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Author Topic: Taping the police
G2
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A little something for everyone here.
quote:
In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.

Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.

The legal justification for arresting the "shooter" rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested.

Case in point:
quote:
On March 5, 24-year-old Anthony John Graber III's motorcycle was pulled over for speeding. He is currently facing criminal charges for a video he recorded on his helmet-mounted camera during the traffic stop.

The case is disturbing because:

1) Graber was not arrested immediately. Ten days after the encounter, he posted some of he material to YouTube, and it embarrassed Trooper J. D. Uhler. The trooper, who was in plainclothes and an unmarked car, jumped out waving a gun and screaming. Only later did Uhler identify himself as a police officer. When the YouTube video was discovered the police got a warrant against Graber, searched his parents' house (where he presumably lives), seized equipment, and charged him with a violation of wiretapping law.

2) Baltimore criminal defense attorney Steven D. Silverman said he had never heard of the Maryland wiretap law being used in this manner. In other words, Maryland has joined the expanding trend of criminalizing the act of recording police abuse. Silverman surmises, "It's more [about] ‘contempt of cop' than the violation of the wiretapping law."

3) Police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley is defending the pursuit of charges against Graber, denying that it is "some capricious retribution" and citing as justification the particularly egregious nature of Graber's traffic offenses. Oddly, however, the offenses were not so egregious as to cause his arrest before the video appeared.

And:
quote:
In 2001, when Michael Hyde was arrested for criminally violating the state's electronic surveillance law - aka recording a police encounter - the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld his conviction 4-2.
The police have recording devices in the cars and sometimes on them. Security cameras are ubiquitous. G2, not having consented to these recordings, wonders if they are breaking the law too?

Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland ... strong Democrat areas. Why there? This is typically something the Democrats get pretty worked up over but in practice it seems it went 180 degrees the other way. [Confused] See how it works:
quote:
A few weeks ago, an Illinois judge rejected a motion to dismiss an eavesdropping charge against Christopher Drew, who recorded his own arrest for selling one-dollar artwork on the streets of Chicago. Although the misdemeanor charges of not having a peddler's license and peddling in a prohibited area were dropped, Drew is being prosecuted for illegal recording, a Class I felony punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.
Drew went from misdemeanor to felony. Now, he was looking to create a confrontation with police to test the Chicago peddlers license law. Maybe he was a bit of an ass? Maybe, so what? Tag him with the misdemeanor then. Civil disobedience has its price. But a Class I felony and a 4 year minimum? Just for recording a public interaction with the police? That is bull****.


It's not everywhere yet:
quote:
At least one Pennsylvania jurisdiction has reaffirmed the right to video in public places. As part of a settlement with ACLU attorneys who represented an arrested "shooter," the police in Spring City and East Vincent Township adopted a written policy allowing the recording of on-duty policemen.
Kind of a small oasis ...

[ June 04, 2010, 09:12 AM: Message edited by: G2 ]

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philnotfil
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This has been an interesting issue to follow. I don't see how the courts are ruling in favor of the police on this one, but they are, and the police have been pretty active in moving forward with it.
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Pete at Home
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Cop lobbies will probably fight this with everything they have. If the public was shown how flagrantly many cops lie, and how easily they get away from it (jurisdictions that elect judges create a situation where a judge can't get elected without the endorsement from the police), it might really shake things up.
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Stevarooni
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An on-duty cop, especially out in public, should have no expectation of privacy, especially in the performance of his duties. If he's getting a call from his wife...well, the fact that he's getting calls throughout his shift might be relevant, but the content of those calls wouldn't be. Is it really so difficult?
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Cop lobbies will probably fight this with everything they have. If the public was shown how flagrantly many cops lie, and how easily they get away from it (jurisdictions that elect judges create a situation where a judge can't get elected without the endorsement from the police), it might really shake things up.

Yeah- and since they have a heck of a lot of sway in urban area, it's not surprising that that's where we're seeing such rulings.

This is a really important fight to win- the cellphone camera is probably the most revolutionary tool that we've ever developed when it comes to checks that citizens have on law enforcement abusing its power, and we need strong legal precedents, if not clear laws, that protect the freedom to use them as such.

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Viking_Longship
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quote:
llinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland ... strong Democrat areas. Why there? This is typically something the Democrats get pretty worked up over but in practice it seems it went 180 degrees the other way. [Confused] See how it works:
If only party affiliation really told us that much. All also areas with large urban areas with powerful cop lobbies.
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G2
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powerful cop lobbies = unions. That's traditionally a Democrat thing. In states that are Democrat strongholds. G2 can't quite put his finger on it but there's something interesting in states and organizations that are run by those that typically challenge such things but end up having them become the standard there. Yeah, this is a national thing but G2 would have expected those states to be a the tail of this rather than leading it.

Anybody got theories as to why it went the way it did?

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cherrypoptart
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Democrats want to control people and every aspect of their lives and that's harder to do with people recording the actions of the police?

I'll admit it's stereotypical but you do have to wonder why this is coming out of Chicago and Massachusetts and not Texas and Alaska.

------------------------------------------

I remember Linda Tripp almost getting into big trouble over her illegal recording of conversations, but those illegal recordings were the only thing that kept her from getting into big trouble such as being the victim of a lawsuit for slander or maybe even getting put in prison for perjury. It's a terrible idea to make it illegal to defend yourself, whether that's with the 2nd Amendment or recording your interactions with others.

I like our Texas laws where if I'm not mistaken only the consent of one of the parties in an interaction is required for it to be recorded, and that is usually you. I think that perhaps an extension of that would be useful for this cop thing, and I haven't thought about it for long so can be persuaded to change my mind, but you should be able to record interactions with the police when you are personally involved or you have the consent of someone who is, and that consent would be implied if you know the person or especially if you have gotten their permission by having a previous conversation about it. Also, if there is some fortuitous nature about the encounter then it could also be permissable, BUT following the cops around recording their every action may be going too far. Who's really going to want to work under those conditions? That's more like stalking. So perhaps there is some room for compromise.

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LetterRip
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cherrypoptart,

quote:
Democrats want to control people and every aspect of their lives and that's harder to do with people recording the actions of the police?

I'll admit it's stereotypical but you do have to wonder why this is coming out of Chicago and Massachusetts and not Texas and Alaska.

Democrats tend to argue strongly to have police accountability and oversight to prevent abuses, pretty sure it is the Republican stereotype that argues that such oversight is unnecessarily burdensome (the police are the good guys and would never abuse their authority) and might prevent the police from stopping the terrorists, and hence all oversight should be eliminated and/or severely curtailed.

I tend to agree with your suggestions regarding recording of your own interactions. Indeed I think recording of any interactions of the police with anyone should be permissible.

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RickyB
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Nice, so the Rodney King incident would never have been taped, and if taped not shown, and the taper prosecuted.

FOCK THE POLICE AND YEAH, I SAID IT WITH AUTHORITY.

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Greg Davidson
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I believe that this issue pertains both to cameras at traffic lights as well as video-recording police conduct, and in both cases I am in favor of allowing a digital recording of actual events to be made. The one need for caution is in the selective release of such images, the Rodney King being an excellent example (the prior 3 minutes of King's behavior put at least some context onto the police conduct that occurred in the remaining time that was the entirety of what was shown on television).
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PSRT
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I think all police interactions should be recorded. I'm not sure it would be difficult or expensive to put audio/video recording devices into a police officer's badge, and store that information somewhere.
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hobsen
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The above is an interesting suggestion, and new technology may make it possible. Of course it would do nothing to improve police departments which are fundamentally corrupt, but it might help responsible ones control rogue cops, and protect good officers from unjust accusations.

[ June 05, 2010, 08:17 PM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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PSRT
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quote:
Of course it would do nothing to improve police departments which are fundamentally corrupt,
It would if police interactions were only valid if that recorded information matched up with police officers accounts. Since information doesn't necessarily need to be stored on site, even a corrupt police department could find itself hamstrung.

And this technology is available now, its not something that might be available someday in the future.

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LoverOfJoy
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Recording devices small enough to put on a badge exist now but I'm not sure if batteries exist at that size to last a full day's shift.

Would it record to a hard drive worn by the cop or would it be sending the feed wirelessly to be stored in a remote center?

Both options seem to have problems. Hard drives could be damaged or tampered with. Wireless signals will further drain battery life and could pose a problem of alerting criminals of approaching officers.

I imagine both options' problems have solutions already available but my guess is that it would be prohibitively expensive right now.

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PSRT
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It doesn't really need to last a full shift. The recording device could be turned on every time the officer approached a person. Nor does it necessarily need to be inside a badge. I believe some European jurisdictions are already experimenting with something like this.
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Mariner
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quote:
I think all police interactions should be recorded. I'm not sure it would be difficult or expensive to put audio/video recording devices into a police officer's badge, and store that information somewhere.
Agree 100%, and that's something I advocated back during the Harvard professor and the "acting stupidly" dustup. There's no reason they can't carry an audio recording device and use it at all confrontations. The storage space shouldn't be a problem. And it would protect cops too from false allegations. Frankly, I can't see a downside. Well, I could for corrupt police forces, but needless to say I don't care if they have a problem with it [Smile]

And yeah, there's no reason that police, performing their public duty, should have any privacy. These wiretapping laws go too far in these situations IMO.

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stayne
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The very suggestion that police cannot be recorded by citizens in public is one of the very rare cases where one can invoke Naziism in a threat without Godwin being brought up. This is tyranny, plain and simple.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by PSRT:
I think all police interactions should be recorded. I'm not sure it would be difficult or expensive to put audio/video recording devices into a police officer's badge, and store that information somewhere.

It wouldn't do much good, unless you were able to either make it actively public or put a fully independent third party in charge of it that was obligated to release it on request and could not be affected by court rulings.

As it stands right now recordings are made in many situations, but the police very often refuse to release them when conduct is in question, and, as with the the rulings above, tend to have the influence to stop the courts from demanding that they release them.

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G2
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:
Democrats tend to argue strongly to have police accountability and oversight to prevent abuses...

That is G2's point. So why, in Democrat strongholds and from traditionally Democrat organizations, is this going 180 degrees out of step with that? If the Democrats argue this way, wouldn't you have expected that states where Democrats have held power for a generation to *not* be the ones leading the effort to eliminate this taping?

cherrypoptart argues this is about totalitarian control the democrats want to enable. You say it's the republicans that try to do such a thing. Looking at actions instead of words, it seems cherrypoptart may be on to something although G2 thinks it's misleading to imply it's only the Democrats doing it.

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Viking_Longship
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quote:
Originally posted by G2:
quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:
Democrats tend to argue strongly to have police accountability and oversight to prevent abuses...

That is G2's point. So why, in Democrat strongholds and from traditionally Democrat organizations, is this going 180 degrees out of step with that? If the Democrats argue this way, wouldn't you have expected that states where Democrats have held power for a generation to *not* be the ones leading the effort to eliminate this taping?

cherrypoptart argues this is about totalitarian control the democrats want to enable. You say it's the republicans that try to do such a thing. Looking at actions instead of words, it seems cherrypoptart may be on to something although G2 thinks it's misleading to imply it's only the Democrats doing it.

Perhaps these laws were in response to specfic incedences of the targeting of police for retrobution by criminals?

Partisan rheotic is not much of a guide to how the members of said parties behave when in power.

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Dave at Work
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This topic reminds me of a book which a former forum member wanted more of us to read. "The Transparent Society" by David Brin. The forum member was WarrsawPact.
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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by Viking_Longship:
Partisan rheotic is not much of a guide to how the members of said parties behave when in power.

True enough, thankfully both parties tend to move toward the middle once in power.
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