PHILADELPHIA - The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania today announced a settlement with the East Vincent Township and the Borough of Spring City in a case involving Richard Hookway, a Spring City resident, who was arrested and charged for videotaping on-duty police officers in public. As part of the settlement, the East Vincent and Spring City police departments will adopt a written policy confirming that it is legal to videotape police while on-duty and provide training on the policy to its officers.
"People have the right to videotape government officials while they are performing their duties in public," said Mary Catherine Roper, staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania and one of the attorneys representing Hookway. "We are very happy that East Vincent Township and Spring City also understand this right and have taken steps to prevent what happened to Mr. Hookway from happening in the future."
In late 2006, Hookway began videotaping local police on the job after becoming concerned that the police were spending time outside of their jurisdictions and running personal errands while on-duty and in uniform. Soon after he began recording, police officers started retaliating against him.
On three separate occasions Hookway was detained or charged with crimes because he was videotaping police. In January 2007, Hookway was stopped and questioned by a Spring City police officer. A few days later, he received citations in the mail for harassment and disorderly conduct. In February 2007, while filming a traffic stop, Hookway was confronted by two police officers and told that it was "against the law" to videotape police. Hookway again received citations in the mail for harassment and disorderly conduct.
Later that month, after observing Hookway recording another traffic stop, a police officer ordered Hookway out of his car, handcuffed him, and put him in the back of a patrol car. While Hookway was in the patrol car, the officer searched Hookway's car twice without seeking or obtaining his permission and without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. After an hour, Hookway was released without charges.
"These were unfortunate incidents but I felt I had to stand up for my rights as every one should, but not enough people do," said Hookway. "Police need to know that they also have to follow the law, and that we are citizens not subjects."
In addition to adopting a written policy and providing training for its officers, East Vincent and Spring City have agreed to pay the legal fees Hookway incurred defending himself against the charges, which were eventually dropped. Hookway will also receive letters of apology from the officers involved.
In addition to Roper, Hookway is represented by Hope Freiwald and David Haendler of Dechert LLP and Seth Kreimer, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
More information about the case, including a copy of the complaint and the settlement agreement, can be found here: /our-work/legal/legaldocket/hookwayveastvincenttownshi/