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Smile, You're On Camera
May 18, 2012 2:42 AM   Subscribe

As police departments around the country are increasingly caught up in tussles with members of the public who record their activities, the U.S. Justice Department has come out with a strong statement supporting the First Amendment right of individuals to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties.
In a surprising letter sent on Monday to attorneys for the Baltimore Police Department, the Justice Department also strongly asserted that officers who seize and destroy such recordings without a warrant or without due process are in strict violation of the individual’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
posted by veedubya (100 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's good. The DOJ also prosecuted a cop who raped a woman who called 911. The local DA didn't do anything at all.

It would be nice to see action against cops who destroy cameras, or otherwise hassle people who film. I don't know what kind of federal laws they could use though (In the rape case, they had to charge him with "civil rights violations" rather then rape - since most laws are state laws, not federal)
posted by delmoi at 3:01 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


A handsome Spanish banker educated at elite institutions stroked his stubble whilst watching the news. "You know," he said, "things will not get better until someone important does something that is correct."

Finally, Someone Important Has Done Something That Is Correct.
posted by nickrussell at 3:04 AM on May 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm...really out of practice reacting to positive civil liberties news.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:06 AM on May 18, 2012 [130 favorites]


Yay!

Is that how you show approval?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:06 AM on May 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Good start, don't lose momentum on this one. It is really important.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:09 AM on May 18, 2012


Good.

I'm...really out of practice reacting to positive civil liberties news.

Me too. What's the catch?
posted by chillmost at 3:10 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wonder how many people will be "falling down" or "accidentally dropping" their cameras from now on.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:11 AM on May 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


The catch is that Baltimore PD don't give no fucks, if I am to believe what I've seen on The Wire.
posted by WhitenoisE at 3:28 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I need to make a camera app which doesn't actually delete the file, just notes the time at which file deletion was attempted and carries on recording silently. That would be useful.
posted by jaduncan at 3:45 AM on May 18, 2012 [47 favorites]


They had just given the suspect the full Rodney King treatment. The suspect was lying cuffed and unconscious on the ground.

The sergeant picked up the camera, pulled out the SD card and chucked the camera in the trunk of his squad car. He turned to his fellow officers and said, "I didn't see no fucking camera. Did any of you guys see a camera?"

They all agreed that they had never seen any fucking camera.
posted by double block and bleed at 3:47 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The sergeant picked up the camera, pulled out the SD card and chucked the camera in the trunk of his squad car. He turned to his fellow officers and said, "I didn't see no fucking camera. Did any of you guys see a camera?"

They all agreed that they had never seen any fucking camera.

The live stream to the cloud is likely to be embarrassing then.
posted by jaduncan at 3:49 AM on May 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Custoditi!
posted by adoarns at 4:01 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


The live stream to the cloud is likely to be embarrassing then.

If we can get live streaming as a standard or easy option for everyday people I guess the issue will quickly become moot, eh? World changing very fast now.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:09 AM on May 18, 2012


The live stream to the cloud is likely to be embarrassing then.

Yeah, I wonder about that. I'm really, really glad to see the DoJ stand up for our right to record police officers. But at the same time, all I keep thinking about is everything between the DNC '68 and UC Davis and wonder what good live, photographic and video evidence even does when the justice system is still really reluctant to prosecute and sentence cops who are clearly and demonstrably violating the law.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:13 AM on May 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


Yeah, I wonder about that. I'm really, really glad to see the DoJ stand up for our right to record police officers. But at the same time, all I keep thinking about is everything between the DNC '68 and UC Davis and wonder what good live, photographic and video evidence even does when the justice system is still really reluctant to prosecute and sentence cops who are clearly and demonstrably violating the law.

Then that's the next fight. But embarrassing/incriminating videos tend to be an incredible leap forward from he said she said when one party is a cop, and certainly set up potentially expensive civil actions.
posted by jaduncan at 4:31 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait, let me get this straight. A current U.S. government organization came out in support of citizens' rights?That's just... weird.
posted by nowhere man at 4:32 AM on May 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ayy! Wait no... let me try that again... Yya! Shoot, getting closer but not right quite yet. I'll get it next time.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:34 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yay that they're doing this, but that fact that they need to do this is pretty sad.
But still, even baby steps in the right direction are better than standing still.
posted by Karmeliet at 4:44 AM on May 18, 2012


This is how to fix America. Do the right thing and people will start to have faith in the system again.
posted by DU at 4:49 AM on May 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Huzzah, common sense and civil liberties prevail!
(Huzzah is still what the kids are saying these days, right?)
posted by MrBobaFett at 4:50 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Huzzah is still what the kids are saying these days, right?)

I believe it is "huzzizzle" nowadays.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 4:55 AM on May 18, 2012 [24 favorites]


This seems like it's in trade for further security measures and government freedom to expand surveillance.
posted by parmanparman at 5:00 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone who has been interfered with and even collared and threatened with arrest while
committing journalism this news is nice but it's not going to do much out in the real world. It just means cops will be making more "interfering with an investigation" arrests so the person with the camera can be locked up in the back of a car while they go about abusing power.

Not until journalists and members of the public start taking their civil rights seriously and suing police depts civily will things change.
posted by photoslob at 5:04 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Section C of the actual DOJ letter (which I hope we're all reading and not just the blog post that gave us the gist of it) expands upon the "interfering" language.
posted by Gator at 5:11 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hip Hip Hooray!
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:12 AM on May 18, 2012


IIRC, aren't a lot of state trooper vehicles equipped with cameras already?
posted by jonmc at 5:16 AM on May 18, 2012


Cynicism aside, it's hard to see who loses in this kind of scenario. The citizen is better empowered, the police operate under greater scrutiny and are thus (to whatever degree) encouraged to behave in a professional, appropriate way, and the courts have better evidence and are more likely to prosecute 'over-zealous' member of the police force. Anything that justifiably increases public trust in the law and its agents is a gain for society; any society that doesn't have this kind of right to record police activity probably has something to hide.
posted by pipeski at 5:27 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's a step in the right direction. I like that DoJ letter anticipates and addresses some of the potential shady work-arounds like applying loitering and hindering charges.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 5:28 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cautious and qualified huzzizzle!
posted by kengraham at 5:31 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think this is an interesting move in the context of how policing (in the US as well as elsewhere) is moving towards increased use of drones, remote sensing, satellite tracking, and other intrusive technologies. Is this just a goose-sauce/gander-sauce thing, where I'm legal to record an individual encounter with a police officer, while they are legal to track me 24/7 and use imaging devices to peer through the walls of my house?

If so, that's a crappy deal.
posted by Forktine at 5:35 AM on May 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Is this just a goose-sauce/gander-sauce thing, where I'm legal to record an individual encounter with a police officer, while they are legal to track me 24/7 and use imaging devices to peer through the walls of my house?

"Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers. To achieve this, it is at once too much and too little that the prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector: too little, for what matters is that he knows himself to be observed; too much, because he has no need in fact of being so. In view of this, Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so. In order to make the presence or absence of the inspector unverifiable, so that the prisoners, in their cells, cannot even see a shadow, Bentham envisaged not only venetian blinds on the windows of the central observation hall, but, on the inside, partitions that intersected the hall at right angles and, in order to pass from one quarter to the other, not doors but zig-zag openings; for the slightest noise, a gleam of light, a brightness in a half-opened door would betray the presence of the guardian. The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen."

Foucault, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison
posted by jaduncan at 5:39 AM on May 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


The citizen is better empowered, the police operate under greater scrutiny and are thus (to whatever degree) encouraged to behave in a professional, appropriate way, and the courts have better evidence and are more likely to prosecute 'over-zealous' member of the police force.

And World's Wildest Police Videos gets enough footage for another 15 seasons!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:54 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I need to make a camera app which doesn't actually delete the file, just notes the time at which file deletion was attempted and carries on recording silently. That would be useful.

While it won't help if you're out of cell range, an android phone with the Google+ app will automagically and immediately upload any photo you snap directly to your Google account.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:05 AM on May 18, 2012


Maryland requires two-party consent to record as Linda Tripp found out. Frankly, police departments need more of their own cameras, not less recording by the public.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:10 AM on May 18, 2012


Fuck yeah. Eat it, cops.
posted by spitbull at 6:12 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is such shocking and unexpected good news that I'm finding myself waiting for the other shoe to drop. What's it going to be? We're allowed to film cops, they'll be allowed to ask us why we keep punching ourselves?
posted by Ghidorah at 6:20 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Cynicism aside, it's hard to see who loses in this kind of scenario. The citizen is better empowered, the police operate under greater scrutiny and are thus (to whatever degree) encouraged to behave in a professional, appropriate way, and the courts have better evidence and are more likely to prosecute 'over-zealous' member of the police force.

Bad cops and departments who wish to retain the right to abuse at will. You might see this as a feature rather than a bug; a police captain firefighting to keep his officers out of the news may well not.

I feel I should clarify in this context that I do not mean literal firefighting. But hey captains, saving a life with literal helpful firefighting would be a great feel-good story for at least a couple of news cycles.
posted by jaduncan at 6:34 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then that's the next fight. But embarrassing/incriminating videos tend to be an incredible leap forward from he said she said when one party is a cop, and certainly set up potentially expensive civil actions.

That they do. Again, I'm not trying to deflate this ruling, which is really fantastic news. I'm hoping this is a momentum that carries into the courts, is all.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:39 AM on May 18, 2012


This is especially interesting to me given that we're about to have a NATO weekend here in Chicago.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:44 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Now that's my kind of DOJ! Holder--more of this, please!
posted by saulgoodman at 6:44 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


That they do. Again, I'm not trying to deflate this ruling, which is really fantastic news. I'm hoping this is a momentum that carries into the courts, is all.

Alternatively, it's a momentum that could lead to police efforts to find methods or environments that discourage recording and photography. And I have abundant faith in the creativity of law enforcement in that regard.

If Chicago cops get sound cannons, who's to say they don't get EMP weapons to disable all nearby electronic equipment?
posted by Yesterday's camel at 6:44 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe I don't get how EMP weapons work, but wouldn't that fuck up their radios and the like, too?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:52 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maryland requires two-party consent to record as Linda Tripp found out. Frankly, police departments need more of their own cameras, not less recording by the public.

Is that consent also required to film in a public place?
posted by atrazine at 6:53 AM on May 18, 2012


Maybe I don't get how EMP weapons work, but wouldn't that fuck up their radios and the like, too?

It'd be a last-ditch measure, to be sure. But maybe they could have EM-hardened drones flying well above the scene.
posted by Yesterday's camel at 6:55 AM on May 18, 2012


Maryland requires two-party consent to record as Linda Tripp found out. Frankly, police departments need more of their own cameras, not less recording by the public.

My understanding is that several circuits have held that bans on taping police are unconstitutional (I only pay attention to IL); an important element was open vs secret recordings, though I am not familiar with the details. Is there a split on this?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:59 AM on May 18, 2012


But maybe they could have EM-hardened drones flying well above the scene.

Heh. With BPD's budget, this will likely take the form of balsa wood toy planes with STOP RECORDING!!! written in marker under the wings.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:00 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fuzzy Dunlop, Ace Drone Pilot.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:01 AM on May 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Heh. With BPD's budget, this will likely take the form of balsa wood toy planes with STOP RECORDING!!! written in marker under the wings.

Hey, they could sand down the wings on those puppies REAL sharp. Those protesters are gonna KNOW what hit 'em!
posted by Yesterday's camel at 7:02 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


who's to say they don't get EMP weapons to disable all nearby electronic equipment?

The FCC and FAA come immediately to mind. As do headlines that start with "Police set off EMP," and end with

"...kill 15 in nearby hospital when lifesaving equipment shuts down"
"...kill 200 in plane crash"
"...cause news helicopter to crash into building, killing 12"
"...destroy financial records, causing $4 billion in damages"
"...wipe out city's land ownership and tax database"
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:02 AM on May 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


If Chicago cops get sound cannons, who's to say they don't get EMP weapons to disable all nearby electronic equipment?

---

It'd be a last-ditch measure, to be sure. But maybe they could have EM-hardened drones flying well above the scene.

It would be an impressive drone to carry that.

Aside from the weight issue:

* EMP is not cheap to generate
* You have to detonate quite a quanity of chemical explosive if you aren't prepared to go nuclear (and people aren't going to be letting off even tiny fission devices(!) for police work)

Also essentially microwaving people at high intensity is frowned on when they
* collapse
* go sterile
* have kids with far higher than average rates of birth defects

People with no connection to the demo/riot/insurrection sue you for impressive amounts because you killed every stereo, TV, console or PC in town. Possibly including resultant economic loss due to the fact you *definitely* wiped every hard drive full of documents in town combined with the backup tapes.

PS: The police union will not be pleased at sterile police standing near any land based EMP generator.
posted by jaduncan at 7:04 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: "As do headlines that start with "Police set off EMP,"

A HERF gun, essentially a directional EMP, could effectively shut down electronics without being omnidirectional and so destructive.
posted by zarq at 7:07 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and after posting I see it's also what ROU_Xenophobe said.

I'm not surprised; let's face it, who better than an ROU to know?
posted by jaduncan at 7:08 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I find it somewhat disheartening to consider the future of democracy when we seriously have to speculate on a civilians v. cops arms race.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:10 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


jaduncan: " PS: The police union will not be pleased at sterile police standing near any land based EMP generator."

Quick, are there any public companies making Faraday Cage Underwear? Because we should invest. :D
posted by zarq at 7:10 AM on May 18, 2012


Dammit, zarq, I was just about to ask if the next step would be legions of journalists in wheeled Faraday Cages.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:12 AM on May 18, 2012


Heh.

We should speak to mathowie about setting up a 'ShieldMe' store ;D
posted by zarq at 7:15 AM on May 18, 2012


Barring that, it should be easy to build makeshift Faraday fences or Faraday shields - similar in size in shape to riot shields - that rear-flank protesters could carry.

OK, this is getting kinda Robocop here. I'm not sure I'm ready for the future of protesting.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:22 AM on May 18, 2012


"...destroy financial records, causing $4 billion in damages"
"...wipe out city's land ownership and tax database"


Note sure EMP would affect hard disks?

Pursuant to the (maybe RIGHT NOW) vote on Smith-Amash, I think the issue is actually whether it's okay to record the military as they indefinitely detain you.
posted by kengraham at 7:26 AM on May 18, 2012


Why would they use any kind of EMP device? The Justice Dept statement refers to destruction or interference with recordings.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 7:29 AM on May 18, 2012


Yes, this is all a bit OT since on this Justice Department memo it would be clearly unconstitutional to wipe everything using any means.
posted by jaduncan at 7:32 AM on May 18, 2012


What about voudoun? Bet the DoJ overlooked that. They always do.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:33 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Note sure EMP would affect hard disks?

Short note on this just FYI:

SSDs die due to the huge amount of ICs.
Hard drive platters themselves have a big head crash, although it's actually quite hard to destroy all of the data. As a practical matter it's not much different if you aren't Fortune 500 or TLA level; there will not be cheaply priced capacity in data recovery if any appreciable area has the ICs in it killed.
posted by jaduncan at 7:38 AM on May 18, 2012


I certainly don't want to tangle with an ROU when it comes to effectors of any kind, EMP or otherwise.

Underailing: although this is great news, it seems to me that many cops or even whole departments will think hard about how to creatively avoid being recorded, perhaps in the way photoslob describes.
posted by Yesterday's camel at 8:00 AM on May 18, 2012


IIRC, aren't a lot of state trooper vehicles equipped with cameras already?

Yes they are. They're the cops' cameras, which they control, and the recordings from which are in the cops' possession for them to do with (or more likely not do with) as they see fit. At least until it gets subpoenaed or something, and even then who knows?

Along those lines, I've found myself wondering why, when passing traffic stops in progress on the highway lately, I'm increasingly seeing the police cruiser not pulled in directly behind the car that's been pulled over, but angled behind it so the dashboard camera is pointing out into the traffic flow and not covering the actual events of the traffic stop at all.

I must have seen this a dozen times in the last couple months, and I don't ever remember seeing cops do that before.
posted by Naberius at 8:12 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's been a really long time since I've seen news regarding civil liberties that has made me feel even slightly hopeful. This is awesome news.
posted by gt2 at 8:35 AM on May 18, 2012


This is a good first step, but it does little in a City like New York, where the the neoaristocrat Sun-King Mayor Bloomberg perceives himself to be master of all he surveys (I have my own private army in the NYPD. It is the worlds 8th largest. - Mike Bloomberg), and is best friends with his high minister of Policedom (Ray Kelly), and further more has the table of council by it's nutsack, and in addition has reduced the power of the Civilian oversight board that looks into police misbehavior, into a theatrical spectacle used to keep at bay the charges of tyranny, as any tyrant will do, with lipservice from and to a news agency.

It's grotesque. And speaking of a news agency, the NY Times coverage of Occupy Wall Street has become so anemic as to be a joke. What's up with that??

I applaud this move by the DOJ, but it feels like a fucking doggy treat for those concerned with the outrageous unchecked growth of the paramilitary law enforcement complex via DHS that coordinated a national crackdown on OWS last year that led to the ouster from parks of a bunch of Occupy movements around the country. I mean, fucking hooray and all that, but really, it's a joke to be cheering for the re-affirmation of civil rights THAT SHOULD ALREADY BE FOLLOWED AND RESPECTED by police departments around the country.


O happy day!!
posted by Skygazer at 8:41 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


it should be a federal crime whenever cops break the law. until we have actual persecution for cop crimes, cameras won't do anything.
posted by rebent at 9:15 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Along those lines, I've found myself wondering why, when passing traffic stops in progress on the highway lately, I'm increasingly seeing the police cruiser not pulled in directly behind the car that's been pulled over, but angled behind it so the dashboard camera is pointing out into the traffic flow and not covering the actual events of the traffic stop at all.

This is to protect the officer and party pulled over in the event a vehicle strikes the cruiser from behind. It will theoretically not be then driven into the stopped vehicle. Or so we are being told.
posted by notreally at 9:37 AM on May 18, 2012


I've found myself wondering why, when passing traffic stops in progress on the highway lately, I'm increasingly seeing the police cruiser not pulled in directly behind the car that's been pulled over, but angled behind it so the dashboard camera is pointing out into the traffic flow and not covering the actual events of the traffic stop at all.

This is to better protect the officer while they're standing at the drivers door of the other vehicle. I'm not sure exactly what drove the change in procedure, but in the past it was seemingly SOP for police to try and keep the travel lanes clear; now, more departments have decided that it's better to block the right side travel lane (or the breakdown lane, if the pulled-over vehicle is up on the shoulder) in order to protect the officer from traffic. The angled position is to try and deflect an incoming vehicle away in the case of a collision, and more importantly to keep a rear-end collision from just driving the police car forwards into the other vehicle.

You will see this around accidents with bigger emergency vehicles too; typically the first vehicle on the scene (fire engine, ambulance, rescue truck, etc.) will park diagonally across the lanes of traffic, "upstream" of the collision, to form a shield. The idea is the same; you never have the front of the rearmost vehicle pointing directly at a place where people will be standing.

So I don't really think there's anything suspicious about that. It might have the side effect of requiring the dashcam to be movable, or have a wider lens on it, to be effective, but I don't think that's the motivating factor.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:55 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The catch is that Baltimore PD don't give no fucks, if I am to believe what I've seen on The Wire.

The Wire was somewhat dated when it aired (hence the pagers), but the fact that the DoJ felt the need to send this tells you exactly what hasn't changed.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:37 AM on May 18, 2012


Maryland requires two-party consent to record as Linda Tripp found out. Frankly, police departments need more of their own cameras, not less recording by the public.

Does this effect open recording? 'Cause it would seem to be a pretty obvious prior restraint on the first admendment to prevent news gathering without consent.

I'm increasingly seeing the police cruiser not pulled in directly behind the car that's been pulled over, but angled behind it

I'm going to guess it's safety related. A cruiser parked angle ways both presents a bigger target to oncoming traffic that is harder to push than a straight in car and it allows the long reflective stripe down the side of the car to be seen.
posted by Mitheral at 11:22 AM on May 18, 2012


The current DOJ (and the administration in general) is really interesting to me in that it seems to be simultaneously doing some really amazing things and some really awful things.

I've been thinking of them as a "good on civil rights, bad on civil liberties" thing where civil rights = protecting the rights of minorities and vulnerable populations from state and local abuse (voting rights etc.), and civil liberties as the indefinite detention / spying on your population / cracking down on the mary jane. But this is a solid good on the latter front, so who knows.
posted by feckless at 11:23 AM on May 18, 2012


I, uh, have a really hard time believing that this will affect the incentive structures or practical actions of police forces, at all.

Where is the teeth? As far as I can tell, the court system hasn't shown much of an interest in identifying this issue as a violation in the first place (since, uh, warrants are very rarely used and can easily be excused away be the presence of exigent circumstances, like "officer safety"), nevermind remedying it.

And what would be the remedy anyway? Civil damages for those that pursue the case? That, even if successful, chip away at the budget line item for these kinds of things, rather than against the individual officer, and therefore have no effect on the actions of individual police officers anyway?

Color me skeptical. But... thanks, DOJ?
posted by likeatoaster at 11:47 AM on May 18, 2012


Bad cops will always find ways to continue being bad cops.
posted by incandissonance at 12:44 PM on May 18, 2012


jaduncan: "I need to make a camera app which doesn't actually delete the file, just notes the time at which file deletion was attempted and carries on recording silently. That would be useful."

I think these already exist. "Cop Recorder" is one.
posted by stratastar at 12:44 PM on May 18, 2012


The police continue arresting people for things that aren't even illegal any more. They arrest people for crimes and common law charges which don't even exist. And they're helped along by amazingly archaic laws (in my state at least) against being a "common nightwalker" and other nonsense. They don't do these things because they are ignorant of the law (though this is often true), but rather because when dealing with poor, brown people they know for an absolute fact that there will be no repercussions. They do what they think they can get away with, and their first priority is usually protecting themselves and their fellow police officers.

It took a federal lawsuit to get the Boston PD to stop arresting people for recording the police performing their duties in public. These are people who simply do not take civil rights seriously, and I have a very hard time believing that a letter is going to get them to come around. The only real fixes that I can think of are special prosecutors for dealing with police misconduct, or else private criminal actions in cases where probable cause exists and the DA refuses to take the complaint seriously. There are huge disincentives against prosecutors bringing charges against police officers. There needs to be a way around that entire conflict of interest.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:58 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


They arrest people for crimes and common law charges which don't even exist. And they're helped along by amazingly archaic laws (in my state at least) against being a "common nightwalker" and other nonsense. They don't do these things because they are ignorant of the law (though this is often true), but rather because when dealing with poor, brown people they know for an absolute fact that there will be no repercussions.

Very true. I'm reminded of this former co-worker of mine in Baltimore, who came to work one day looking a little down. What's wrong, Kaz, I asked. He told me that the night before, he had been pulled over downtown and been made to sit on the curb for close to an hour, in cuffs, while the cop ran some background checks on him and the vehicle. The reason? "Suspicious driving." That's bullshit, I said. He paused a moment, then said, "Yeah, well ... it was pretty late at night."

I remember thinking, holy shit. People have actually reached the point where they're so used to this harassment that they're actually doing the rationalizing for the police.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:28 PM on May 18, 2012


As someone who has been interfered with and even collared and threatened with arrest while committing journalism this news is nice but it's not going to do much out in the real world. It just means cops will be making more "interfering with an investigation" arrests so the person with the camera can be locked up in the back of a car while they go about abusing power.

Surely this is only a temporary problem? In 5 or 10 years won't every journalist covering that kind of thing (or maybe even most people) have high-quality cameras that are indistinguishable from a button on their shirt or jacket?

To me this announcement just seems like someone in the DOJ getting out in front of the fact that trying to prevent people from taking videos of the police will very soon be as futile as trying to prevent people from downloading music.
posted by straight at 3:07 PM on May 18, 2012


But another problem is that we're fast approaching the place where it will be fairly easy to make a completely fabricated video that's hard or impossible to distinguish from the real thing.
posted by straight at 3:10 PM on May 18, 2012


This is a good ruling, but it will, guaranteed, be itself abused by overzealous citizens who think it is their right to be anywhere they want, when they want, to film the police. The police do a hard job, and they have among their respective memberships some bad apples that need to be removed, sanctioned, or jailed. That said, the police have a hard job.

I am happy to see citizen's rights defended, but I am bothered by the cynicism projected to all police.

One day, one or more citizens is going to get "to close to the action", and become a statistic.

Rights are one thing, but rights also call for the responsible rendering of those rights so as not to cause further harm. The recent demonizing of police personnel is a troubling thing, just as recent violations by *some* police is also troubling. I don't see this ruling in any way improving the gap of misunderstanding that has been slowly growing, between an ever-more-frustrated citizenry that is frustrated by ever-more-severe social and economic constraints, and the police, who are on the front line to maintain order when mayhem happens.

Again, I support this ruling, but I'm worried that it will be an enabling tool that will end up getting someone hurt. Be careful out there!
posted by Vibrissae at 3:23 PM on May 18, 2012


The sergeant picked up the camera, pulled out the SD card and chucked the camera in the trunk of his squad car. He turned to his fellow officers and said, "I didn't see no fucking camera. Did any of you guys see a camera?"

They all agreed that they had never seen any fucking camera.


Thugs. Mafia. Utterly and completely, this is the only thing that comes to mind when I think of the police now.

One of the things that they do that seems harmless but just shows what cops think of themselves now, at least here in Texas, that bothers the hell out of me are the seatbelt signs/commercials, and drunk driving signs/commercials.

I do not drive while drunk, and I do wear a seatbelt, but they still bother me. They threaten you. "Click it or ticket", "Drink, drive, go to jail." On and on.

Their tactics are aggressive. If anything, they incite rebellion, making people deface and flip off the signs. You're supposed to work FOR US, not threaten us. Every time I see something like I just get so disgusted.

Don't threaten the public you work for.
posted by Malice at 3:26 PM on May 18, 2012


be itself abused by overzealous citizens who think it is their right to be anywhere they want, when they want, to film the police.

One can only hope.
posted by Malice at 3:27 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not a ruling. It's just a firm suggestion.
posted by Gator at 3:27 PM on May 18, 2012


This is a good ruling, but it will, guaranteed, be itself abused by overzealous citizens who think it is their right to be anywhere they want, when they want, to film the police.

Nice straw man, there. It's a shame you keep bringing it out in threads about recording the police.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:38 PM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Surely this is only a temporary problem? In 5 or 10 years won't every journalist covering that kind of thing (or maybe even most people) have high-quality cameras that are indistinguishable from a button on their shirt or jacket?

Not if the police have scanners that can detect the presence microcameras from 100 meters, and possessing one is punishable by execution or a life of hard labor in Camp #21.

Technology cuts both ways, and isn't a substitute for civil rights.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:44 PM on May 18, 2012


One day, one or more citizens is going to get "to close to the action", and become a statistic. … Again, I support this ruling, but I'm worried that it will be an enabling tool that will end up getting someone hurt.

You're right, of course. There is always the risk that the police shift their attention from the camera to the person holding it. But you're wrong about whose fault that would be.
posted by robcorr at 3:50 PM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a good ruling, but it will, guaranteed, be itself abused by overzealous citizens who think it is their right to be anywhere they want, when they want, to film the police.

Heaven forfend.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:50 PM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


One day, one or more citizens is going to get "to close to the action", and become a statistic.

Before 9/11 there were issues but the police were not nearly as overzealous as they have become since. If we go back to pre-9/11 practices of allowing recording in public, it will hardly be the end of the world, but it will be better for both citizens and police officers.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:35 PM on May 18, 2012


t's a shame you keep bringing it out in threads about recording the police

And likewise, a shame that some think that their rights trump public safety. When some "citizen journalist" gets hurt or worse by a perp that uses the former as a shield, or worse, who is going to get blamed.

*sustainable* civil rights = civic responsibility from *all* parties. But of course, there are those who believe that no mater what, their perception of a dangerous situation is the right one. That's what the Darwin Awards are for.

Again, I support the ruling, but there will be the occasional idiot that uses this right as a club, and get hurt, or get someone else hurt as an example.

Every citizen should have the right to film the police, and every cop should have the right to carry out her job safely - for themselves, citizens, and perps. I have been to many rallies where videotaping cops was done in a responsible and safe way. I have also been to rallies where idiots got too close and caused themselves and others harm. Darwin will out.
posted by Vibrissae at 6:37 PM on May 18, 2012


♪♫ Still not a ruuuuliiiing... ♫♪
posted by Gator at 6:41 PM on May 18, 2012


Civil rights are all well and good, and like, I totally support them and everything, but I've seen idiots who have caused themselves and others harm by sitting too close to the front of the bus.
posted by robcorr at 6:41 PM on May 18, 2012


This is a good ruling, but it will, guaranteed, be itself abused by overzealous citizens who think it is their right to be anywhere they want, when they want, to film the police.

Save some safety exceptions, yes, that's pretty much what the First Amendment freedoms for journalists would imply. What's the problem?
posted by jaduncan at 2:56 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every citizen should have the right to film the police, and every cop should have the right to carry out her job safely - for themselves, citizens, and perps.

Until conviction 'perps' are innocent citizens (and indeed, even after they are still citizens). I kinda dislike your distinction there, because it's separating the population into groups deserving of different levels of consideration.
posted by jaduncan at 3:15 AM on May 19, 2012


Vibrissae writes "And likewise, a shame that some think that their rights trump public safety. When some 'citizen journalist' gets hurt or worse by a perp that uses the former as a shield, or worse, who is going to get blamed. "

Why the quotes around citizen journalist?
posted by Mitheral at 9:21 AM on May 19, 2012


That's great. While in Darlington last week for the NASCAR race I photographed some guys getting arrested by the Darlington Sheriff Department and one of the officers told me it was against the law to photograph inmates. My buddy and I knew he was full of shit but we came for the race, not to argue the constitution with the police.
posted by zzazazz at 10:04 AM on May 19, 2012


While in Darlington last week for the NASCAR race I photographed some guys getting arrested by the Darlington Sheriff Department and one of the officers told me it was against the law to photograph inmates.

I used to live in Darlington, a stone's throw away from the racetrack (and that is hell living next to when they practice) and let me tell you, that doesn't surprise me at all. That area is, I dare say, even more uppity than some Texas areas when it comes to law enforcement throwing around their weight.
posted by Malice at 3:20 PM on May 19, 2012


Frankly, police departments need more of their own cameras

Connecticut Cop Arrested After Pulling Gun On Cop Who Photographed Him
posted by homunculus at 1:56 PM on May 21, 2012


Videos Exonerate Photographers On Both Coasts
posted by homunculus at 2:03 PM on May 21, 2012


Somewhat related, here's an interesting piece on videotaping interrogations:

Videotaping police interrogations isn’t enough: Part I

Videotaping police interrogations isn’t enough: Part 2

Via.
posted by homunculus at 2:11 PM on May 28, 2012


'First Amendment rights can be terminated': When cops, cameras don't mix
posted by homunculus at 9:53 AM on June 1, 2012


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