Friday, September 03, 2010

Keeping cops honest ~ By Phil Elmore

In Maryland, a man faces a staggering 16 years in prison after he posted a YouTube video of his interaction with a state trooper. The trooper, driving an unmarked car (in other words, not driving an obvious law-enforcement vehicle) and not wearing a uniform, cut in front of Anthony Graber (who is a Maryland Air National Guard sergeant), brandished a gun and yelled at Graber – all before identifying himself as a police officer.
Motorcycle traffic violation - Cop pulls out gun

Video provided by nikotyc

Phil Elmore brings up the rising number of state and local governments that are making the video taping of authorities - mainly police officers in the process of making an arrest - illegal. This opens up a number of questions. Will elected officials like Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) finally decide that they no longer want to be seen by the world on youtube? I am sure that Rep. Pete Stark thinks that could be done, being that he thinks the federal government can do anything it wants to:

Rep. Pete Stark at Town Hall Meeting in California

Video provided by MrOutarsingh

The Chicago Tribune asks, "Police record citizens. Why not the other way around?"
But then, sometimes when the police do get a good dash cam video, it is shared with the world and goes viral:

Full Length - Hawkeye OL Josh Koeppel Crash

Video provided by HawkeyeHitter

The point is, Big Brother has surveillance of We the People in place to keep an eye on us. Should we be restricted from being able to keep an eye on the police or any other public official? As long as people with video cams are not interfering with official police actions, there should be absolutely NO restrictions. I consider it a First Amendment right. It is the freedom of the press that has kept the government (supposedly) in line.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
We must have the ability to continue to monitor those in authority. Trying to use "wiretapping laws" as an excuse to prohibit the video camera from recording an incident is a big stretch, and it is doubtful that it would be considered Constitutional if tested in court. Just sayin'...
To preserve what remains of our free society, videotaping those in power when they operate in public (or in our homes) must be legal. It is the most effective way to help prevent abuses of power that would otherwise go unseen and unpunished. The danger presented to law-enforcement officers' safety, or to their efficacy as agents of our government, is negligible, in my opinion. The loss to every one of us should we give up the right to record police does far greater damage to society and to the individuals it comprises.

While I would never adopt the leftist, authoritarian attitude that, "If you've got nothing to hide you should welcome Big Brother looking over your shoulder for your own good," this isn't about public surveillance of free citizens. It's about providing a check on the otherwise unbridled power of law enforcement officers to abuse their considerable discretion when nobody is looking. It's about keeping honest the men and women who are empowered to exercise authority – and force in the name of authority – over their fellow free citizens. It's about watching the watchmen through the unblinking and unbiased eye of a camera lens.
Keeping cops honest
By Phil Elmore

Posted: September 02, 2010 ~ 1:00 am Eastern

© 2010

Recently, I watched an online "viral" video in which a protester holding an "Impeach Obama" sign was roughed up by security personnel at a state fair. While the protester certainly was manhandled, the force used might or might not have been justified. I pictured a jury at the man's trial watching the video as evidence. Did the man's actions warrant the force he received? Did he give the security officers provocation? What about the context for the incident? And what do the security people have to say about it all – the people who, when they saw they were being videotaped, asked the cameraman to shut off his machine?

To his credit, that cameraman's answer was an immediate and emphatic "No." He was not going to be bullied into letting those in authority do whatever they liked behind metaphorical closed doors. What that cameraman may not have thought to ask himself, however, is this: Could he be charged with a crime for recording the protester's arrest? Just what are the consequences for filming someone in public – specifically, for filming a police officer in public?

As the technology to record video becomes ever more accessible and less expensive, the prevalence of handheld video cameras (often in the form of wireless phones) has increased dramatically. Public surveillance by our government has increased, too, and we as Americans must contend with the shadow of Big Brother looming larger over us with each passing day. The good thing about video, however, is that it makes no judgments, provided it is not edited in bad faith or filmed from a compromising angle. A video of an incident tells the truth about what happened more accurately than any eyewitness can relate. So why are more and more law enforcement and government officials trying to make criminals of citizens who record encounters with police?

The Chicago Tribune asks, "Police record citizens. Why not the other way around?" The Tribune story points out that Chicago has one of the largest networks of surveillance cameras in the country. In Illinois, however, it's illegal to record the police – even if you're trying to gather evidence of police wrongdoing. If you try it, you could be arrested and charged with a felony. This is because in Illinois both parties must consent to the recording of a conversation ... unless one of those parties is a police officer.

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