Could Videotaping Police Put You at Risk? INSIDE EDITION Investigates

These days when people see police activity they often whip out their video cameras or cell phones to record it. But some citizens have found themselves in tight situations when an officer says "stop taping." Lisa Guerrero reports.

When Mitchell Crooks from Las Vegas, Nevada saw police activity across the street from his friend's house, he took out his camera and started videotaping.  But he wasn't prepared for what happened next:

Police officer: "Turn off the camera for me."
Crooks: "No sir. I am within my legal rights to do this."
Police officer: "You don't live here."
Crooks: "I do live here. I just said I live here"

When he wouldn't stop taping, Crooks says the officer attacked him, then put him in handcuffs and arrested him.  He didn't think he was doing anything wrong. The officer felt otherwise.
In the video you can see the scuffle and hear Crooks screaming.

While on the ground, Crooks asked, "What am I under arrest for?"  The officer replied, "Obstructing a police officer."

From his mug shot you can see Crook's injuries: a broken nose and some cuts and scrapes on his head.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officer, Derek Colling, who had been investigating a burglary across the street, says he became suspicious when Crooks gave conflicting answers as to whether he lived there.  Crooks says he had recently moved from that address but was there visiting a friend.   

He explained to Inside Edition's Lisa Guerrero that he was simply kneeling down in the driveway holding his camera when the officer approached him and wanted the videotaping to stop immediately.

"He asked me to put down the video camera," he explained.  When Guerrero asked why he didn't comply with the officer's command, Crooks said, "Because I know what my legal rights are. I know I have the right to observe the police in public."

Then he said the officer became angry. "He's punching me repeatedly in the face and kicking me.  Then I started screaming, help, and help!  And at that point he started punching me even more."

Crooks attorney David Otto believes the officer reacted violently simply because he was being videotaped. "I think that officer was angry, plain and simple, enraged in another word."

Inside Edition found this by no means is an isolated incident...

In Lancaster county Pennsylvania, Allen Robinson thought the state police were creating a hazard when they were pulling over truckers on the highway ....So while on his friend's property, he whipped out his camera and started recording. The police apparently didn't like it and arrested him for harassment.  Charges were thrown out on appeal. He sued and won monetary damages.

And the press isn't immune either. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, when an officer wants a TV news cameraman to leave the area and stop taping him, the photographer is arrested and charged with obstruction. The charges were later dropped and the officer was fired.

Across the country, citizens with video cameras have recorded cases of questionable police conduct, but according to former police sergeant, Steve Kardian, there is a right way and wrong way to videotape law enforcement.  "If a citizen wants to tape police activity whether it be on a camera or a cell phone, do so discreetly.  Do so at a safe distance and don't obstruct anything the officer is attempting to do."  

And while it may be legal to record in a public place, Kardian offers this advice, "If the officer tells you to put the camera down, put the camera down because at the end of the day you may end up very well getting arrested for that and it may not be worth it."

Mitchell Crooks, that man from Las Vegas, was originally charged with "obstruction and battery on a police officer." But, those charges have all been dropped. As for the officer, he was suspended with pay.