Friday, April 15, 2011


MauiTime publisher Tommy Russo videorecords his alleged assault by “Dog” Chapman security guard and Maui police

by Larry Geller

The camera was running during the April 12, 2011 incident posted on the MauiTime website but the protagonists weren’t camera shy. MauiTime publisher Tommy Russo was able to record his own alleged assault by one of the security guards accompanying “Dog” Chapman and his entourage.

Later, when Maui Police arrived, he reports he was roughly confronted and told by an officer that he couldn’t take videos of the officer without consent.

JohnsonRusso’s report documents what must have been a very ugly incident. Russo chose to assert his rights despite the police offer’s insistence that he must turn his camera off. The audio is clear, and the letters “MPD” appear on the officer’s shoulder if the picture brightness is turned up a little.There is enough detail to identify the officer who was speaking.

With the camera running, Russo has at least audio documentation of the incident.

Russo stood his ground. I imagine that most people would turn off the camera when requested to do so by the police. Perhaps that’s what separates journalists from the rest of us. In doing so, the incident became the most recent example of police insisting that they have a right to not be videoed or recorded. In some states that has become law and is being challenged. In other states wiretapping laws are abused by police. For example:

Troubled by the Maryland State Police's abusive use of state wiretap laws to prosecute a motorcyclist who posted a YouTube video of an MSP trooper making a traffic stop with his gun drawn, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland is providing legal counsel to ensure that First Amendment principles are protected and that citizens are able to hold law enforcement officials accountable through legitimate use of cameras and audio recorders.

[ACLU,org, ACLU Defends Rights of Citizens to Monitor Police by Representing Motorcyclist Prosecuted by State Police, 5/28/2010]


Almost a year ago in Honolulu, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms was caught on camera by a TV crew assaulting two peaceful protestors (see story here and here). In that incident also, an attempt was made—in front of the camera—to stop the videorecording. That incident is the subject of a civil lawsuit by the protestors that will no doubt cost taxpayers a bit of money.  Of course, this raises the issue of education of law officers, but it also reminds us that in our civil society, law officers seldom face meaningful consequences for their acts against ordinary civilians.

Russo doesn’t indicate in his article if he plans any legal action or what complaints he may file. Maui residents should be concerned, not only because they, too, may fall victim to law enforcement that doesn’t understand the law, but because taxpayers end up footing the bill for settlements.

(In my own insignificant incident last year I did stop taking pictures when a cop told me to do so, even though I knew I had a right to continue. It wasn’t that important to me, and arresting me would probably make his day and ruin mine.)

The issues raised by the MauiTime article are compound. The violent world depicted in “Dog the Bounty Hunter” it is not supposed to spill over into real life, and a citizen, journalist or not, is entitled to protection from police abuse.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


Thanks for your post Larry. It is important that citizens know their rights. Most often people turn off their cameras when ordered by a person of authority. The challenge for me is I don't believe law enforcement should be allowed to make such a requests given their authoritative position.

People owe you for standing up for your rights--which are our rights, each of us. If we give on this, and then on that... before you know it, we have no rights.

I was sentenced to 30 days in jail (harassment) for photographing a DLNR officer using his state vehicle for recreational purposes as he sat on the beach with a fishing pole, the state truck (with front license plate removed because the back plate was concealed by the tarp), beers, friends and his DLNR shirt. I also had a tape recording of the event when his wife threatened me. The tape recording was taken into evidence (unfortunately) and erased and the photos never materialized in court. The white jacket and white shoe gang from the state filled the little rural courtroom of Kauai.
I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I find it embarrassing that Dog The Bounty Hunter Chapman is from Hawaii and his program could depict people of Hawaii on TV. Why would anyone want to visit, if such people reside here!

Why hasnʻt this ʻDogʻ and his ʻdog wifeʻ been arrested or charged with crimes relating to unsanctioned policing of citizens?
How did these cockroaches end up exploiting Hawaii citizens the way they do?
Itʻs unbelievable. Itʻs assault. False imprisonment. Kidnapping. All those offenses apply when they take the law into their own hands.

Chapman was arrested in 2006 in Honolulu to be extradited to Mexico to face a charge of deprivation of liberty. 29 Congressman and Hawaii's legislature objected and asked Mexico to drop its extradition request (the details are on the web for the googling). Chapman got major publicity on the networks as a result of the case and the reaction to it. The case was eventually dismissed, according to the Wikipedia article, when the Mexican statute of limitations expired.

Thanks , Larry, I remember that but not any incidents as to his actions and behavior in the states? It seems peculiar.

Officer Johnson has been involved in many over-the-top incidents.

He was sued by one man for false imprisonment (but the guy doing the suing is alleged by people to be abusive and less than truthful)

He shot dead the young woman who stole a car (apparently she was on crack) and drove it recklessly to Pa'ia where she refused to get out and allegedly tried to run down Johnson. The shooting was ruled justifiable but one wonders if an officer with better social skills and less violence could have perhaps ended the situation without a fatality.

There are other allegations against Johnson.

After viewing the video I am convinced that Johnson is temperamentally unsuited to be a police officer. Starting pay for police is $52,000/year. Certainly we can find officers without the baggage of uncontrolled temper tantrums, violence and lack of understanding of citizen's civil rights!

I am amazed that Johnson has not been arrested for what is clearly assault. And I am amazed that the Maui Police Commission and his Chief have not suspended him.

I am not signing my name due to fear of retribution.

Public servants, doing their job in public should be arrested for pretending that they cannot be filmed. They should have no expectation of privacy.

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