, along with an unfortunate count of resisting arrest.
This is at least the second recent accusation of an officer within the Broward Sheriff’s Office overreacting to a citizen’s decision to record his activities. A former deputy is reportedly facing charges stemming from the destruction of another woman’s phone.
Burning’s situation could result in further action against the department. According to a statement by her lawyers, she is seeking damages based on battery, false arrest, and false imprisonment.
–B. Christopher Agee
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Photo Credit: Mobile Cell Phone Review (Creative Commons)
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom