On Memorial Day, when a dozen Miami Beach police officers shot and killed an armed driver allegedly trying to run down officers with his car, cameras were rolling. Within three hours, the first of several videos had gone viral on YouTube and Facebook, says the Miami Herald. The Miami Beach Police Department faced a grilling not just over the fatal shooting, but over its handling of a witness, who said police slapped him into handcuffs, snatched his cellphone camera and stomped it. A Channel 10 newsman's camera was briefly seized.
While Miami Beach police have denied that anyone's phone was stomped, the accusations echo previous complaints against the department — and underscore nationwide frictions between law enforcement, who generally don't like being filmed doing their jobs, and civilians in an era of ubiquitous cellphone cameras. “This isn't just a one-time thing,” said Gregory Samms, a criminal defense attorney representing two men who say they were beaten and wrongfully arrested in 2008 after briefly filming a Miami Beach police traffic stop. “This is what they do on Miami Beach. This is how they operate.” Police seized multiple cameras on Memorial Day, but they were not trying to cover up their actions, said Police Chief Carlos Noriega. The officers were determined to preserve evidence, not destroy it, he said. Since 2008, at least 11 people say they were either arrested and/or stripped of their cameras or phones by police in Miami Beach after filming officers.