Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Are Cameras the New Guns?

Are Cameras the New Guns?, article.
The insanity rises to new levels.
In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.

Well, the police state I foresaw coming in the evening of 9/11, 2001 is rapidly underway. Congrats, folks, you got your will.

In short, recordings that are flattering to the police - an officer kissing a baby or rescuing a dog - will almost certainly not result in prosecution even if they are done without all-party consent. The only people who seem prone to prosecution are those who embarrass or confront the police, or who somehow challenge the law. If true, then the prosecutions are a form of social control to discourage criticism of the police or simple dissent.

[...] Carlos Miller at the Photography Is Not A Crime website offers an explanation: "For the second time in less than a month, a police officer was convicted from evidence obtained from a videotape. The first officer to be convicted was New York City Police Officer Patrick Pogan, who would never have stood trial had it not been for a video posted on Youtube showing him body slamming a bicyclist before charging him with assault on an officer.

So in other words, the police is attempting to wipe out all recording of police in action. Yes, good luck with that. While they're at it, they should make a law against rain on parade days.


emptyspaces said...

You wanna know how effed up the U.S. legal system really is?

..."Drew is being prosecuted for illegal recording, a Class I felony punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison."

In America, you can get 4-15 years for illegally videotaping cops abusing their power. You can get 7 years for selling drugs outside a concert. But we let murderers off with three-year manslaughter sentences because the cops didn't bag something correctly. Ludicrous.

All the whining about no tax dollars being available, and all the cops do is arrest people for chickenshit stuff that carries a mind-boggling mandatory minimum sentence so some jagoff politician can appear tough on crime.

America tries to control everything you do through a series of idiotic laws. It's hardly the land of the free over here.

Unknown said...

In America police officers are always servants to the public. Our taxes pay their salaries, therefore their jobs, uniforms, and their actions are all ours to witness, photograph, video tape, and if need be, testify to. If the police don't want to be seen in a negative way then they shouldn't do negative things.

Joe Zasada said...

I hear it's getting bad in the UK in regards to public photography, especially of Police...

erikkko said...

(Part 2 – continued from Part 1 above)

In fact, it seems to me that in an allegedly democratic society, police officers have a particular duty to behave with exemplary restraint when applying force, as well as to behave in a generally ethical manner when they are performing their duties. If they do not, they undermine the public's faith and trust both in them as individuals and as performers of a necessary role in society. When those are destroyed, some important impediments to the development of an authoritarian and arbitrary style of government are lost. This cannot be the kind of society that any American citizen, whether they favour Democrats or Republicans, wishes to see develop.

One important way that individuals can encourage police officers not to abuse their powers is by being legally entitled and physically able to film the police in the course of their interactions with them or with others.

This is such a crucial right that I am hoping that either 1) Congress will pass a federal law mandating this right, or 2) that the ACLU or other interested body will help to bring a suitable case before the Supreme Court so that the arguments can be presented and tested in public. To this end I would exhort America's citizens to demand legislation from their elected state and national representatives that guarantees such a right, in accordance with Section 5 of the 14th Amendment: "The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article".

erikkko said...

(Part 1 of 2 – continues below)

In any state of the USA in which the police (and prosecutors and/or judges) are in practice asserting the right of the police to prevent themselves being photographed or videoed, the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution's 14th Amendment (i.e. Section 1) is arguably being violated ("no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws").

This is manifestly the case when the police selectively arrest, prosecute or otherwise harass people who photograph them on the streets, while failing to prosecute others who are photographing non-police officers in a similar setting (especially if those photographers have not obtained the permission of those whom they are photographing). Either let the police arrest and seek to prosecute everyone who is observed photographing others without their permission in a public place (which would be certain to give rise to numerous dissenting lawsuits), or let no-one be arrested or prosecuted for such activity.

From Wex (

"Generally, the question of whether the equal protection clause has been violated arises when a state grants a particular class of individuals the right to engage in an activity yet denies other individuals the same right. There is no clear rule for deciding when a classification is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has dictated the application of different tests depending on the type of classification and its effect on fundamental rights. Traditionally, the Court finds a state classification constitutional if it has "a rational basis" to a "legitimate state purpose." The Supreme Court, however, has applied more stringent analysis in certain cases. It will "strictly scrutinize" a distinction when it embodies a "suspect classification." In order for a classification to be subject to strict scrutiny, it must be shown that the state law or its administration is meant to discriminate. Usually, if a purpose to discriminate is found the classification will be strictly scrutinized if it is based on race, national origin, or, in some situations, non U.S. citizenship (the suspect classes). In order for a classification to be found permissible under this test it must be proven, by the state, that there is a compelling interest to the law and that the classification is necessary to further that interest. The Court will also apply a strict scrutiny test if the classification interferes with fundamental rights such as first amendment rights, the right to privacy, or the right to travel."

From this it follows that police officers cannot be claiming to be reasonably upholding or enforcing a law if they are only doing so to suit their own narrow purposes or convenience. As far as I can see, a state's prosecutors and judiciary are implicitly violating the Equal Protection Clause when they uphold the right of police officers to engage in filming people on the street, yet deny other individuals the same right when they film police officers.

This is especially egregious when the denial of this right prevents evidence from being collected that could otherwise be used to criminally prosecute the officer(s) being filmed.

It seems to me that there is also a First Amendment (i.e. free-speech) argument to be made, especially given the obvious public-interest issues that are raised by curtailing the public's right and ability to criticize and collect evidence against public servants who are acting illegally or with excessive force. The fact that we have collectively delegated to police officers the right to use force in the line of duty in certain circumstances does not also entitle them to abuse that right in order to prevent themselves from being incriminated by a third party when they engage in wrongdoing.

Anonymous said...

Amen. Cops and lawyers one is supposed to enforce laws the other is responsible for creating laws to make our society more safe to live in.
Me thinks they both are just perpetuating their respective professions, jobs, sources of income!

Randall Flagg said...

While I have been fortunate enough to ever see a member of the police abuse their power, I generally follow one of the rules that was states during a military naval craft tour. "Do not take pictures of anyone holding a gun" Is it my right? Sure. But even more important is his/her anonymity. I do not control who sees my pictures. If someone were to see my picture of an armed guard and then sees them later on, it may put them in jeopardy. Yes I know I am making a big reach, but the life and safety of those protecting me are more important than me and some picture of someone holding a weapon.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I think you bring up a good point.

Although I think the risk of something like that happening is vanishingly small, and must be weighed against the greater good.

Think of all the lives we could save if we put speed limits at 10MPH.