PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia police are now the focus of several complaints from citizens who say that officers seized their cell phones when they used them to record the police making arrests.

The American Civil Liberties Union says it expects to file a lawsuit this month on behalf of four people who say police confiscated or destroyed their cell phones, and charged them with disorderly conduct, because they were videotaping what they considered to be police misconduct.

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Mary-Catherine Roper,  a staff attorney at the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s Philadelphia office, says it’s a widespread problem.

“These (cases) are a big deal to us,” she told KYW Newsradio today, “because if there’s anything our Constitution gives us the power and in fact the obligation to do, it’s to monitor our government.”

Philadelphia Police deputy commissioner Richard Ross says the department does not condone the seizure of cell phones and, in fact, tells officers they are likely to be videotaped on the job.

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“As a private citizen, you have the right to videotape,” he told KYW Newsradio this morning, “and our officers should be aware that they are probably always under some type of surveillance. There are so many cameras out there.”

Ross says the department will investigate any complaints it receives on this issue.

“We also would hope that some of the same private citizens who are willing to videotape our officers would be equally willing to videotape crimes in progress and forward those to us as well,” he said.

Reported by Pat Loeb, KYW Newsradio 1060

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