Baltimore police can't arrest people who record them, so they bust them for "loitering" instead

[Video Link] A fellow named Scott Cover noticed a group of Baltimore Police standing over a man handcuffed on the ground. He remembered reading that morning that the Baltimore Police department had told its officers they couldn't arrest people for taking photos or videos of them while they worked, so Cover pulled out his cell phone and began taping. One of the officers spotted Cover and order to him to leave, because he was "loitering." He argued with her a bit, but started to walk away, taping the officers has he left. That wasn't good enough for the officer, so she stopped him and asked for his ID. The video ends there.

The new rule says that citizens have an "absolute right" to photograph or video record the enforcement actions taking place in public view. The chief legal counsel for the agency called it "an extension of the citizen's right to see. [An officer] wouldn't go up to a citizen at a crime scene and tell them to close their eyes, so the officer can't tell them they can't film."

But the rules also says that the person recording may not "violate any section of any law, ordinance, code or criminal article" - such as loitering - while doing so. The officers on Cross Street seemed aware of that fine print.

The police union says the officers acted appropriately and professionally; the ACLU says it shows there's more work to be done.

In Federal Hill, citizens allowed to record police - but then there's loitering.. (Via The Agitator)


  1. Ahh loitering, the new ‘disorderly conduct’.  He’s lucky they didn’t shoot him for a ‘percieved threat’.

    1. Probably not of the melanized persuasion… A cellphone is typically either smallish, black, and handheld or smallish, silver and handheld. It Might Have Been A Gun!!! Definitely should have shot him just in case.

  2. Okay, so this is their move. What’s our response going to be? Come on internets, don’t let us down!

    Also, what exactly is the definition of “loitering”? What if one is walking reeeeaaaallllyy slow in the other direction?

    1. I’m fairly sure that ‘loitering’ is intended to mean either ‘being homeless near us decent people’ or ‘youth group behavior that makes the shoppers nervous’…

    2. from the Baltimore Digest of Criminal Offenses (clears things right up!):

      Public PlacesOffense: Loitering in public places so as tointerfere with passage, harass or obstructothers, threaten breach of peace, etc.(Art. 19, §25-1)Penalty: $500/10 days. (Art. 19, §25-1)Civil Citation: $50. (Art. 1, §41-14)

      1. Sorry for the recursion, but under the circumstances the definition of “harass” seems to be important (as we can assume he wasn’t interfering with passage, physically obstructing, or threatening a breach of the peace); any guidance?

  3. When politely told to leave the scene, he continued to be an idiot and make his own grandstanding case, interfering with the duties of a police officer and creating a disturbance. The police don’t need another idiot to deal with when they’ve got one on the ground. He was arrested for being an asshole.  But now he’s a happy, glory seeking asshole.

    1. That sort of thinking is exactly what is wrong with this country. Sad thing is, nothing anyone can say here will make it any clearer to you. Unless you’re trolling…in which case, carry on.

    2. Translation for the non-police-biased: “When given an unlawful order to leave when he wasn’t doing anything unlawful, simply recording cops who didn’t like being recorded, he continued to assert his right to record the police while standing a good distance away and not interfering with their duties at all, especially since they didn’t have a problem doing their duty until they saw him and chose to create a disturbance by telling him to leave, unlawfully. The police apparently chose to arrest a second person because one wasn’t enough for them. And now he has civic-mindedly posted the video online so that other citizens can see the injustice perpetrated by those to whom we give the responsibility and authority to protect us.”

      1. Now if you could just draw pictures to go with that brilliant explanation maybe the terminally cowed would understand the point. Until then just be satisfied that your point wasn’t lost on all of us.

    3.  Being told to leave so he couldn’t record them is 1) NOT interfering with the duties of a police officer, and 2) NOT a legal order. There was no reason for the police to mess with the guy recording other than they wanted to abuse their authority, and all the excuses in the world aren’t going to change that. And neither is some random apologist on the Internet.

      1.  Wait, but didn’t you see that the offender had to haul her chubby rear all the way across the street to tell him to stop loitering? C’mon, if that isn’t an inconvenience, I don’t know what is!

        1. When the officer had to leave to arrest troublemaker 2, the remaining officers may have been outnumbered by troublemaker 1 on the ground.

          1. Ok, so basically, what you are saying is that it is more important to stop someone recording than it is to secure a suspect? Seriously, that’s your argument?

          1.  It was missing the proper level of inferred snark or emoticon. Sometimes using the words ‘realllly’ or ‘clearly’ or ‘Come Now!’ conveys sarcasm properly.

    4. “He was arrested for being an asshole. ”

      Last time I checked, being an asshole wasn’t an arrest-able offense.

    5. Or, you know, the police could have simply ignored the guy with the cell phone across the street. The police chose to make his recording an issue. No one was interfering with the duties of an officer. The officer made the decision to be the asshole.

      Have fun shining those pretty badges.

    1. Loitering is defined as “interfering with the lawful use of public spaces” or something like that. So technically standing there isn’t loitering, but the cops know that a threat of arrest, even unlawful, is enough to deter most people who won’t be able to afford to fight it out in court.

      1. all he needed was a willing participant and a spectacular event.

        And Officer Friendly was all too willing to be a spectacle.

  4. loi·ter  (loitr)intr.v. loi·tered, loi·ter·ing, loi·ters 1. To stand idly about; linger aimlessly.2. To proceed slowly or with many stops: loitered all the way home.3. To delay or dawdle: loiter over a task.

    [Middle English loitren, probably from Middle Dutch loteren, to totter, be loose.]

    he had specific purpose. As usual, the cops are criminally abusing their power.

    1. The dictionary definition is irrelevant.  See the legal definition above from the Baltimore Digest of Criminal Offenses.  Either way, the police acted unlawfully as he didn’t fit either definition.

      1.  The above legal definition uses the word loitering to define the offense loitering. Surely the accepted meaning of the word loitering must be taken in to account, otherwise the legal definition is meaningless and circular.

        1. Or the legal definition defines loitering differently. You are aware that words can have more than 1 meaning and having read the legal definition above the dictionary definition is too broad to use in law. Taking your definition the police could be arresting people for not walking briskly enough. I don’t think that would be practical, but I know there are Law & Order freaks who love the law until it stops working for them.

  5. Loitering is typically defined as ‘standing around with no given reason’. I can’t see how this would apply since his reason is obviously to stop cops being assholes without cause.

      1. I’m not into the anthropological analysis of lost freedoms. I’m content enough with the qualitative analysis. 

          1. another reason might be that too many of  the people who see it clearest are more interesting in counting than fighting back?

  6. The stevedores’ union needs to put their squad cars into a can and send them on a world tour. Rawls would put them on hull scraping duty on the Marine Unit. Boat For Life!

  7. The sadly-typical cop belief that the only laws worth enforcing are the ones that benefit or protect cops.

  8. Loitering … causing an obstruction … disorderly conduct … ‘behavior liable to cause a breach of the peace’ – what are the other handy ‘catch-alls’ available to law enforcement for sweeping up people who annoy them?

    (Fictional examples, such as Steve Bell’s BUFAPOPO – “Bearing an Unsympathetic Facial Aspect in the Presence Of a Police Officer” or Constable Savage’s “urinating in a public convenience”, “possession of an offensive wife”, and “coughing without due care and attention”, don’t count).

    1. No doubt. Hell, if they had any sense of modernity they’d realize that one of their kids could probably throw together an officer training video with all the free footage of appropriate and inappropriate cop behavior in the field. Updated policy? Send Junior to work grabbing footage for a mixup instructional.

  9. It’s all about perception and depends on who is doing the filming… look at this former RISD student and cop was doing ‘vertical patrols’ on housing projects.  While working it was “OK” for him to shoot his fellow officers and civilians and now he’s being hailed as “an artist”.  
    What a load of crap.  Try telling that to the cops when you’re filming.

    1. I took a look at the photos and have a few comments ,  problem#1 they are for the most part staged photos.. . Take a good look at picture # 8  with the caption “officers update their memo book to make sure all 3 accounts match November 2008 ” ahh isn’t that conspiracy ??? I mean shouldn’t all 3 accounts already match ? and just how are they correcting them to match ? – yeah he is an ARTIST alright…

  10. Of course the police union says their members didn’t do anything wrong. When’s the last time you’ve heard of cops doing anything about other cops misbehaving?

  11. Where can I get an online journalist I.D.?
    (i.e., “Hey, I’m not loitering. I’m a freelance journalist working for _____ _________. See? Here’s my I.D.  Now please leave me alone and let me do my job.”

  12. Loitering is what I like to call a Gateway Law. It’s a law that’s on the books that no one complains about, but is used as a gateway to seize your civil liberties.

    Want to pull someone over because you don’t like their bumper sticker, no need to have probably cause, simply pull them over for not wearing their seat belt (another gateway law) or talking on their cell phone (gateway). It won’t matter that it’s clear that they’re wearing their seat belt and/or they weren’t talking on their phone when you get to the window, because then you can detain them for appearing to be impaired, possibly high on drugs, which now gives you cause to search their car.

  13. Imagine that a “loophole” in the law , I guess they really do exist… Thanks Baltimore PD, for giving every other police department another excuse to arrest or otherwise detain citizens with cell phones. Bringing us all one step closer to the police state we all love and trust right? …right ?/

    1. Why would you side with the “thugs with a badge” ? I have yet to see one of these videos , that did not portray the offending officer in his or her true element – do what I say regardless or you will go to jail ,even if I have to make shit up to put you there! – in other words you will be forced to “respect my authority”…..not saying there are no good police officers , just saying  there are plenty that tarnish the badge they wear !   Which brings me back to.. If you are doing nothing wrong , you should  have no worries being caught on video.If you are walking the fine line between right and wrong  well just confiscate the evidence and arrest the perp for loitering……….

  14. This is becoming almost laughable. Each day there is one more news story that makes the US look no better than China or the old Soviet Union from the UK. How can we have been so blind to this nonsense about freedom that has been peddled for the last half century or more. 

    1. are you saying the US looks worse than the UK with respect to freedoms?  in response to a police abuse article?  are you serious?

      oh, but you are right about the “nonsense about freedom that has been peddled”.  we should just all give up.   ;-)

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