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DVSmith
08-05-2010, 11:17 AM
Wednesday, Aug. 04, 2010

Should Videotaping the Police Really Be a Crime?

By Adam Cohen

Anthony Graber, a Maryland Air National Guard staff sergeant, faces up to 16 years in prison. His crime? He videotaped his March encounter with a state trooper who pulled him over for speeding on a motorcycle. Then Graber put the video which could put the officer in a bad light up on YouTube.

It doesn't sound like much. But Graber is not the only person being slapped down by the long arm of the law for the simple act of videotaping the police in a public place. Prosecutors across the U.S. claim the videotaping violates wiretap laws a stretch, to put it mildly.

These days, it's not hard to see why police are wary of being filmed. In 1991, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) beating of Rodney King was captured on video by a private citizen. It was shown repeatedly on television and caused a national uproar. As a result, four LAPD officers were put on trial, and when they were not convicted, riots broke out, leaving more than 50 people dead and thousands injured (two officers were later convicted on federal civil rights charges). (See TIME's special: "15 Years After Rodney King.")

More recently, a New York Police Department officer was thrown off the force and convicted of filing a false report because of a video of his actions at a bicycle rally in Times Square. The officer can plainly be seen going up to a man on a bike and shoving him to the ground. The officer claimed the cyclist was trying to collide with him, and in the past, it might have been hard to disprove the police account. But this time there was an amateur video of the encounter which quickly became an Internet sensation, viewed more than 3 million times on YouTube alone. (Read about the hidden side of the NYPD.)

In the Graber case, the trooper also apparently had reason to want to keep his actions off the Internet. He cut Graber off in an unmarked vehicle, approached Graber in plain clothes and yelled while brandishing a gun before identifying himself as a trooper. (Comment on this story.)

Back when King was beaten, it was unusual for bystanders to have video cameras. But today, everyone is a moviemaker. Lots of people carry video cameras in their pockets, on iPhones, BlackBerrys and even their MP3 players. They also have an easy distribution system: the Internet. A video can get millions of viewers worldwide if it goes viral, bouncing from blog to blog, e-mail to e-mail, and Facebook friend to Facebook friend. (See photos from inside Facebook's headquarters.)

No wonder, then, that civil rights groups have embraced amateur videos. Last year, the NAACP announced an initiative in which it encouraged ordinary citizens to tape police misconduct with their cell phones and send the videos to the group's website, www.naacp.org.

Law enforcement is fighting back. In the case of Graber a young husband and father who had never been arrested the police searched his residence and seized computers. Graber spent 26 hours in jail even before facing the wiretapping charges that could conceivably put him away for 16 years. (It is hard to believe he will actually get anything like that, however. One point on his side: the Maryland attorney general's office recently gave its opinion that a court would likely find that the wiretap law does not apply to traffic stops.)

Last year, Sharron Tasha Ford was arrested in Florida for videotaping an encounter between the police and her son on a public sidewalk. She was never prosecuted, but in June, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida sued the city of Boynton Beach on her behalf, claiming false arrest and violation of her First Amendment rights.

The legal argument prosecutors rely on in police video cases is thin. They say the audio aspect of the videos violates wiretap laws because, in some states, both parties to a conversation must consent to having a private conversation recorded. The hole in their argument is the word "private." A police officer arresting or questioning someone on a highway or street is not having a private conversation. He is engaging in a public act.

Even if these cases do not hold up in court, the police can do a lot of damage just by threatening to arrest and prosecute people. "We see a fair amount of intimidation police saying, 'You can't do that. It's illegal,'" says Christopher Calabrese, a lawyer with the ACLU's Washington office. It discourages people from filming, he says, even when they have the right to film.

Ford was not deterred. According to her account, even when the police threatened her with arrest, she refused to turn off her video camera, telling her son not to worry because "it's all on video" and "let them be who they continue to be."

The police then grabbed her, she said, took her camera and drove her off to the police station for booking.

Most people are not so game for a fight with the police. They just stop filming. These are the cases no one finds out about, in which there is no arrest or prosecution, but the public's freedoms have nevertheless been eroded.

Ford was right to insist on her right to videotape police actions that occur in public, and others should too. If the police are doing their jobs properly, they should have nothing to worry about.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2008566,00.html

Stonewalker
08-05-2010, 11:36 AM
This is great, the more press this issue gets the better. More citizens are becoming aware of the constitutional rights.

socal2310
08-05-2010, 11:38 AM
I know. I came across the same FUD spread by an instructor at the Ventura County Police and Sheriff's Reserve Officer Academy. Police are allowed (indeed, we were told that those of us who got signed on ought) to record all encounters with the public, but that it was against the law for the public to record police. Of course, it occurs to me now that the instructor who made that claim neglected to point to the P.C.

I wasn't about to argue with the instructor on that point in class and I haven't cared enough since then to say anything.

Ryan

pitchbaby
08-05-2010, 11:45 AM
WOW, good on Time Magazine!

ZirconJohn
08-05-2010, 11:48 AM
Great article... thanks for posting that :thumbsup:

libertyordeath
08-05-2010, 3:57 PM
Yes thanks for posting because we as Americans do not use are voice they are to continue. To violate are rights and take them away it angers me to see this type of abuse.

They are PUBLIC SERVANTS and not gods they need to be held accountable and the greatest weapon they fear is not a gun but a citizen who knows there rights with a videocamera we can't. Keep letting corruption continue.

Not only do they infringe are rights they posin are water and air and food. Off subject in news they want to start putting lithium in are drinking water saying to help from getting anger and no more stress exactly what they want so can't get upset and fight for are rights.

You guys need to check out INFOWARS.com because the fight is just not about the 2nd A
but all the rest of the other things there trying to do censor internet,force vaccinations it's disgusting.

GOD BLESS and don't loose heart are kids and there kids depend on us.

Maestro Pistolero
08-05-2010, 4:50 PM
As 1st amendment cases go, this one is at most a half-brainer. Only a matter of time before that law as applied to videotaping police is gone. And good riddance.

joedogboy
08-05-2010, 4:54 PM
Police are allowed (indeed, we were told that those of us who got signed on ought) to record all encounters with the public, but that it was against the law for the public to record police.

If the law says that both parties must be informed or consent, then it needs to be applied to both parties, or not applied at all.

Since public employees work for us, it is perfectly reasonable for us to record our employees performing their jobs - "for quality control purposes".

Wherryj
08-05-2010, 4:59 PM
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2008566,00.html

So...Let me get this straight. The POLICE say that they CAN'T be recorded because it is an illegal wiretap if BOTH parties don't agree to being taped...

However, the POLICE CAN tape EVERYONE without said agreement to recording WITHOUT it being an illegal wiretap?

I'm confused. I suspect that there are lawyers somewhere that may feel the same way.

Uxi
08-05-2010, 5:01 PM
yeah, this is another one of those times when I don't mind quoting Ice-T.

Uxi
08-05-2010, 5:04 PM
Also sounds like it should be prosecutorial misconduct (if it isn't already).

jaymz
08-06-2010, 11:52 AM
yeah, this is another one of those times when I don't mind quoting Ice-T.

I nominate this for stupid quote of the day.:rolleyes:
If cops advocated killing citizens as you are advocating killing cops, your panties would be knotted so tight that your grandkids would hurt.

DisgruntledReaper
08-06-2010, 12:09 PM
Hell yes cops should be video taped, specially if there is a known individual who seems to have a consistently high intimidation or 'i am god' complex...

I have thought about carrying a vid camera or at least a voice recorder and plainly state ,'this is being recorded for educational and quality purposes'

--regarding a camera...have 2- one in plain sight and then a real small one somewhere else---that way even if they strong arm you into stopping,the other camera still records the 'after crud'
I would sue their butts off if they would arrest me for vidding....you are in PUBLIC ....

yellowfin
08-06-2010, 12:54 PM
yeah, this is another one of those times when I don't mind quoting Ice-T. He does a really good job on Law and Order, but I can't say I remember any of his lines offhand.

Uxi
08-06-2010, 1:02 PM
I'm just thinking "f' the police" not cop killin'.

I think the cops would get wiped out by the military if they tried that, though, jaymz. :D

jaymz
08-06-2010, 1:03 PM
I'm pretty sure he's speaking of his song "Cop Killer" from back in the day.

Minute too late - clarified above.

Uxi
08-06-2010, 1:14 PM
Guess I could have been more clear. Sorry.

nobody_special
08-06-2010, 1:37 PM
I'd expect any law to be held unconstitutional if it forbids audio and/or video recording in a public place where there is no expectation of privacy. This is a straightforward freedom of the press issue.

RomanDad
08-06-2010, 2:29 PM
I'd expect any law to be held unconstitutional if it forbids audio and/or video recording in a public place where there is no expectation of privacy. This is a straightforward freedom of the press issue.

yup

Bhobbs
08-06-2010, 3:34 PM
Funny how they want a law that protects police officers for being caught committing crimes.

joedogboy
08-06-2010, 3:52 PM
Funny how they want a law that protects police officers for being caught committing crimes.

Criminal, not funny.

BigDogatPlay
08-06-2010, 3:55 PM
A public employee, in a public place and doing the public's business has no REP so far as I am concerned. And just as soon as a state like Maryland comes to Jesus and understands that they can't have it both ways (dash cams in police cars, but a citizen can not tape a LEO conducting business in a public place) the better off every one will be.

The law does not pass either constitutional muster or a smell test.... IMO.

Veggie
08-06-2010, 4:35 PM
I knew exactly what you meant Uxi :p

joedogboy
08-06-2010, 5:03 PM
The difference comes down to this:

Sometimes you do things in public that you wish you had kept private.

Nobody wants to see their self on a video acting in an unprofessional manner. If you have power, it is tempting to abuse that power to keep the video from being shown.

Monte
08-06-2010, 5:48 PM
Here's a bit of news in the Anthony Graber case, btw:
http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2010/08/06/maryland-attorney-general-sides-with-anthony-graber/

jl123
08-06-2010, 5:56 PM
I'm just thinking "f' the police" not cop killin'.

I think the cops would get wiped out by the military if they tried that, though, jaymz. :D

Wasn't F the Police NWA?

NSFW for sure:
1M8vei3L0L8

Sgt Raven
08-06-2010, 6:09 PM
The difference comes down to this:
"All animals are equal, but some are more equal."


Fixed. :rolleyes:

socal2310
08-06-2010, 6:38 PM
If the law says that both parties must be informed or consent, then it needs to be applied to both parties, or not applied at all.

Since public employees work for us, it is perfectly reasonable for us to record our employees performing their jobs - "for quality control purposes".

Which is why I called the statement FUD. If you are one of the participating parties, the wiretapping statute doesn't apply even if the event takes place out of the public eye. If it happens in public it should be a no brainer and I would go so far as to say that no statute ought to protect them from surveillance any time they are on duty.

Ryan