In a post at a great blog, Photography is Not a Crime (PINAC), there is a video of a San Diego, California police officer issuing a citation to for smoking on the boardwalk. The officer tells the person, Adam Pringle, to put the cellphone up because it could be a weapon.
This is a long-time police myth, which unfortunately has some basis in fact.
In 2000 or 2001, police in Europe discovered a four-shot gun disguised as a cellphone. Since then police officers in the United States have claimed on multiple occasions that civilians who were recording video with their cellphones had to put the phone down. Why? Because it could be a weapon.
Geez, guys, you’re killing us. There have been no cellphone guns recovered in the United States, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
In addition, there are exactly zero court cases that discuss the issue. As a matter of fact, there is nothing in the legal world that discuss the issue. No law review articles, no trial or appellate briefs, nothing.
Other camouflaged weapons have been found. See United States v. Beal, 810 F.2d 574 (4th Cir. 1987) (officers found two .22 cal. pen guns during search); State v. Slockbower, 368 A.2d 388 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1976), rev’d on other grounds 397 A.2d 1050 (N.J. 1979) (officer found .22 cal. pen gun in glove compartment); People v. Varnell, 370 N.E.2d 145 (Ill. App. Ct. 1977) (cane gun used in aggravated battery); United States v. Winslow, 76 F.3d 390 (9th Cir. 1995) (wallet gun found during search incident to arrest).
How many times have the officers used force when a subject reached for his pen to sign a ticket, or produced his driver’s license, or used a cane?
This appears to be solely a case of not wanting to be filmed and using force to stop the filming.