Police

USA Today Editorial on Recording the Police

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Strong editorial from USA Today. Riffing off the Anthony Graber arrest in Maryland, the paper opines:

This is an abuse of prosecutorial authority and a misinterpretation of state law. But it's typical of the attitude of too many prosecutors and police toward people who record their encounters with law enforcement and are usually completely within their rights to do so.

Websites that monitor these cases have posted stories from around the country of police ordering people to stop videotaping or photographing them, sometimes violently. Most of the time, the police apparently either don't understand the law or are deliberately misstating it to bully people into putting away their cameras or cellphones…

The opposing editorial from the International Union of Police Organizations is actually pretty tepid. It doesn't come out in favor of or in opposition to these arrest, but warns that citizen videos can be misleading or falsified. Of course, that's true of police dash cam and surveillance videos too. Or for that matter, police reports. I also interviewed a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police last week. That organization takes a harder line against citizen videos.

Meanwhile, here's another account of a citizen who was harassed for photographing cops, this time in Washington, D.C.

So, there I was cigar in hand with camera in tote. I was walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, in the Georgetown section of the District of Columbia. After a fun and fulfilled day of taking pictures in DC, I was heading home and observed a traffic stop. I put out my cigar and started to take pictures from across the street.

I was to take a few shots and move on, but that's not what happened, far from that. I was asked for "security reasons" why I was taking pictures. I told the officer that I just was getting pictures of the traffic stop for a collection, he asked for ID and in return I asked "am I being detained or am I free to leave" after dancing around the question, he finally stated that I was free to go. As he walked away another officer stated that I was being detained and that I needed to provide identification. She told me to put me camera away and stop recoding.

I was told by 4 officers  that it is "illegal" to take pictures of people without prior consent on a public street, and unlawful to take pictures of the police with authorization from the DCPD PIO. That of course is false, in public people do not have an expectation of privacy.  I was also told that I could not "record people, you need permission first" and one officer was quick to say "you don't have mine". Whats funny is the officer that informed me that I could not record people, pulled out her camera phone and started to audio and video recorded me.

D.C. is a one-party consent jurisdiction. So there was no reasonable explanation for the cops to tell this guy he couldn't photograph or record them. By the time it was over, four cruisers and ten cops were on the scene . . . because a guy took some photos of a traffic stop. Frankly, it's not enough that he merely wasn't arrested. They tried to intimidate him into giving up his rights. I've written this before, but if citizens can't claim ignorance when they're cited for breaking the law, cops can't be be allowed to get away with trying to enforce laws that don't exist. It should be easy enough to identify these particular officers from the photographs. If the photographer's account is accurate, they ought to be disciplined.

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  1. I sent a question about recording police in WA state to the local paper’s blog. I’ll report back if they answer.

    1. We’ll be over for a chat. What kind of dog do you have?

      1. His name is Kevlar. Fire at Will!

        (Will is my next door neighbor)

        1. Why do I think your dog is really named Kevlar, your cat ricochet, and your kids near miss?

  2. Well, thank goodness bad cops are a tiny minority, and that good cops arriving on the scene quickly straightened everything out.

    What’s that? Every single cop on the scene participated in bullying a citizen so as to deprive him of his rights?

    Since good cops are supposed to be the vast majority, what are the odds that an apparently random collection of ten DC cops would contain not a single good cop?

    1. Why aren’t these police fired, as there is now documentary evidence that they are too stupid to know what the law is?
      Oh, there supervisors don’t care what the law is.

      You know, there used to be these people known as “liberals” typically of the domocratic persuasion, that would hold hearings, and maybe exert some pressure through the justice department, to hold local police accountable. Whatever happend to them??? (I hear tell they control both chambers of congress and hold the presidency).

      1. “Why aren’t these police fired, as there is now documentary evidence that they are too stupid to know what the law is?”

        Documentary evidence don’t mean shit.

  3. “So, there I was cigar in hand with camera in tote. I was walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, in the Georgetown section of the District of Columbia.”

    Pennsylvania Avenue dead ends into M Street just before Georgetown. This guy is either lying or is an idiot.

    Not that I don’t agree with him. But his story would have more credibility if he would get his facts right. He might as well have said, “I was walking up Park Avenue through Hell’s Kitchen. It sounds good if you have never been there, but any local would know you are talking nonsense.

    1. Maybe he meant Wisconsin and he’s just a mo-ran.

    2. Or perhaps, John, he’s not from DC and doesn’t know the intimate details of its neighborhoods and simply misspoke? Just a guess.

    3. No, John – Rock Creek Parkway is the eastern boundary of Georgetown. Pennsylvania Ave deadends at the Four Seasons past Rock Creek Park, and therefore is in Georgetown.

    4. Here is the intersection, judging from the landmarks in the pictures.

      Penn Ave. ends right there, so it’s easy to understand why he mentioned it.

      1. I don’t consider that Georgetown, I consider that Foggy Bottom. Georgetown, or at least the part of Georgetown everyone thinks of as being Georgetown, begins just west of there.

        1. It’s Georgetown, for all intents and purposes, John. Live with it, or go work for the Post Office, if it matters that much.

        2. I’d consider Rock Creek the border between the two.

    5. Pennsylvania goes into Georgetown. It merges with M right by the Four Seasons.

  4. It should be easy enough to identify these particular officers from the photographs. If the photographer’s account is accurate, they ought to be disciplined executed.

    Yeah. I’m hard corpse.

    1. Rigor mortis is a bitch, ain’t it?

    2. If the photographer’s account is accurate, they ought to be disciplined immediately fired and barred from any LE job anywhere up to and including mall security guard.

      FIFY

  5. By the time it was over, four cruisers and ten cops were on the scene . . . because a guy took some photos of a traffic stop

    This alone tells you so much about what the police have become. It’s one thing if they lied to him, and when he properly asserted his rights (which they clearly knew but lied), they went “eh” and let him go. The fact that they will escalate to such a degree over such a minor thing indicates that they will not brook any defiance whatsoever from a non-cop. They’ll waste everyone’s time (and taxpayer dollars) in a ridiculous attempt to to intimidate, and it doesn’t even sound like he photographed them doing anything that they should fear reprisals for (other than trying to intimidate him).

    It really seems like the cops are determined to make “photographing us is illegal” true in practice, even if it’s not in truth.

    1. What’s the matter, officer? What is it you always say, “If you aren’t doing anything wrong…”

    2. Hey, if I drag the stop out long enough, I get overtime.

      KA-CHING!!!!!

  6. If the photographer’s account is accurate, they ought to be disciplined.

    You’ll excuse me if I don’t hold my breath?

  7. This shit is almost enough to have me take up a hobby of serendipitously record as many police stops as possible, via very small and wearable video cameras and lenses and then post them on the web.

    I swear, if I had the time, I would.

    1. Surreptitiously.

      1. Well, that’s what I *thought* I typed. Thanks spell check.

        And when are we getting that damn preview button?

        1. Spell check does not help when you use the wrong word spelled correctly.

          Excuse FAIL!

  8. This guy is either lying or is an idiot.

    Or he knows his audience. “Georgetown” makes white people care what you say next.

  9. And then he should have said, “Don’t you clowns have anything better to do?”

    Oh, the fun you’d have.

  10. You’d be surprised how quickly a cop backs it down a notch when you flash a press pass. (Not always. But usually.)
    I think every citizen should carry a press pass. You are all hereby deputized as official Citizen Nothing stringers. Go in peace.

    1. Isn’t there a law that forbids impersonating a journalist?

      1. Citizen Nothing in jail, do you?

  11. Radley (or anyone who can answer this)-

    Is there a state-by-state reference guide where I can check what the precise laws are in my state? I want to know exactly what the law in North Carolina is if I get the urge to record on-duty police officers.

  12. By the time it was over, four cruisers and ten cops were on the scene . . . because a guy took some photos of a traffic stop.

    That’s not quite right. He was asked for identification for taking pictures. He was harassed and detained by ten cops for not bending over, spreading his cheeks and saying “Help yourself Officer”.

  13. “It was a mercy killing. The perp was obviously an insane psychopath; he disrespected us.”

  14. As he walked away another officer stated that I was being detained and that I needed to provide identification.

    “On what grounds am I being detained, officer? What law are you accusing me of breaking?”

    She told me to put me camera away and stop recoding.

    “What is your authority for ordering me to put my camera away and stop recording, officer? Is it illegal for me to record public employees going about their duties on a public street?”

  15. “Of course, that’s true of police dash cam and surveillance videos too. Or for that matter, police reports.”

    YOU LIE!

  16. Officer Dunphy is conspicuously absent/silent on this…

  17. here’s the thing, COPS ARE ALLOWED TO LIE! A cop can tell you any kind of made up shit they can think of. That’s why you have to know your rights. Your rights aren’t violated by them lying, it’s only when they arrest you on false pretenses that they can get in trouble. Of course you can’t lie to them or you’ll be seeing the inside of the jail.

  18. If the photographer’s account is accurate, they ought to be disciplined.

    No. They ought to lose their jobs. The actions of the officers aren’t mistakes of judgment, they are blatant abuse.

  19. So, does sovereign immunity apply if the cops are lying and ‘enforcing’ nonexistent laws? Can I then sue them personally? Because I have no problem with filing that lawsuit.

  20. The more I think about cops, the more attractive the Bush doctrine becomes.

  21. Crack policemen they have writing the editorials. From the article…

    “Videotapes frequently do not show what occurred before or after the camera was on”

    Geeze no kidding, you need to turn the camera on to record something on the tape?

  22. Well, if the cops are innocent, they have nothing to worry about, right?

    Right?

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