The proliferation of video-enabled smartphones has empowered people to catch cops behaving badly.

But what happens when a law enforcement officer tries to destroy your device? You might lose the evidence. Luckily, in the case of a U.S. Marshal apparently grabbing and kicking a bystander's cellphone, a neighbor was recording the action through a window.

The folks who are watching the police now are being watched, too. In this case, that just might be a good thing.

The people who posted the video, below, of the lawman grabbing and kicking a woman's phone say it happened Sunday in South Gate. In a statement, South Gate police had this to say:

South Gate Police determined that the officer involved is employed by the United States Marshals and their staff is aware of the incident. 

A U.S. Marshals Service official told us, “We are aware of that video footage.” The service said in a statement that the situation was under review:

The U.S. Marshals Service is aware of … an incident that took place Sunday in Los Angeles County involving a Deputy U.S. Marshal. The agency is currently reviewing the incident.

The feds referred questions about the nature of that day's operation to the South Gate Police Department. We reached out to that agency but had yet to hear back. 

The ACLU of Southern California is not happy with what it saw in the video. The organization's executive director, Hector Villagra, had this to say:

The ACLU of Southern California is deeply disturbed by the video released yesterday on YouTube, showing a law enforcement officer approaching a woman who appears to be lawfully filming a police operation from the sidewalk, grabbing her phone, smashing it to the ground and kicking it.

There is no situation in which an officer can intentionally grab and destroy a camera being used to lawfully record law enforcement. The officer’s conduct is a blatant and deliberate violation of the Constitution and his duties as an officer to abide by the law. Members of the public, on a public street, unquestionably have a First Amendment right to record law enforcement officers, acting in the course of their duties. Indeed, as recent events have shown, video recording of law enforcement activity plays a crucial role in holding police accountable for misconduct — particularly in California, where public access to information about officer misconduct is limited by state law.

It's been a bad year so far for cops allegedly behaving badly.

Just to name a couple of incidents, we've seen a Los Angeles Police Department officer accused of murder and then disappear, likely into Mexico; and we all watched 10 San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department deputies beat the shit out of a pursuit suspect earlier this month.

A TV news helicopter was above, capturing their punches and kicks on video.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.