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Newark Settles Lawsuit Over Video Deleted by Cops

Decision in ACLU suit upholds citizens' right to record police activity

The Newark Police Department has reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed by a teenage girl who was detained two years ago for using her cell phone to record an incident on a public bus, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced Monday.

Khaliah Fitchette was a 16-year-old honor student when she was riding through downtown Newark on March 22, 2010. When the bus rolled down a hill, a man who appeared to be intoxicated man fell from his seat and into the aisle, causing a disturbance. The driver pulled over and called Newark police for assistance.

Fitchette was recording the incident  when police arrived and ordered Fitchette to stop recording and to turn off the phone.

Flichette, now a student at Cornell University, stopped recording but declined to shut off the phone because she did not want to miss calls from her mother. Police detained her, keeping Flichette handcuffed for more than an hour and deleting the video before turning the girl over to her mother.

The ACLU and the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University filed a lawsuit in 2011 on Flichette’s behalf.

In addition to the settlement, Newark Police Director Samuel A. DeMaio last year released a training memorandum affirming a citizen’s right to record police performing their duties. The memo also states police cannot seize, view or delete recordings without a warrant.

“We are pleased that the Newark Police Department has adopted a policy that clearly articulates and respects the constitutional rights of citizens to record police activity,” said Seton Hall Law Professor Barbara Moses, who, along with a number of Seton Hall Law students, represented Fitchette as a cooperating attorney for the ACLU-NJ. “We hope this policy prevents incidents like the one involving Khaliah Fitchette from ever happening again.”

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