The plaintiff went to watch a horse race in a bar, which went a bit awry, and he claims the police used force on his friend, before arresting her, while he was trying to film the incident. Officers then demanded the phone to use the video as evidence, and he reluctantly gave it to them. Upon return several minutes after, the video was gone from his smartphone, along with a lot of his personal footage, including moments with his son that he claims held "sentimental value".
During the trial, the municipality said that it provided some formal training to officers after the incident, that people have the right to record police actions, and also sent an email to all officers advising that, which should be deemed sufficient to shut the case. Mr Sharp, however, claims that his First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated in the case, and the Obama administration seems to agree. Here's what we got from their "Statement of Interest of the United States", that was filed with the Maryland court involved:
Although defendants have taken some remedial actions, these measures do not adequately ensure that violation will not recur. While the city's new training materials acknowledge that it's legal to record the actions of the police, they do not explicitly acknowledge that private citizens' right to record the police derives from the First Amendment, nor do they provide clear and effective guidance to officers about the important First Amendment principle involved.
This comes hot on the heels of many controversial rulings on whether or not law enforcement has the right to snoop or dispose with content on your phone, with California governor Jerry Brown vetoing an anti-snooping bill not long ago.
All those police brutality videos on YouTube should feel safe now. One incident in Miami last summer became particularly notorious since law enforcement seized phones from people filming, and destroyed some, then denied it, but one witness managed to hide the microSD card of his HTC phone, and later sold the footage to CNN, proving the officers' word wrong.
source: DoJ via Arstechnica & Reason