By Rob Port | Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau
NO COMMENT: North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office isn’t releasing any information about an incident where Bureau of Criminal Investigation officers allegedly seized a citizen’s cell phone and deleted pictures she had been taking of a raid.
FORBES, N.D. — N.D. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office still isn’t talking about an incident that happened some three weeks ago.
May 22, Rohrbach was watching law enforcement officers raid a shop across the street from the Flying H bar and restaurant, where she works in Forbes. She was taking photos of the officers at work, until one of them allegedly took her phone and deleted the images.
“He ordered me to give him the phone — what was I going to do?” Marge Rohrbach, an Ellendale resident, told the Fargo Forum last month about an incident involving North Dakota’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
“He said, ‘I need to see your phone — give it to me,’ ” she told the Forum. “Afterwards, I was kind of mad. … Why couldn’t I have the pictures, even if he was in them?”
Rohrbach claims the officer told her that photographing police at work was against the law.
When contacted by Watchdog.org, Liz Brocker, a spokeswoman for the AG, refused to comment.
“No records can be provided at this time because it is still an ongoing investigation,” Brocker said in response to an emailed inquiry.
Asked if the investigation had to do with the raid Rohrbach was photographing or the incident involving Rohrbach’s photos, Brocker wouldn’t specify, saying only, “No information can be provided at this time.”
Citizens photographing or recording law enforcement officers at work has been a hot-button issue nationally.
Last month the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals re-instated a lawsuit filed against law enforcement officers in New Hampshire who arrested a woman for recording a traffic stop, in which a friend was involved.
“It is clearly established in this circuit that police officers cannot, consistently with the Constitution, prosecute citizens for violating wiretapping laws when they peacefully record a police officer performing his or her official duties in a public area,” the court ruled, overturning a lower court’s decision to dismiss the suit.
The police department has since settled the lawsuit.
You can reach Rob Port at email@example.com