WILDWOOD - A video that shows several Wildwood seasonal police officers telling an unseen cameraman to stop filming a police action on the Boardwalk has prompted an internal investigation into the officers' conduct, Police Chief Steven Long said Monday.
In the nearly 3-minute video, two officers are seen talking to a man on the city's Boardwalk. One of those officers breaks away and approaches the cameraman, telling him, "I don't want the camera on me."
The officer continues, "I'll throw it on the ground. You want me to throw it on the ground?" He then tells the cameraman to "get out of here" because the cameraman is interfering with his investigation.
With the Giant Ferris Wheel in the background, another officer later approaches the cameraman, again telling him to stop filming. The cameraman is identified as alexd928 on YouTube, where the video has received more than 54,000 views. It was posted on YouTube on July 14.
"Put it away, put it away. Put the camera away," he tells the cameraman. "You're gonna get locked up for disobeying the order of a police officer if you don't put it away."
Long watched the video Monday morning while on the phone with a reporter from The Press of Atlantic City and said that after seeing it he would have to do an internal investigation.
"As a general rule, if you're in a public place and not interfering with police, you can take as many pictures as you want," Long said.
Long said he did not recognize the seasonal officers on the video and did not want to speak about the specifics of the taped incident.
But he said that generally police officers have to be aware that video cameras are readily available, especially in a public place such as the Boardwalk, and that their actions can be recorded.
"It would be an appropriate topic for some additional training. It's definitely a relevant topic for an in-service training," Long said.
Upper Township defense attorney John Tumelty watched the video at the request of The Press and said he believed the cameraman was within his rights.
He said of the portion of the video where one officer says the cameraman can be locked up: "He was not doing anything that amounts to obstruction of justice."
"It seemed to be some unprofessional, rude conduct and basically they just didn't want to be filmed," he said.
Tumelty is particularly familiar with the use of videotaped incidents involving police. He defended former Wildwood police Sgt. David Romeo last year when Romeo was charged with kicking two handcuffed suspects. That incident was not on tape, but another arrest involving Romeo was filmed by a passerby during one of the city's annual car show weekends. In that incident, Romeo was seen holding a suspect by the throat against a car. That video was shown to jurors.
Tumelty agreed that additional training was needed to prevent incidents similar to what was shown in the latest video.
"They should all be getting this in their sensitivity training," Tumelty said. "In the technology age we live in, police officers are constantly being filmed, and they have to be mindful of that or they can show up on the receiving end of one of these videos."
Wildwood Mayor Gary DeMarzo, a police officer in the city from 1998 until 2010, said he would forward his concerns about the tape to the chief, and that the practice in the department has always been that "as long as you don't interfere (with an investigation) you are allowed to videotape."
The mayor noted, however, that a video only shows what is being filmed and not what occurred before or after the camera is turned off.
"What don't we see on the video?" he asked.
DeMarzo added that filming in a public place is commonplace now and is an exercise of the Constitutional right of freedom of speech.
"Freedom of speech and the ability to express yourself are of the utmost importance, but so is officer safety," DeMarzo said.
Since the video began circulating, DeMarzo has received several e-mails from people who have seen it and are concerned about its contents.
The mayor has also been the subject of videos taken of him while he was a police officer.
In one video, also on YouTube, DeMarzo is seen when he was a police officer using a series of expletives during an arrest.
DeMarzo didn't know he was being taped at the time and he said he did not protest the existence of the video.
"The only reason it should be a concern is if it impedes an officer's safety," DeMarzo said.
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