Portland, Me., has paid $72,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a Bar Harbor couple who were arrested and jailed after they filmed police, reports the Portland Press Herald. Jill Walker and Sabatino Scattoloni spent three hours in jail last May after Scattoloni briefly used a cellphone to film five police officers who were questioning a suspected drunk drive. Scattoloni at first filmed the officers from a short distance without incident, but when he and Walker moved closer, they were cuffed and charged with obstructing government business. The charges were later dropped.
The settlement follows high-profile cases around the U.S. in which citizen videos of police conduct gained attention and sometimes led to outrage. The conflicts underscore a developing area of law at a time when police actions are being scrutinized and high-quality cellphone cameras are ubiquitous. The city said it was the couple's refusal to obey an officer's order, not the filming, that led to their arrest. Nonetheless, the incident will be used to train Portland officers on the public's First Amendment right to film police conduct. “Police officers may not like being recorded, but personal recordings are an important check on potential abuses,” said Zachary Heiden of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. “The police get to carry guns, and the public gets to carry cellphones.”