Video footage of irate Maryland police officers attempting to stop a bystander from filming an arrest stirred controversy when it was posted online Monday.
Sergio Gutierrez, a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, began filming officers on the streets of Towson as they were defusing a situation between a man and a woman outside a bar, according to CBS Baltimore. It's not immediately clear from the video what angered police, but several officers can be seen approaching Gutierrez and demanding he shut off his camera and leave the scene. One officer appears particularly agitated during the exchange.
“Walk away and shut your f---ing mouth or you’re going to jail,” the officer tells Gutierrez.
“I thought I had freedom of speech,” Gutierrez responds shortly after.
“You don’t. You just lost it," the officer replies. "Walk away and keep your mouth shut.”
Gutierrez was not arrested, but the officer, a volunteer auxiliary sergeant, has since been placed on administrative volunteer duties, pending an investigation of the incident, according to NBC local affiliate WBAL.
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Baltimore County police spokesperson Elise Armacost told The Baltimore Sun that citizens are within their rights to film officers. “If you’re committing some other offense while you’re filming, that officer may arrest you,” remarked Armacost. "But we recognize and respect the right of citizens to film officers on duty in public places. It’s fairly clear-cut for us.”
Recounting the confrontation to WBAL, Gutierrez said he had made it known to police that he was filming. “Basically I’m holding the camera up, kind of like waving a flag to them, saying, ‘Yes you’re being recorded right now, you’d better be civil,’ which they weren’t,” he said. "I realize that the video is turning more into a message for people to see that police officers can be bullies."
Baltimore Police Chief Jim Johnson issued a statement in response to the video. “The words and demands to cease filming by sworn personnel and citizen volunteer auxiliary officers were incorrect, inappropriate and unnecessary," Johnson said, according to WBAL's followup story Friday. "They were not helpful in bringing the incident to closure.”
Twitter users leapt to Gutierrez's defense as the video made the round online this week.
— Tim Bravo (@TimBravo) February 26, 2014
What the heck do police think they're hired to be? First amendment destroyers? http://t.co/BujKf9KpNC
— Resist Tyranny (@ResistTyranny) February 26, 2014
— Matt (@99Zeus99) February 27, 2014
WARNING: Video contains strong language.