Short But Sweet

Connecticut State Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven) has introduced a short bill (PDF) that not only acknowledges the right of citizens to record on-duty police officers, it also provides for a civil action against police officers who violate that right.

That second part is important. A right doesn't mean much if there are no consequences for government officials who ignore it. Witness this case in Florida, where an officer erroneously tries to say federal law prohibits citizen recordings of cops. Even in states where courts have thrown out criminal charges, a cop who doesn't want to be recorded can still harass, threaten, and even arrest you. You may not be charged. But he won't be punished, either.

This is the first proposed state law I've seen on this issue that includes an appropriate enforcement mechanism. It would be great to see Congress take up a similar bill, under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

CORRECTION: This post originally stated that the linked case above was in Maryland.

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  • WTF||

    A cop who doesn't want to be recorded can still harass, threaten, and even arrest you.

    You can beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride.

  • ||

    " it also provides for a civil action against police officers who violate that right."

    Weak sauce. How about a minimum 90 days in jail?

  • Witty Username||

    Even that is weak to me.

    I would want to see a violation be a Class A Felony, punishable by not less than 5 years imprisonment; no more than 10 years imprisonment, with a fine of not less than $10,000/Asset Forfeiture and a provision that the penalty is doubled (not less than 10, not more than 20 years imprisonment, not less than $20,000 if a weapon is used.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Looney? Really? I mean, really, that's his name? I might change that if I were running for office. But than again, I guess it didn't stop him from a successful win.

    Does he have his own theme music for use at political events? You know, like a Looney tune?

  • Edward de Vere's ghost||

    It truly is troublesome having an advocate with that surname.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    Well, there are lots of loonies in New Haven.

  • Jeff P||

    The mayor just fired half the cops there anyway, so this law may be moot.

  • ||

    Canada called: they want their currency back.

  • Officer Nasty||

    "Looney? Really? I mean, really, that's his name?"

    Geese what an asshole.

  • DNS||

    You and your crazy puns! You're daffy!

  • ||

    You won't be charged. But he won't be punished, either.

    And you almost certainly will "lose" your camera and/or anything on it.

  • hmm||

    Legal protection or not advancing technology in the flow of information will yet again prove to be the bane of abusive states and abusive state officials.

  • grrrstick||

    Federal litigation is expensive and this is probably a close case as a constitutional issue, but I don't see why someone like the ACLU wouldn't take up a test case as a §1983 claim.

  • Edwin||

    "You won't be charged. But he won't be punished, either"

    Really? But don't you have the right to a civil action or something by default in common law? Aren't athorities only allowed to arrest you for breaking a specific law? Though I'm guessing what's happening is is they're arresting people for different charges, like disturbing the peace or something, right? Even if that is the case, isn't it theoretically possible to bring it to court and then convince a jury that your filming him was the REAL reason he arrested you, and then get a ruling in your favor?

  • Radley Balko||

    Federal litigation is expensive and this is probably a close case as a constitutional issue, but I don't see why someone like the ACLU wouldn't take up a test case as a §1983 claim.

    They actually have, and they've lost. A couple federal district courts and one federal appeals court found that the arrest was illegal, but that the right to record police isn't well-enough established to get around qualified immunity.

    That's why I think we probably need an explicit federal law.

  • ||

    the arrest was illegal, but that the right to record police isn't well-enough established to get around qualified immunity.

    What about the right to not be fucking arrested illegally? Why isn't that well-enough established?

  • ||

    My Fourth Amendment has fallen, and it can't get up!

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    That's why I think we probably need an explicit federal law.

    Couldn't we also just get rid of qualified immunity?

  • ||

    It would be great to see Congress take up a similar bill, under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.


    Don't hold your breath waiting for congress to even consider holding LEOs personally responsible for their illegal actions.

  • Mr Obama||

    I would certainly veto any such bill.

  • ||

    ree cord me booy & ill open ur head like a ketchup pack.

  • ||

    like a ketchup pack.

    With considerable difficulty? (Fat sausage fingers.)

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    He's got no problem opening it, just can't do it neatly. Smash or shoot it and it'll be open in no time.

  • GroundTruth||

    The problem with the law is you know who will pay the fine: the police deparment, which is to say, the taxpayer!

  • Russ 2000||

    The Koch brothers make their money the old fashioned way. They start companies and if they don't turn a profit they close them or sell them. Democrats and Republicans simply can't understand such radical behavior.

  • Russ 2000||

    How the fuck did I get onto this thread?

  • Yur Dixie Cup Crazy||

  • Jim||

    Well, gratz to Team Blue for doing something not horrible. I'm sure I'll become disillusioned again within the hour.

  • Almanian||

    Score one for Looney. Well done.

  • JB||

    "But he won't be punished, either."

    Cop's house + 3am + molotov cocktail.

    Sounds like appropriate punishment to me.

  • Frank||

    Too far, too fast. Break all his windows as a warning, first.

  • Number 2||

    Just bear in mind, sadly, that lawsuits against police officers in many states are really lawsuits against the taxpayers, as many states have laws or labor contracts indemnifying police officers for damages they incur "in the line of duty" and requiring their employers (i.e., you and me) to provide them with lawyers at the employers' expense. That's why private lawsuits such as what Looney is proposing are often of little help. The cops are playing with your money.

  • ||

    That's fine. Then maybe the tax-payers/voters of those cities and states will get the fucking message after a few multi-million dollar lawsuits too many. They might figure out, sooner or later, that it's a little more cost-effective to employ more stringent conduct guidelines and go after agents of the state personally for violations of said guidelines. If the voters/taxpayers don't get the fucking message, they deserve all the fiscal insolvency that a department full of corrupt and abusive pigs can bring them.

  • ||

    ALL STATE WORKERS ARE PLAYING WITH OUR MONEY!
    It has already been spent, we might as well enjoy it...

  • bungmunger||

    The FOP is going to have a shit fit, Fuck those nazis. It'd be great if this law was introduced and enacted at the federal level.

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

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