In a number of recent videos posted to YouTube, police officers implore citizens to hand over their cellphones, claiming concern that the mobile devices are weapons. The videos have raised concerns among some citizens who believe recording cops reinforces accountability in the criminal justice system.
Multimedia journalist-turned-activist Carlos Miller, who started the Photography is Not a Crime (PNAC) blog after running into legal trouble for video recording police officers, writes of the phenomenon in a recent post. Miller believes that the officers are, for the most part, not genuinely mistaking cameras and phones for handguns, but rather are trying to avoid starring in YouTube videos if they make Constitutional mistakes or abuse their authority.
The trend of insinuating cell phones can be guns began earlier this year when Juan “Biggie” Santana had his Sony Bloggie confiscated by Hialeah police officer Antonio Sentmanat in South Florida.
It continued when San Diego police officer Martin Reinhold slapped a phone out of Adam Pringle’s hands and arrested him while writing him a citation for smoking a cigarette on a beach boardwalk.
Then again in Arkansas when a cop ripped an iPhone out of a man’s hands who had been trying to document the Exxon oil spill outside Little Rock.
Reinhold told Pringle that he had specifically been trained to assume cell phones could be guns, which is apparently a training lesson being taught at police departments throughout the country.
Police may be justifying outrageous phones-might-be-guns claims based on a case in Europe more than a decade ago when police discovered a four-shot .22 caliber gun disguised as a cellphone. However, the device looks nothing like a modern day video-enabled cellphones and there have not been any documented cases of similar contraptions being discovered in the United States.