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Tarpon Springs Police arrest a college student taping police activities as part of a group called "Cop Watch"

11:19 AM, Jan 22, 2011   |    comments
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Tarpon Springs, Florida -- It's called "Cop Watching," where people tape police officers as they make stops and arrests. Tommy Frane says it's not that people who do the taping are against police officers, but they want to hold them accountable, like they do all public officials.

But when Frane and his friend, William Kilgore, did it Saturday night, Kilgore landed in jail. Frane says it is something you hear about in fascist countries and China, where people can't look at their public servants or hold them accountable.

The trouble began when Kilgore taped Tarpon Springs police officers arresting someone who had a controlled substance in his car. The two say an officer walked up and said the tape was evidence. Kilgore says he was told he two options: either surrender the tape or go to jail.

When Kilgore, who has taped officers making drug busts in Tampa, said he wasn't comfortable turning the tape over without a warrant, he says the officer got agitated.

Kilgore says the officer kept saying turn it over and he kept saying he wasn't going to and the officer then put on the cuffs.

Not only did the Tarpon Springs Police Department take the camera without a warrant and arrest Kilgore, but also when his friend, Tommy Frane, started taping the arrest with his cell phone, they confiscated that as well.

Gregg Thomas, who is one of the foremost First Amendment attorneys in the country, says it seems like a clear violation of civil rights.

Thomas, who has won a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, says there is no real lawful reason for the officer to seize someone's camera or even threaten them with arrest.

Meanwhile, Kilgore wants to know why the Tarpon Springs police are so scared of his filming. He says it raises a lot of other questions.

Among those questions is whether or not taxpayers will have to pay for any penalty if a civil rights suit is filed against the department and city.

Mike Deeson, 10 News

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