Marlon Kautz said he was trying to record Atlanta police doing their jobs when they started yelling at him and snatched his camera. Its something he'd done before for his group, CopWatch of East Atlanta.
"I was pretty scared," said Kautz. "I was trying to remain calm because I know in a situation like this, the police are blatantly breaking the law and violating my rights."
In April of 2010, Kautz saw police dogs searching for drugs at a store in Little Five Points, so he got out his cell phone and pressed record. But this time he got a confrontation he wasn't expecting.
"They told me that I wasn't allowed to record them and that I needed to stop," said Kautz. "One officer took his hand and physically grabbed the camera."
The video survived on the cell phone, but Kautz said it's terribly corrupted because police almost ruined the video when they tried to erase it.
"If there hadn't been the video it would have been another case of my word against a police officer," said Kautz.
So, Kautz sued and he won a $40,000 judgment from the city of Atlanta. He said he hopes police will learn from their mistake.
"If you see police messing with someone on the street, take out your phone and record what's going on. That really sends a message to police that the people are paying attention to the work they are doing and we want them to be on their best behavior and not violating people's rights," said Kautz.
Atlanta police wouldn't go on camera to discuss the lawsuit but released a statement to CBS Atlanta News.
"This matter was referred to our Office of Professional Standards for investigation and all three officers were disciplined. Two of the officers received oral admonishments for failing to take the appropriate actions, and a third for failure to supervise. Commanders have made it clear that Atlanta police officers in the field should not interfere with a citizen's right to film them while they work in public areas," said police spokeswoman Kimberly Maggart.
Kautz plans to spend some of his award on new camera equipment for his CopWatch program.
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