Hookway v. East Vincent Township and Borough of Spring City

Man cited for videotaping police

Court/Assoc.: US District Court, Eastern District of PA

Attorneys/Firms: Hope Freiwald and David Haendler (Dechert LLP) and Seth Kreimer (University of Pennsylvania Law School)

In late 2006, Richard Hookway, a Spring City resident, 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.

In December 2008, the ACLU of Pennsylvania settled with the East Vincent Township and the Borough of Spring City. 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. They have also 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.

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