Within days of a public meeting where a member of the U.S. House of Representatives had a police officer confiscate cell phones and video cameras from members of the audience, the policy of not allowing such events to be recorded, “has been changed,” according a staffer for the member of Congress.
On Aug. 22, Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, held a public meeting at the North Avondale Recreation Center in Cincinnati, at which a cell phone camera and video camera are seized by a local police officer to prevent the users from recording the event.
The staffer—who declined to provide his name—at Chabot’s Cincinnati office says the cameras were seized because “it was mainly a privacy issue,” despite the meeting being a public event. The staffer said, “a lot of constituents approached us with private casework,” and the concern was that “being filmed made that public.”
However, while cell phone and video cameras were confiscated from members of the public, local television news crews were allowed to record the meeting, including crowd shots of the audience.
Since the incident, the policy of preventing audience members from filming the meeting “has been changed,” and members of the public who have casework to approach Chabot’s staff outside of town hall meetings, or contact them over the phone, “and to not communicate those concerns during a town hall meeting, and in light of that constituents will be allowed to bring cameras in to the next meeting,” the staffer said.
The same staffer denied that the unidentified police officer who confiscated the cameras from audience member threatened those audience members. The officer is clearly heard telling an audience member who resisted surrendering his camera that he’s “not asking again [for the camera];” the officer then tells the same audience member “are we going to do this the easy way, or the hard way?” and as he’s pulling the camera out of the audience member’s hand, the officer also says, he is “trying to keep this peaceful.”
The same officer then tells a second audience member who is also filming the meeting that it is against the law to film in the recreation center, and the audience member does not have the right to film the representative.
Sgt. Danita Kilgore, a spokeswoman for the Cincinnati Police Dept. said she does not know from whom the officer received instructions to seize the recording equipment, or where the officer acquired his information that it is against the law to film in the recreation center, and that audience members do not have the right to film the representative. However, Kilgore added that the department is conducting an internal investigation of the incident and that information will be ascertained.
More than meetings
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