Mass. state trooper tries to steal man's cellphone

On June 30, a man named Johnny was sitting in the passenger seat of his wife's car when they passed by the scene of an accident. Johnny took out his cellphone and began recording. A Massachusetts state trooper spotted him, approached the car, and ordered them to stop.

The trooper reached into the car in an attempt to steal the phone.

"Why are you taking pictures?" the the trooper demanded. "Why are you taking pictures?"

"Because I can and you can't touch my phone," Johnny replied.

"Keep going," the trooper barked. "Keep driving."

At this point, they drove off.

statie_who_tried_to_snatch_camera

The video was uploaded to YouTube by "chzbizman," a friend of Johnny. According to the description of the video posted on YouTube:

this incident took place at around 4pm on june 30th 2014. my friend johnny was going home from a day at the lake with his wife and kids when he came across a car accident. he was the passenger in the car and decided to pull out his cell phone and record what had happened. his wife never stopped and continued through the accident scene slowly while johnny started recording. at the point they approached the accident scene a state trooper reached inside his vehicle and tried to grab his cell phone. words were exchanged and they continued on. the point is when will certain law enforcement stop abusing their power and try to restrict our 1st american right. photography is not a crime. thank you

This isn't the first time in recent memory that a state trooper has tried to interfere with someone video-recording. Late last year, The Bay State Examiner's Maya recorded a state trooper who pulled her over and he threatened to steal her camera. Last month, state police pulled over a medical marijuana patient, searched his car for no apparent legal reason, and took his medicine. He attempted to video record the traffic stop, but the troopers took his phone, turned it off, and did not give it back until the traffic stop was over.

I've reached out to chzbizman and Colonel Tim Alben, the head of the state police, for more information about this video.

Update (7/9/14): The Massachusetts State Police actually take photographs of the aftermath of car accidents so they can post them on their Facebook page, highlighting the absurdity of this trooper's attempt to stop Johnny from recording.

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Update (7/11/14): After I asked him about the video several times on Twitter, Tim Alben responded to some of my questions.

Alben indicated that the state police would not take any action against the officer in the video unless Johnny files a formal complaint first. He also refused to provide the name of the officer in the video.

Alben said the state police respect the First Amendment, but said they will try to "do better in this area of video recording" in the future. He said he would write about what steps the state police are taking to improve on his blog in the next few weeks.

You can read the entire exchange here: