Woman sues over cops grabbing her phone during arrest

Oregonian Carrie Medina says police took her phone after she used it to record and broadcast the arrest of a man in February 2013.

A cell phone video is driving a federal lawsuit in Oregon where a Portland woman is suing the city. Carrie Medina says police took her phone after she used it to record and broadcast the arrest of a man two years ago, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.

The cell phone has become a powerful tool in the hands of citizens across the country. From recording Eric Garner's chokehold death at the hands of a New York police officer to a 51-year-old woman beaten by a California Highway Patrol officer, cell phone users are becoming digital watchdogs for alleged police misconduct.

In February of 2013, Medina was riding a Portland bus but got off when she noticed a young man being arrested by two police officers.

"When the bus came to a stop, I heard, 'Oooh, that must've hurt,' and that's when I looked up and saw the young man with his face down in the street, and the officers on top of him," Medina said.

Medina calls herself a citizen journalist and was broadcasting these images live to the web from her phone for four minutes before one of the officers involved in the arrest turned his attention to her.

"I don't need a subpoena to search your phone for evidence," the police officer could be heard saying.

"It didn't get scary until he decided to grab the phone from my hand," Medina said.

Medina and the ACLU filed suit Tuesday against the officer, the cities of Portland and nearby Gresham, and the transit agency, saying her First Amendment free speech rights and Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated.

The city of Gresham declined to comment but said its police chief sent an email to his officers a month after the incident reminding them that "...videotaping by the public is part of police work today."

"I think it's important for the public to understand that when they're on public property and filming incidents that are occurring out in the public, that they have the absolute right to do that," Mirell said.