Skip

In defense of the First Amendment
March 7, 2014 9:49 AM   Subscribe

A police officer forcibly escorted Baltimore Sun photo editor Chris Assaf away from the scene of a police-involved shooting on Feb. 21. He had been taking pictures from outside the police lines, but an officer told him he had to move back further. Assaf protested, stating he was within his First Amendment rights to be where he was standing. Another officer then forced him to move. The Sun is posting all of Assaf’s images from the shooting scene as well as photos taken by Sun photographer Lloyd Fox, who witnessed and documented the incident. Lt. Eric Kowalczk, the chief spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, said the department has opened an internal investigation into the allegation. He declined to comment more specifically on the incident, “because we have an investigation and we don’t want to prejudice that.” (contains some mildly graphic pictures in both links)
posted by josher71 (112 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
How could the police officer in question possibly think this course of action was a good idea? Sure you read about this kind of thing happening to random members of the public but do the Baltimore Police really want the press to have a bone to pick with them?
posted by unknownmosquito at 9:56 AM on March 7


Lets say you are having a shitty day at work - your code is broken or your boss is pissed or you lost a big client - whatever. How would you feel about having some guy standing in your office taking pictures of you asserting his first amendment rights? Maybe the analogy is not perfect but lets not forget that the cops are just people trying to get through the day like the rest of us.
posted by H. Roark at 9:58 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


If my office was a public place that had people walking around it all the time, and my day-to-day official business there frequently involved guys taking pictures, I'd cope.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:59 AM on March 7 [76 favorites]


Yeah, I agree, cope or at least try to recognize when it's time to step away from the situation so that I don't make things worse for myself (which is really what he did).
posted by unknownmosquito at 10:00 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


Let's say you have a job where you are often required to use force, and (in some circumstances) are allowed to kill people. Then someone does something you don't like. What do you do? What do you do?
posted by blue_beetle at 10:03 AM on March 7 [38 favorites]


How could the police officer in question possibly think this course of action was a good idea?

Some of them don't seem to think. There's an issue currently in Richmond where cops let a girl go despite almost definitely drunk driving, because her father showed up; the police knew people were recording the whole thing (they yelled at the person to stop filming) and yet just let her go anyway.
posted by inigo2 at 10:06 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


This has been a thing in Baltimore lately; let's hope the cops get the memo soon.
posted by TwoStride at 10:07 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Lets say you are having a shitty day at work - your code is broken or your boss is pissed or you lost a big client - whatever. How would you feel about having some guy standing in your office taking pictures of you asserting his first amendment rights? Maybe the analogy is not perfect but lets not forget that the cops are just people trying to get through the day like the rest of us

That depends, am I having a shitty day because I just killed someone?
posted by indubitable at 10:08 AM on March 7 [48 favorites]


I'd like to hear more details about Assaf's encounter. I wonder how much training press photographers are given for encounters like this. What did he say to the police officer? There are things you could say to exacerbate, obviously, and there are things you could say to make it at least less likely the officer will continue interfering and/or arrest you.
posted by cribcage at 10:08 AM on March 7


do the Baltimore Police really want the press to have a bone to pick with them?

Hard to say. The photogs were from the Sun.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:09 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


I've never really had a shitty day at work where one of my options was to violate constitutional rights, so I don't know that I can answer the question.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:09 AM on March 7 [30 favorites]


I like how one of the pictures is just an extreme closeup of the officer's nametag. It's probably intentional but is hilarious if accidental.
posted by dogwalker at 10:13 AM on March 7


let's not forget that the cops are just people trying to get through the day like the rest of us.

Uh, no. They aren't just like the rest of us. They are government designated law enforcement officers with guns who feel they have the right to order people around in public places at their whim. These same officers maintain their right to observe anyone in public with security cams and automated scanning of every license plate. They claim that citizens do not have that same right of public observation.
posted by JackFlash at 10:14 AM on March 7 [80 favorites]


H. Roark: “Lets say you are having a shitty day at work - your code is broken or your boss is pissed or you lost a big client - whatever. How would you feel about having some guy standing in your office taking pictures of you asserting his first amendment rights? Maybe the analogy is not perfect but lets not forget that the cops are just people trying to get through the day like the rest of us.”

If it was some random guy? I'd be mostly confused, maybe slightly annoyed. If it was my boss who was standing there, watching me work, and maybe taking pictures? Well, I'd probably be a bit annoyed, but what else could I do? I'd just keep on working, and maybe talk it over with him and make sure I was doing a good job.

Hm... I'm having a very strange idea now about what officers could have done in this situation...
posted by koeselitz at 10:15 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Lets say you are having a shitty day at work - your code is broken or your boss is pissed or you lost a big client - whatever. How would you feel about having some guy standing in your office taking pictures of you asserting his first amendment rights?

I would shout at him to stop resisting while I beat him into mush with a baton. Or, if it's really been a bad day and I'm too tired for that, I would just shoot him.
posted by Naberius at 10:16 AM on March 7 [22 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the person who is on the pavement is the one who had the shitty day. Everyone else's complaint seems a bit weak in comparison.
posted by srboisvert at 10:17 AM on March 7 [17 favorites]


Lets say you are having a shitty day at work - your code is broken or your boss is pissed or you lost a big client - whatever. How would you feel about having some guy standing in your office taking pictures of you asserting his first amendment rights?

Regardless of how I'd feel, if I did what that officer did I'd be going to jail for assault.
posted by crayz at 10:18 AM on March 7 [18 favorites]


Next time I get in trouble with the law, I'm totally using the "bad day at my architecture office" defense.
posted by Poldo at 10:20 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


Yeah, let's not forget that the police are explicitly public servants whom we have trusted with access to force, including deadly force, to protect the citizenry at large. There's a necessity of transparency there that isn't present with, say, your average B2B database developer. We had a similar situation here in Seattle recently where police officers threatened to harass a reporter for taking pictures, and the worst offender was eventually fired. I understand backing off and giving the police room to do their work, and obviously it's important not to impede an investigation, but the police should not ever be allowed to interfere with public observers.
posted by KathrynT at 10:23 AM on March 7 [9 favorites]


Oh they didn't like it, guess that excuses it
posted by Benjy at 10:24 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


And I'd be willing to guess that when an officer shoots someone down, they don't like when a photog is standing RIGHT ON THE BARRIER snapping away.

Of course they don't like it. Not everybody gets everything they want all the time.
posted by KathrynT at 10:24 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Or I'll beat the crap out of you.
posted by Longtime Listener at 10:25 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


But the barrier is the perimeter, right? So if the cops want more room, then they should move the perimeter, rather than expect everyone to observe an extra invisible barrier. Bottom line, the photographer was outside of the police tape and should have been left to do his job.
posted by TwoStride at 10:25 AM on March 7 [18 favorites]


And I'd be willing to guess that when an officer shoots someone down, they don't like when a photog is standing RIGHT ON THE BARRIER snapping away. Did the guy not have some different lenses?

As someone who has multiple times had police threaten me with arrest, demand I give them my camera, and one time threaten me with being brutalized in jail over the weekend before a judge dismissed the charges on Monday, all for taking pictures of police doing their jobs in public from a good safe distance away, just seriously fuck this noise. The cops in this country are out of control.
posted by crayz at 10:26 AM on March 7 [46 favorites]


I'm not excusing the officer for being a dick, just saying that I can understand how it may have been frustrating or annoying for the officers who were probably in a really shitty state of mind over what just happened. I agree, the best course of action would've been to tell the photog, excuse us but we're going to widen the crime scene please step back. Or something.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:27 AM on March 7


Hey, if the cops have nothing to hide, they shouldn't mind the surveillance, right?
posted by xedrik at 10:29 AM on March 7 [27 favorites]


In the officer's defense, the pictures do suggest that Assaf was being kind of a dick about it. Which doesn't necessarily justify what the officer did, but it certainly didn't help things. Also note that the officer is depicted moving the police tape and pushing Assaf back behind the new line, so it's not like he was just telling Assaf to scram while letting other people linger. It also seems that the other reporter was able to get plenty of photos from where he was standing.

In Assaf's defense, the police really do need to get used to the idea that they're going to be photographed and recorded in the course of their day. Civilians being assholes in the process doesn't change that. Police departments need to train their officers accordingly.
posted by valkyryn at 10:30 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


[A couple comments removed; fine to talk about your take on a situation but you need to not wrap it up in generalized Metafilter Always Does X complaints. Take that stuff to Metatalk if you need to discuss it.]
posted by cortex at 10:36 AM on March 7


I am the Law.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:40 AM on March 7


Someone being a dick about something is never a reason for assaulting them under the color of law or violating their rights. I get that that is a thing that actually happens, but there's no real excuse for it. And if it is done anyway, then the person doing it should be fired, because if you're a cop who's having a bad day and you take that out on a member of the public, you don't deserve to be a cop. Go do something else.

I saw a link a couple days ago about a police department that experimented with all its officers wearing small cameras all the time. Use of force went down! Complaints about use of force went down! Surprise!
posted by rtha at 10:42 AM on March 7 [14 favorites]


For sure, police need training on these issues. We all agree with that, I think. The flip side is that if you're a photojournalist—or a protestor, or any of a number of things—you can expect to encounter officials who haven't been properly trained, and you need a toolkit to deal with that.
posted by cribcage at 10:42 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


In the officer's defense

Unless I'm really missing something here, the officers have essentially no defense. The first officer could MAYBE argue that he had a good reason to move the police tape, but he sort of loses credibility on that when he appears to start to pull the tape around the photographer. The second officer, Edmonson, has no defense. He's straight up grabbing a photographer who is on a sidewalk and pushing him across the street.

I've said this many times before, including here, but as part of my work I deal with a lot of police encounters gone wrong and a unifying factor in so many of them is that bad cops escalate situations that they should be de-escalating. As soon as Edmonson comes into the picture (literally), he's seemingly decided to do just that. Does he try to calm the situation down, or God forbid, tell the first officer to take a deep breath? No, he goes into full "buddy protection" mode and makes the situation even worse.
posted by rollbiz at 10:45 AM on March 7 [13 favorites]


I'm not excusing the officer for being a dick, just saying that I can understand how it may have been frustrating or annoying for the officers who were probably in a really shitty state of mind over what just happened. I agree, the best course of action would've been to tell the photog, excuse us but we're going to widen the crime scene please step back. Or something.

Police officers are granted more authority by the state than regular citizens are granted, so if that's to be just, they need to be subjected to more scrutiny than regular citizens too. I understand that's probably annoying for them and sometimes they have shitty days, but they really just have to suck it up and take it or quit and get a regular job. No one's forcing them to stay in the police force.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 10:47 AM on March 7 [10 favorites]


For sure, police need training on these issues. We all agree with that, I think.

Training is great, but most police have been trained on these issues. I have sat in the academy class and participated when local police were being trained on these issues.

What police need is to be held accountable when they don't do what they're supposed to do, and to have diminished their sense that they are operating with impunity and with the unconditional support of their superiors, no matter how they act.
posted by rollbiz at 10:48 AM on March 7 [14 favorites]


"Someone is photographing me. This is scary and upsetting" or "Someone wants to report me to my boss. Danger alert!" are very reasonable personal reactions, and I think many of us have them. The problem is, they are not reasonable professional reactions. I often wonder if a lot of these problems come from poor training.

Police officers have a serious and challenging job, and it seems important to ensure that all officers have clear and explicit training on expectations and what is appropriate for interacting with the media and the public. If you feel like you're in over your head and some guy comes waving his camera at you, you will probably react badly. If it's been made very clear to you initially and reinforced through periodic training and you have a really good understanding of the expectations for interacting in a challenging situation, I think these things will often go better.

Really good, solid training should be there to bridge the gap between emotional reactions that are personally appropriate and the way professionals actually conduct themselves in challenging situations.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:48 AM on March 7


That depends, am I having a shitty day because I just killed someone?

Was it the cop involved in the shooting that did this to the reporter? Because I could certainly see "I am having a shitty day because one of my coworkers killed a guy and now I'm sitting out here in his mess while this guy snaps pictures of me in front of the mess". Not that it's anything close to an excuse for what happened, but it's an explanation. I think maybe some wires are getting crossed on that point. I don't think anyone's trying to defend it.
posted by Hoopo at 10:49 AM on March 7


The police in this situation have been granted the privilege of carrying a badge, gun, and various less-than-lethal weapons, as well as the power of arrest. The photographer in this situation has a camera.

I know who I expect, and who we all ought to expect, to be the bigger person in these situations, every single time.
posted by rollbiz at 10:50 AM on March 7 [6 favorites]


I'm surprised the guy didn't get a ticket for jaywalking after being pushed into the street.
posted by Big_B at 10:50 AM on March 7 [8 favorites]


I've several friends who are police officers including my best friend growing up and a man whose children I used to watch, none support and all loathe this type of behavior. Law-enforcement does sometimes attract a type of person that is ill suited to the task.

Police officers shouldn't work forty-hour weeks [and they should not be in their cars so much IMO]. It's too much. I think most people wouldn't last very long before they would do something where they abused their power. I wouldn't last a week I'm sure. I don't have a solution to this problem but I agree with valkyryn above in that the police are going to have to adapt to ubiquitous recording devices.

“because we have an investigation and we don’t want to prejudice that.” is pretty normal flack-speak.
posted by vapidave at 10:51 AM on March 7


H. Roark Police are not just people trying to get thru the day at work. They are civil servants, they embody a public office and trust. If you can't handle that, you should not be a police officer. Police officers must be held to a higher standard because of the power that is entrusted to their office.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:59 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Though just one bad apple may poison the rest,
the barrel's position, I think, is the best
for all of us here. It's so easy to see:
It ought to go under the blighted fruit tree.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:02 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


H.Roark are you trolling us?
How would you feel about being told to back up in a public space by an armed goon in uniform when you are completely within your rights to be where you are.
The more that these infringements on peoples liberty is documented and publicised the better.
Your taxes at work remember.
posted by adamvasco at 11:04 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


Police officers must be held to a higher standard because of the power that is entrusted to their office.

How about officers simply be held to even just the regular standard of professionalism? We've all had rough days, but the people I work with still manage to keep their shit together, every day, without exception. Why protect and tolerate people in the position who can't maintain professionalism when there are people who can? It slimes the whole profession.
posted by anonymisc at 11:05 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


“because we have an investigation and we don’t want to prejudice that.” is pretty normal flack-speak.

When the police are being investigated. When John Q. Public is accused of something, it's perp walk, press conference, and trial by media time, prejudicing the investigation be damned.
posted by zachlipton at 11:06 AM on March 7 [8 favorites]


More cops working fewer hours seems to be the solution, vapidave. And totally agree about cars; it's good to see cops out and about, interacting with the community they serve. A lot more of that sort of thing would teach both sides to be less adversarial and inspire greater trust going both ways, I think.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:07 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


The problem is when the default police response to perceived threats is to confront aggressively and resolve quickly. Using sharp, aggressive commands and expecting immediate compliance increases tension for officers as well as the suspects, and leads to situations where excessive force, even lethal force, gets subjectively justified based on how threatened an officer feels in the moment. Also, it's a lot harder for agitated officers to maintain their professionalism in the aftermath.

The priority instead should be on intervention techniques to delay and de-escalate tense situations. They should be trained to use a range of responses to calm, disarm, or non-lethally incapacitate, and not immediately resort to the most aggressive or deadly option. They should actually have to resort to lethal force, after calmly attempting and exhausting the alternatives. The focus should be on how to keep a cool head in a crisis, not on having expert threat-elimination skills in each weapon in their arsenal.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:08 AM on March 7 [9 favorites]


Cops, like conservatism, cannot be wrong; they can only be wronged.

Urgh. I'm a broken record on this topic. Stepping away now.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:10 AM on March 7 [6 favorites]


Training doesn't matter when there are no real repercussions for transgressions. Police officers are eminently replaceable, especially in contemporary no-beat departments, so it should be easier to fire them.
posted by rhizome at 11:13 AM on March 7 [5 favorites]


The problem is when the default police response to perceived threats is to confront aggressively and resolve quickly

Yup. "Taking control of the situation" too often translates into "being the biggest asshole in the room." This is likely related to the growing militarization of our police forces.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:20 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


Police are not just people trying to get thru the day at work. They are civil servants, they embody a public office and trust

I'm sorry but civil servants are very much the same as you and I, even though they rightly should be held to a higher standard, you need to understand that they're actually just guys and some of them are straight up assholes like that dude that steals from peoples' lunches out of the fridge at work. Not sure why this comes as a surprise; we have had Presidents that get BJs from staffers and mayors that smoke crack. The reasons behind their abuses start to become a lot more understandable in this context even if they're less excusable than when people not holding a public office do it. You can't train away asshole.
posted by Hoopo at 11:26 AM on March 7


But it seems like, maybe, repercussions are coming. Even if only from the level of public disgust at use of force, it's seeming to me like police services are trying more and more to investigate, and courts willing to rule guilty, in cases where officers transgress. Obviously it's a long slow process, but I'd wager we've seen more and more instances of officers receiving severe sanctions for breaking the law over the past twenty years or so. I'm not entirely confident, for example, that there has been that much of an increase in police abusing their positions; I think it's far more likely that more are simply being brought to light than there used to be. Which, I think, leads to more getting prosecuted, and I hope is contributing to a culture where the thin blue line defends the law, and not the people serving it.

I think the major problem is that it's really hard to run, politically, on a platform of 'being tough on cops.' Obviously it's been done but how often? And cops are a service, a tool of the people; they're not going to change unless the civilian oversight has serious teeth. So how do you as a politician who wants to make these changes get elected when you are handing your opponent the opportunity to say "X sent cops to jail. Then this little girl was murdered" or whatever?

Which means really the change needs to come from within, more cops standing up and saying "What just happened is not okay." Which means it's going to be slow. I think.

The odd thing about militarizing of police forces is that if they did it right it wouldn't be bad. Relatives and friends who were in the forces have talked about service, you're there for the country first, etc. I have no idea how universal that attitude is in servicemembers, but somehow training it into new cops would seriously change police forces from the ground up. (Obviously the ridiculous weaponry and body armour is just not helping things and needs to go).

Hoopo: you can't train away asshole, sure, but you can filter them out and create an environment where being an asshole, no matter how much you want to be, is completely unacceptable.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:27 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry but civil servants are very much the same as you and I, even though they rightly should be held to a higher standard, you need to understand that they're actually just guys and some of them are straight up assholes like that dude that steals from peoples' lunches out of the fridge at work. Not sure why this comes as a surprise;

I don't think anyone is exactly surprised by this, but it does get tiresome to hear stuff like "he's just having a hard day" as if it's some kind of excuse, even if it's called an explanation. I have had many extremely shitty days at work, and I've never yet put hands on a co-worker or customer.

Expectations for cops are different, and higher, and they should be. But the system mostly protects them, and we protect ourselves by being all cynical and "well, what do you expect?" and none of that helps fix the situation.
posted by rtha at 11:36 AM on March 7 [11 favorites]


Law-enforcement does sometimes attract a type of person that is ill suited to the task.

This is perhaps a bit of an understatement, vapidave, no?
posted by mbatch at 11:52 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


The odd thing about militarizing of police forces is that if they did it right it wouldn't be bad. Relatives and friends who were in the forces have talked about service, you're there for the country first, etc.

It's been long recognized that soldiers don't fight so much for God or Country, but for their comrades in arms. Same with "The Thin Blue Line."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:56 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


For anyone looking for long form research, here is a 58 page, extensively footnoted, very good law review paper (pdf) on all the related issues: "Less than Picture Perfect: The Legal Relationship between Photographers' Rights and Law Enforcement" by Morgan Manning of the UT Knoxville College of Law. Download it from SSRN. (If you're running NoScript you'll have to temporarily allow ssrn.com.) Yes, Manning was Glenn Reynolds's student and the paper is frequently plugged on Instapundit. If that puts you off you may prefer a "Worth Reading" plug and link from Bruce Schneier.

Also, from the ACLU, Know your Rights: Photographers and You have every right to photograph that cop. On PetaPixel, Justice Department Affirms the Right to Photograph Police in Public. On Lifehacker, Know Your Rights: Photography in Public.
posted by jfuller at 12:16 PM on March 7 [14 favorites]


Why is it that so many Ayn Rand types have such a hard-on for the instruments of coercive state power? She certainly didn't.


Is it the idea that if you are really nice to them, they will only rough up the people you don't like?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:29 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


The odd thing about militarizing of police forces is that if they did it right it wouldn't be bad. Relatives and friends who were in the forces have talked about service, you're there for the country first, etc.

Yeah, that's a great attitude when you're in the field defending your country, but police are acting more like Americans in Iraq: pig ignorant, hostile to the local population and much more concerned with keeping themselves safe than with defending civilians.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:30 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


Which is why I think it would be a great idea to train that sentiment into cops, as I said.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:32 PM on March 7


I've several friends who are police officers including my best friend growing up and a man whose children I used to watch, none support and all loathe this type of behavior. Law-enforcement does sometimes attract a type of person that is ill suited to the task.

To be honest, it's not so much a few rotten apples spoiling a bunch as a barrel full of spoiled apples in which people like your friends are the exceptions.

Furthermore, much of the way US police operates means it matters little if you're a good person or not, when you have things like the stop and search police in New York, or no knock SWAT raids, etc.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:33 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Which is why I think it would be a great idea to train that sentiment into cops, as I said.

Which is incredibly naive at best, considering that the people you admire who have been trained that way haven't exactly covered themselves in glory in Iraq or Afghanistan the last decade.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:35 PM on March 7


police are acting more like Americans in Iraq: pig ignorant, hostile to the local population and much more concerned with keeping themselves safe than with defending civilians.

Unless they are also in the military, police are civilians. This is a useful fact to remember in this age of increasing pseudo-militarization of police forces.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 12:44 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Which is incredibly naive at best, considering that the people you admire who have been trained that way haven't exactly covered themselves in glory in Iraq or Afghanistan the last decade.

It's odd that you assume anyone I know in service participated in any of those grotesqueries.

They did not.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:49 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Many police officers in the US are veterans of the armed forces. There is a huge amount of crossover.
posted by rtha at 12:51 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


Unless they are also in the military, police are civilians.

You know the score, pal. If you're not cop, you're little people.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:52 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Many police officers in the US are veterans of the armed forces. There is a huge amount of crossover.

That worries me. There's a lot of military training/tactics that might seem applicable to policing that shouldn't be applied. It's harder to unlearn bad habits than to learn good ones.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 1:05 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


"Law-enforcement does sometimes attract a type of person that is ill suited to the task.

This is perhaps a bit of an understatement, vapidave, no?
posted by mbatch..."


It's odd. I think it attracts a lot of authoritarian power-addled vigilante type people who think firearms will settle all and are looking for an excuse but at the same time attracts people that very honestly want to help. Making the matter more difficult is that there is some overlap. I've encountered both of the above and I'm no apologist for the former but I do appreciate the latter.

So it's difficult. The problem as I see it is in selection. How do we cull?
The matter is complicated in that police beget police - there are lots of cops who are sons and daughters of cops, it's insular.

[In Canada, where I lived for a time the Mounties move from Reserve to Reserve and are only a part of their own community, with nightmarish results.]

I used to hold a theory; anyone that wants to work in law enforcement should be automatically excluded. But then where do we get the good cops from?
posted by vapidave at 1:06 PM on March 7


The thing is, we don't really hear about the good cops. We hear about the exceptional cops, good or bad.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:09 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


A few years ago these kinds of stories would turn up here and the result was a lot more impotent outrage, it seemed like the police were invulnerable to being able to bully anyone thy wanted into putting away or taking cameras and confiscating cell phones in these cases.

Maybe it's just me trying to be optimistic, but it's nice to see the worm turning here, and at least a few police chiefs seeming to give a damn about the First Amendment again.
posted by JHarris at 1:10 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Lets say you are having a shitty day at work - your code is broken or your boss is pissed or you lost a big client - whatever. How would you feel about having some guy standing in your office taking pictures of you asserting his first amendment rights?

I'd expect them to deal. Transparency is part of being a professional public servant. I'm not speaking theoretically either---I just had to send out a dvd of the last two years of my work life, emails, bad first drafts, phone notes and all, as part of an information request. Anyone who works in the (civilian) public service has to understand this down to the ground.

For cops, this occasionally means having cameras on them too. The good ones get this.

Public servants do have privacy rights at home, like everyone else, but they have to understand that they (largely) do not when they go into the office.
posted by bonehead at 1:18 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


This wasn't the recent story I was thinking of, but even better:

"Police Foundation Executive Fellow, Chief Tony Farrar, recently completed an extensive yearlong study to evaluate the effect of body-worn video cameras on police use-of-force. This randomized controlled trail represents the first experimental evaluation of body-worn video cameras used in police patrol practices. Cameras were deployed to all patrol officers in the Rialto (CA) Police Department. Every police patrol shift during the 12-month period was assigned to experimental or control conditions.

Wearing cameras was associated with dramatic reductions in use-of-force and complaints against officers. The authors conclude:

"The findings suggest more than a 50% reduction in the total number of incidents of use-of-force compared to control-conditions, and nearly ten times more citizens’ complaints in the 12-months prior to the experiment." "

Report is here.
posted by rtha at 1:27 PM on March 7 [11 favorites]


> Why is it that so many Ayn Rand types have such a hard-on for the instruments of coercive state power?

cite?

The open carry advocates, New Hampshire free staters and sovereign citizen "there is no state if you deny its existence" libertarians I read/watch are very anti-cop. The free staters call them road pirates and call jails cages.

Are you confusing "law and order" Republicans with actual conservatives & libertarians?
posted by morganw at 1:28 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


oh if we could please not get into a hairsplitting match about libertarian vs whatever it would be ever so nice please
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:29 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


The odd thing about militarizing of police forces is that if they did it right it wouldn't be bad. Relatives and friends who were in the forces have talked about service, you're there for the country first

No, the militarization of any police force is a bad idea. And for the same reasons that using military forces as a policing body is a bad idea. They have entirely different goals with entirely different environments and entirely different use of force rules.
Military forces make it safe for policing to occur because they up the ante on anyone using force. Police are supposed to go the other way.
Very good way to create a dictatorship or a rebellion very quickly.

They are government designated law enforcement officers with guns who feel they have the right to order people around in public places at their whim.

All of em feel that way?

but police are acting more like Americans in Iraq: pig ignorant, hostile to the local population and much more concerned with keeping themselves safe than with defending civilians.
Sorry if having lived offends you. I lost some friends. Perhaps you can take solace in that.

So if the cops want more room, then they should move the perimeter, rather than expect everyone to observe an extra invisible barrier. Bottom line, the photographer was outside of the police tape and should have been left to do his job.

No question. But it looks like, from the photos, they were establishing a new perimeter and maybe the tape was an interior perimeter (?) I don't know. I can't guess at their motives.
But clearly it was a screw up. And there's no question the photographer was within his 1st amendment rights and the police were out of bounds. I'm curious if the Sun is going to sue them. They should. (from the Darkroom blog apparently the ACLU took $250k off the BPD for confiscating someone's cell phone. You'd think the behavior would have changed a bit.)

The 2nd FFP article is a little unclear. There's a homicide. Detectives are investigating it. About 45 minutes later there's a robbery call. Then police shoot a homeless guy, apparently on that call.
I have no idea what they're driving at in that piece. The two shootings were related? The police shot both guys? Shooting a guy who pulls out a gun is wrong if he backs up and doesn't point it at you? The police are pulling a Kaiser Soze and going after people's families after they shoot them? Wha.

From there the darkroom blog says the photographer was photographing that scene, where the homeless guy was shot but injured and that's pretty clear:

But, as I wrote in the 2012 blog post, there seems to be a misconception among some police officers and others in authority that they can stop not only the press but anyone taking pictures or recording police activity at a crime scene.


"Couple weeks from now, you're gonna be in some district somewhere with 11 or 12 uniforms looking to you for everything. And some of them are gonna be good police. Some of them are gonna be young and stupid. A few are gonna be pieces of shit. But all of them will take their cue from you. You show loyalty, they learn loyalty. You show them it's about the work, it'll be about the work. You show them some other kinda game, then that's the game they'll play. I came on in the Eastern, and there was a piece-of-shit lieutenant hoping to be a captain, piece-of-shit sergeants hoping to be lieutenants. Pretty soon we had piece-of-shit patrolmen trying to figure the job for themselves. And some of what happens then is hard as hell to live down. Comes a day you're gonna have to decide whether it's about you or about the work." - Daniels, The Wire.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:30 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


> oh if we could please not get into a hairsplitting match about libertarian vs whatever it would be ever so nice please

Educated liberalism is all about nuance. (Or so I've been told. Should I not have believed?)
posted by jfuller at 1:35 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


oh if we could please not get into a hairsplitting match about libertarian vs whatever it would be ever so nice please

This is one of the few cases where it's actually a meaningful distinction, though. The more nutso the Randian, the more likely they are to bring up some variety of pork products when discussing the police.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:36 PM on March 7


Are you confusing "law and order" Republicans with actual conservatives & libertarians?


I was thinking mostly about H. Roark at the top of the thread.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:52 PM on March 7


The problem (allowing or disallowing recording of controversial real-life events) will soon go away. Enough people will be recording everything all the time, that you won't be able to stop them. The cameras are getting small enough that you can't tell who is recording.
posted by Triplanetary at 1:54 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


he's a member in good standing of a police union, so he can do what-ev-ar he wants. sodomize an underage goat on the steps of a convent? six-month paid leave, and the union rep will say the kid fell on his dick. i'm all for collective bargaining in the private sector, but not for public servants.
posted by bruce at 2:08 PM on March 7


Yeah because before there were public sector unions, there was no police corruption or political patronage, and every time a cop did a wrong he got fired. Taking away unions will totally solve that problem.
posted by rtha at 2:13 PM on March 7 [16 favorites]


Funny how people who never have to directly stand up for their rights against a police officer and risk being thrown in jail for simply photographing the police doing their jobs in public think this is just a cop having bad day. I've dealt with so many cops over the years when I worked in newspapers who had every reason you can think of why they didn't want me to photograph them working a scene. Everyone of of them was wrong but it didn't matter because they knew they could beat the crap out of me and throw me in jail and nothing would come of it. I once had a sheriff's officer put me in a head lock and drag me 20 feet because I had the nerve of walking towards a riot with a camera in my hand and a press pass around my neck. I wasn't resisting. I wasn't impeding. He just decided to kick my ass for fun.

Everyone is within their rights to record police officers in public. Period. Cops don't like that and the public recently has been discovering what news photographers have known for 60 or so years.
posted by photoslob at 2:15 PM on March 7 [28 favorites]


> The problem (allowing or disallowing recording of controversial real-life events) will soon go
> away. Enough people will be recording everything all the time, that you won't be able to stop
> them.

We fervently hope, anyway. Being very old in internet dog years I can't help remembering when the net was going to be so technically incomprehensible to anyone but deep geeks from Caltech/MIT (who trend libertarian-liberal), and so omnipresent, that no government could dream of controlling it. Oh sure, they could dream....
posted by jfuller at 2:50 PM on March 7


Why is it that so many Ayn Rand types have such a hard-on for the instruments of coercive state power? She certainly didn't.

It's more like coercive power junkies have a hard-on for Ayn Rand; specifically Rational Self Interest, with a sly wink at the word 'Rational'. Regressives feel Objectivism gives them permission to satisfy greed with no regard for the welfare of others, even though that's not what Objectivism is about, just as Regressives feel religion gives them permission to hate The Other, even though that's (mostly) not what (modern) religion is about.

'The Simpsons' nailed it.
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:00 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


Somebody always wants to say that the police are really nice people. The police absolutely must not be allowed to be above or outside the law. Whether or not they're nice people has nothing to do with anything.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 3:05 PM on March 7 [13 favorites]


Everyone is within their rights to record police officers in public.

Photograph.

Audio recording IS illegal in many states.
posted by srboisvert at 3:40 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's just me trying to be optimistic, but it's nice to see the worm turning here, and at least a few police chiefs seeming to give a damn about the First Amendment again.

It's cameras. Dash cams in cruisers, cell phones with cameras in the hand of nearly every member of the public, and most recently the body cams you're starting to see some departments make their officers wear.
posted by rollbiz at 3:52 PM on March 7


> Audio recording IS illegal in many states.

The use of wiretap laws against audio recordings made of anyone in public is on the way out. The use of those laws against audio recordings made of public servants in public is hanging by a thread. The ACLU's "Know Your Rights: Photographers" write-up linked above says "The state of Illinois makes the recording illegal regardless of whether there is an expectation of privacy, but the ACLU of Illinois is challenging that statute in court as a violation of the First Amendment." In fact, it's already gotten a permanent injunction, (also) though they're still arresting people for it.

If you're concerned, stick a 3.5mm plug in your phone's headphone/mic jack to disables the internal microphone.
posted by morganw at 4:05 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


Here in San Francisco, six officers were recently indicted on federal charges thanks to surveillance cameras in the hallways of residential hotels.
posted by rtha at 4:09 PM on March 7


The use of wiretap laws against audio recordings made of anyone in public is on the way out. The use of those laws against audio recordings made of public servants in public is hanging by a thread.

I think I've talked about it here before as well, but folks in Massachusetts should know that it IS legal to openly record the police in Massachusetts after the court ruled in our favor in the Glik v. Cunniffe case in 2012.

I mention openly because Massachusetts is a two-party notification state for purposes of wiretap laws, so what is clear is that you can record the police if you've notified them that you're recording. What's additionally great is that the ruling further clarified that "notification" is as simple as holding openly a device capable of recording in a position that one should reasonably understand that you are recording.

What's less clear right now is how this affects surreptitious recording of the police, and people have been arrested for that since the Glik ruling. I think we'll see a case challenging that sooner rather than later, and I'm hopeful that the right to record the police will be expanded here.
posted by rollbiz at 4:19 PM on March 7


The policeman was out of line, regardless of whether the photographer was being an ass or not. He knew how he should have behaved, but chose to violate first amendment rights. I hope he gets disciplined and the force policy changes.
posted by arcticseal at 6:29 PM on March 7






Ugh, that's a horrifying story jeffburdges, but that site seems to have an axe to grind, demonstrated by how it makes it a point to call the police "the government" repeatedly. Here's a link to a CBS News report that doesn't seem to be pushing any issues. New York Daily News.
posted by JHarris at 7:41 PM on March 8


An ax to grind? You mean an ax about cops beating civilians to death? I'm unclear about this ax of which you speak. Is it really ax grinding when you have a dead body with 5 cops piled on top?
posted by Goofyy at 7:07 AM on March 9


I'm fine with blogs that axe grind police brutality. I'm thrilled if they employ right-wing dog whistle terms like "the government", and invent terminology like "tax fattened class", to help isolate police from their traditional bastion of support on the right.

I'm supremely unimpressed with any so-called left-winger who'd rather see police perpetrate violence against innocent people than allay with at least partially progressive right-wingers, like libertarians.

We've an extreme problem with police brutality in this country right now, one the left-wing complains about whenever police attack protestors, which is frequently, but largely fail to address directly. At least the mildly right-win activists are clearly targeting the actual problem and raising real public outcry against police abuse.

There is small issue with anti-police-brutality sites like policestateusa.com, copblock.org, thefreethoughtproject.com, etc. also publicizing poorly corroborated stories, but usually it's obvious from the story, and frequently that the only way said stories every get corroborated and covered by the news.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:46 AM on March 9




Apparently people should stop complaining and be grateful whenever the police don't sexually assault someone.
posted by homunculus at 11:47 AM on March 9


Yes, an axe to grind. There is good and bad "government." The tone on that article, at least, was off-putting, as a separate issue from the event covered. I am just saying.
posted by JHarris at 1:49 PM on March 9


How the hell do you get arrested for jaywalking? I got a ticket once for that in Germany and the police officers were matter of fact and managed to issue me a ticket without handcuffs or being bundled into the back of a police car.

There's something seriously wrong with police culture when not only is she cuffed, but the Police Chief says she's lucky not to have been assaulted by his officers.
posted by arcticseal at 2:28 PM on March 9 [2 favorites]


Helmet Cam Footage Shows Cops Murder a Man for “Illegally Camping”

Which professions have the most psychopaths?
CEO and Lawyer rank #1 and #2 respectively, but Police rank #7 just between clergyman and journalist. I'm confident surgeon would rank much lower outside the U.S. Journalist might rank lower outside the U.S. too. I'd expect politician and lobbyist would beat out even lawyers, and maybe even CEOs, but they were not listed.

Communities grow weary of militarized police (RT)
posted by jeffburdges at 3:45 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


$4.5 Million Tentative Settlement Reached In Scott Olsen’s Lawsuit for “Less Lethal” Shooting by Oakland Police
It's sad that he walks away with such a small settlement considering the brain damage, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:01 PM on March 22


Rachel Lederman, one of the attorneys who handled Scott's case, has won big settlements against the OPD over the years for their repeated civil rights violations. She is pretty sick of "winning" because every time she "wins" it's because the OPD hasn't changed the way they do anything. (She's a friend of ours.)
posted by rtha at 5:15 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]






Texas Cop Killed Student for Being Sarcastic

God.
posted by JHarris at 6:25 PM on March 23




Helmet Cam Footage Shows Cops Murder a Man for “Illegally Camping”

The "Bounty" Police Force? Albuquerque Officers Face Protests, Probe over Spate of Fatal Shootings
posted by homunculus at 11:15 AM on April 1




To continue reading this story, you will need to be a digital subscriber to HoustonChronicle.com.

Synopsis at BoingBoing
posted by rhizome at 11:36 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]




To continue reading this story, you will need to be a digital subscriber to HoustonChronicle.com.

You can get the whole thing if you google the url and follow the link from there.
posted by homunculus at 6:11 PM on April 3


Molly Crabapple: Theater of Justice
posted by homunculus at 6:11 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


That link from homunculus is great -- extremely saddening, but great.
posted by JHarris at 6:32 PM on April 3


« Older Guilt by Association   |   12/12/72 Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post