Man claims NC cops arrested him for filming

Reuters/Mariana Bazo
A North Carolina man claims he was arrested by the Wake Forest Police Department for simply recording the cops as they took his friend into custody.

The man, Robert Johnson, has shared video footage on the web that shows the moments leading up to and during his arrest in February.

Johnson told a local ABC News affiliate that he was at an area bar at the time of the incident. His friend got into an altercation with the staff, which ended with the establishment calling the police. Johnson got his cell phone out and began recording the cops as they questioned his friend, but the footage shows the authorities soon became interested in his impromptu video shoot.

Speaking to ABC 11, Johnson said he "kept a safe distance” and was “just videotaping” when a Wake Forest police officer threatened to take his phone.

"He said that he needed my phone for evidence because I was videotaping the arrest, but I know that wasn't right, so I kept taping," Johnson said.

Moments later, the footage goes dark and you can hear the sounds of a scuffle as Johnson is taken into custody.
"He grabbed my other hand that was not in a cast and twisted it back and was trying to slam me on my face which eventually happened," Johnson said.

“Are you serious right now?” he could be heard yelling in the recording.

The cop responds, “All you had to do is listen.” He then asks Johnson, "How do you stop your phone?"

Johnson was arrested for resisting and obstructing an arrest, according to ABC 11, but authorities ultimately decided to drop the charges a few weeks later.

A formal complaint has already been submitted to the police, and a representative for the department told the network the officer had “been dealt with” but couldn’t comment further.

“A spokesperson for the police department acknowledged the officer made a mistake but couldn't elaborate further,” ABC 11 reported.

Even though the charges were dropped, Johnson told the network that he’s considering suing the city because the incident is having lasting effects—since Johnson was on probation at the time of February’s arrest, he said he’s having a harder time than expected at shaking it off.

"It looks bad if I try to get a job, I go to school, it just ruins a reputation," he told the station. "You should never get your phone taken or taken to jail just for videotaping an arrest."

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union rolled out a new smartphone application that aims to empower civilians to hold law enforcement accountable by allowing users to record police activity easily with the click of a button.
“Video images have clearly become a powerful tool in documenting encounters between the public and police. The ACLU of California wants to make it more likely that even more individuals will use their phones to record those incidents, enabling the public to hold officers accountable when they cross the line,” Hector Villagra, the executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, said when the organization unveiled its Mobile Justice CA app in April.