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Don't shoot like the police.
June 5, 2010 5:35 PM   Subscribe

"In at least three states (Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland), it is now illegal to record an on-duty police officer even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists. The legal justification for arresting the “shooter” rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited." Previously. One of the illegal recordings, embedded in an article.

So what happens to the city and community organization operated public surveillance cameras? In the opinion of most legal scholars, the continuous video surveillance of public areas does not present significant legal obstacles. Although no court has directly addressed this issue, under current interpretations of the First and Fourth Amendment and California tort law, video surveillance appears to represent a valid use of the state's power to protect its citizens. In this view, continuous video surveillance is analogous to a mechanical police officer. It does not intrude upon an individual's sphere of privacy, but rather records events occurring in public space for which individuals do not have reasonable expectations of privacy.

Police and city systems "protect" us electronically, but when the police themselves become abusers it becomes illegal for citizens to "protect" ourselves in the same manner. I suppose it's nothing new for the police, but now the courts are upholding these charges and convictions. SCOTUS, help!
posted by SixteenTons (83 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great. They'll put up obnoxious blue light cameras in the middle of Baltimore, but if I videotape a "public servant" in public, I'm a lawbreaker?

Does that mean the cops arrest each other when a blue light camera films them?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:47 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I saw this the other day and thought about posting about it. Ubiquitous electronic recording has really given people the opportunity to shine light on bad policing. But rather then improving police work, they just ban the recording of them! In my view police should be required to have active cameras on them at all times.
posted by delmoi at 5:47 PM on June 5, 2010 [31 favorites]


I'd always kind of hoped that Illinois was better than this. I guess that's just not the case.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:49 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, in most cases isn't the actual legal problem with the cameras the audio recording? would it be illegal to tape without sound? Most surveillance cameras don't do sound, right?
posted by delmoi at 5:49 PM on June 5, 2010


Does a Police Officer cease to be a citizen while in uniform?
posted by doublehappy at 5:53 PM on June 5, 2010


Christopher Drew's blog, where he goes into great detail about the charges against him. He is mentioned in the fist link. He is a Chicago street artist who was trying to get arrested to test a downtown no peddling law and was charged with felony eavesdropping because he had a tape recorder in his pocket. They dropped the peddling charges, but he is still facing the felony.
posted by lee at 5:55 PM on June 5, 2010


I...what?
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:55 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The repercussions of this are far-reaching: Sting & The Police cancel Mid-West performances.
posted by doublehappy at 5:58 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


> SCOTUS, help!

Given recent rulings, I don't hold much hope for SCOTUS to uphold the rights of individuals. Maybe pestering Congresspeople will have more effect?
posted by Burhanistan at 5:58 PM on June 5, 2010


this is not something that should be left up to the courts - this is something for the legislatures. change the law; don't fiddle with how it's interpreted.
posted by warbaby at 6:00 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, if I'm a major news network cameraman covering a massive riot, am I going to be arrested? And if not, why not? The public interest? In that case, everyone should be allowed to film, because we all have access to wide audiences these days.
posted by doublehappy at 6:01 PM on June 5, 2010 [15 favorites]


SCOTUS, help!

Nah.
posted by Avenger at 6:06 PM on June 5, 2010


In Spite of State Law, Maryland Law Enforcement Officials Still Arresting, Charging People for Recording Cops
posted by homunculus at 6:07 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


homunculus, that reminds me of how the London PD had to repeatedly tell its officers to stop arresting people for taking pictures in public since there is not and never was any law against it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:13 PM on June 5, 2010


In a perverse sort of way, we should all be a little proud that simple video cameras are considered to be major threats to Police power -- major enough for the Police to demand their restriction.

The actions of the Police (and their enablers in the State governments) speak volumes of how frightened they are of their misdeeds coming to light.
posted by Avenger at 6:13 PM on June 5, 2010 [19 favorites]


I got pulled into the local hoosegow for shooting a cop . . . with my Nikon that is. That's here in Texas, where it seems they make it up as they go along. Charged with assault.
posted by ahimsakid at 6:15 PM on June 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Also, if I'm a major news network cameraman covering a massive riot, am I going to be arrested? And if not, why not?

First link, second paragraph
posted by desjardins at 6:20 PM on June 5, 2010


From article:

"...among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway."

So it's just the size of the camera which makes it "obvious to all that recording is underway"? That they have logo jackets? Because I can wear a logo jacket.
posted by sharkfu at 6:30 PM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I stumbled upon and read the blog Photography is not a Crime last week and it made me angry and a little afraid.
posted by ghharr at 6:31 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah - read that, but I'm still confused as to whether this means if I have a really big camera, I can continue to film. Or if I say "I AM FILMING AND RECORDING" and make it obvious to all.
posted by doublehappy at 6:33 PM on June 5, 2010


Wiretap I understand. When I used to record people for insurance claims, I understood getting their explicit permission before (and after) because the telephone is a place where people have the expectation of privacy. In public places, people don't have the expectation of privacy. Public employees on duty in public certainly don't.

As a taxpayer, I like to think of police as my employees. When they are on duty in public, I feel I should have the right to evaluate their performance by making random or targeted recordings of them in action, and then releasing those recordings to my fellow taxpayers for their joint evaluation.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:45 PM on June 5, 2010 [13 favorites]


I stumbled upon and read the blog Photography is not a Crime last week and it made me angry and a little afraid.

Same here. Reading the daily accounts of police harassing, assaulting, and/or arresting photographers is pretty sobering: unlike with most other "contempt of cop" offenses, I can actually picture myself falling prey to the police for "disrepectfully" photographing them.
posted by Dimpy at 6:52 PM on June 5, 2010


I don't even know what to do about this shit anymore. Calling my congresscritter doesn't seem to do a damn thing, since the things I tend to ask them to do just get me labeled a nut. And both major parties are essentially filled with corrupt shit-heads in the pocket of every major interest group. Anybody who steps up and takes a stand on anything loses the support of his party.

This whole thing is a big stage play. I don't even know who the fuck any of this benefits anymore.

But I do know that I'm becoming progressively more fatalist about it. My fellow citizens, for the most part, seem to support this sort of legislation. They seem to need somebody to tell them what to do, and so supporting any visible symbol of that authority seems to be a kneejerk reaction. After all, they'll never be on the wrong side of the law. This is all to keep the terrorists from raping our white women.

I just hope I die before we get as bad as China or Iran. If not, I'll be pleased to die in the resistance.
posted by Netzapper at 6:58 PM on June 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


i almost snapped a pic of a cop the other day just for the heck of it. i didn't realize it was against the law. kinda glad i didn't now.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:05 PM on June 5, 2010


christ almighty and they wonder why the conspiracy theorists think we're all going to get marched into the police state death camps
posted by nathancaswell at 7:36 PM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's it. From now on, helmet cams for everyone.
posted by klanawa at 7:37 PM on June 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah - they can't arrest everyone.
posted by doublehappy at 7:44 PM on June 5, 2010


Ok, I may not be reading well and am confused. What about freelance video journalists? Or someone that happens to be recording something that becomes news and is paid for the recording.
Also and more importantly I think this is complete and utter bullshit. I like police mostly but I think with how cheap it is to record that they should be recorded at all times while on duty.
posted by vapidave at 7:49 PM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
posted by waitingtoderail at 7:50 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


In my view police should be required to have active cameras on them at all times.
Well, in some places, they are. (For a non-GRAR example, see this recent fpp.) Sometimes these cameras provide evidence of police misconduct, and sometimes they just malfunction at convenient times.
posted by hattifattener at 8:06 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ubiquitous electronic recording has really given people the opportunity to shine light on bad policing. But rather then improving police work, they just ban the recording of them! In my view police should be required to have active cameras on them at all times.

Agreed. But the police are increasingly aware of how easily any recorded misconduct can go viral, and sadly many just see that as a threat.

(For a non-GRAR example, see this recent fpp.)

Every time I see that I smile.
posted by homunculus at 8:57 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a taxpayer, I like to think of police as my employees.

It's nice to have that fantasy.
posted by blucevalo at 8:57 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Public Servants On-Duty are supposed to have fewer rights. That's why we call them servants and not tyrants.
posted by Skwirl at 9:01 PM on June 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


How does this law jive with private security cameras? Are cops now banned from banks, convenience stores, most parking lots, WalMart, ATMS and gas stations? How about the security cameras installed at private residences?
posted by Mitheral at 9:05 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


SCOTUS, help!

I've spent the last 15 miserable minutes trying to come up with a witty yet non-hurtful response. Such a response may not exist.
posted by treepour at 9:07 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Shit, I liked Maryland. Who's left? Idaho?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:26 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


"But I explicitly exercised my right to silence! I have evidence right here on tape!"
posted by doublehappy at 9:31 PM on June 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Idaho and Texas are always the last to pass these laws. I find myself becoming more and more republican everyday. So what happens if you record them? What happened to my country :(
posted by digdan at 9:44 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


But, but, if we don't record police work, how will the cops ever prove that they were just using their clubs to search for weapons clearly hidden in the heads of unarmed, handcuffed individuals?

I mean, are we just going to let the liberal bias in media hide that danger the police face everyday?!?!
posted by yeloson at 10:10 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


nathancaswell: "christ almighty and they wonder why the conspiracy theorists think we're all going to get marched into the police state death camps"

The trick is knowing which conspiracies are real.

In this case, its disturbing when law enforcement wants to hide in the shadows, while doing their work in the daylight. Very disturbing indeed. They are criminalizing the act of documenting the actions of government.
posted by MrLint at 10:19 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. I read a lot of outrage daily and usually have better things to do than respond. But this -- not sure why -- rubs me very very wrong. Unacceptable in my country.
posted by Bokononist at 11:17 PM on June 5, 2010


You know, the recent post of a police officer who helped a dog out of a fence made me realize that this problem can probably be solved by placing tiny cameras all over the police officers.

If these cameras are tampered with or turned off, trigger internal review and suspension without pay. If multiple officers appear to be in an event and they all have their cameras turned off, compound the review and suspension.

I've often heard the "If you had nothing to hide, you would not mind the invasion of privacy" argument. But why not make a subset of the populous who is already willing to sacrifice some things, like police officers, take this one for the team. At least while they are on duty. Make their uniforms bristle with cameras, so you know that if you even see a police officer your shit is recorded. So long as we can get a solid hold on where an on-duty police officer can go, we'll be fine, right?
posted by chemoboy at 11:27 PM on June 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Idaho and Texas are always the last to pass these laws. I find myself becoming more and more republican everyday. So what happens if you record them? What happened to my country :(
Are you seriously calling Texas a state that has a low level of government control over people's lives? You're talking about a state that has the highest level of executions in the US by a huge margin. A state that puts parents in jail if their kids skip class (I'm not kidding). Or look at the new law in Arazona for 'illegal' mexicans. Or the laws in Oklahoma that forces abortion providers to collect detailed statistics on abortions.

Unfortunately there are authoritarians on the left and the right. Texas is a very authoritarian state. On the other hand, look at Oregon or Washington as examples of 'blue' states that are not very oppressive towards there citizens. On the other hand, Montana would be a good example of a 'red' state that's pretty laid back. They actually abandoned speed limits before the federal government forced them to put them in.
posted by delmoi at 11:30 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I usually try to come up with something clever in my comments, but this is just infuriating, and I sadly suspect these laws exist because some conservative judges believe cops should be able to simply do whatever they want to do.
posted by mreleganza at 11:53 PM on June 5, 2010


Who watches the watchmen?
posted by fuq at 12:25 AM on June 6, 2010


Is this FFP inspired by the Chicago cop who got filmed downing a few slammers just before he killed some folks with his car? I can't seem to see it mentioned up thread, but it seems like such a coincidence.

My favourite police photo. Man with a fake police hat "inspecting" the police lines.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:50 AM on June 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah, like others above, this almost gives me a second wind from my outrage fatigue. I'm sure I'm not the only one whose been threatened with arrest for standing on a public sidewalk watching an arrest - no camera, no phone, no talking to officers or anyone involved - just watching. Of course, that wasn't actually a codified crime (to my knowledge), so the subject of this post is far more frightening.
posted by zoinks at 1:23 AM on June 6, 2010


*who's*

And oh yeah, maybe I should have been prosecuted for taking pictures of my bashed-up face after they beat the shit out of me. After all, the photos of their handiwork did eventually become evidence in court. Surely I shouldn't have been allowed to do that.
posted by zoinks at 1:32 AM on June 6, 2010


"Citizenship and Immigration Canada."

Yeah, the wife is Canadian, we were married on November 12 last year and in a few thousand dollars I'll be a dual national. I understand the sentiment but no. My country dammit and I'll and see this through.
posted by vapidave at 1:38 AM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't some cops have cameras on them most of the time? For example, that cop from the dog video? And of course there's the dashboard mounted cameras, which I thought were standard in police cruisers. Shouldn't they have to get my consent before recording people with those?
posted by heathkit at 1:48 AM on June 6, 2010


They don't need your consent, as there is no expectation of privacy in public. The point is that you should not need their consent to point a camera back, and should certainly not be charged with a crime for doing so.
posted by zoinks at 2:59 AM on June 6, 2010


Can somebody link to an official statement by the cops, any cops, explaining why they think it's better for them not to be recorded doing their job? Any response to complaints such as those made in this post? I would love to know how they are trying to play this as a positive thing for the public. They must be protecting us from bad guys, right?
posted by pracowity at 4:45 AM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


IT's one of the basic principles of centralized government that the state should have the monopoly on force. The US is fairly radical in this respect, with its right to bear arms, but ultimately the state gets more or less free use of force and the threat of force to keep the citizens in line. Violence is only allowed to flow in one direction. If the police beat up a suspect, it's because the suspect was (clearly!) doing something wrong. It is unremarkable, and moreover should not be remarked upon or observed. On the other hand, the slightest violent action in the wrong direction - against a cop or against the state - is met with immediate and disproportionate response. Derick Jensen puts this phenomenon in the context of domestic abuse: the the abusive father perpetrates violence at will, and it is not to be spoken of. But anyone who raises a hand in self defence will be immediately put down. It's a pattern that repeats itself again and again: violence is allowed to flow from the powerful to the weak, and when flowing in this direction, it is unremarkable. You can see it in the Israel-Palestine relation quite clearly, or anywhere where a civilisation exploits the weak.

If citizens are allowed to observe the use of violence by the appendages of the state, then it opens them to question the use of that violence. In our system, this questioning allows the direction of violence back against the state, through prosecution of police for misconduct, creating a flow of violence against the prevailing current. So of course the police are opposed to it...
posted by kaibutsu at 7:12 AM on June 6, 2010 [9 favorites]


I find myself becoming more and more republican everyday.

I believe you labor under the misconception that a Republican government would put an end to these laws and police excesses.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:25 AM on June 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


The standpoint of the police in not liking this is that sometimes the camera doesn't take into account the entirety of the picture, and can make them look like they are doing wrong when they really weren't.

I understand the sentiment, but it is silly.
posted by gjc at 7:33 AM on June 6, 2010


kaibatsu, well said.

Thorzdad, I have been puzzling over that particular comment since yesterday.

There are going to be many, many people who get screwed by the system until this gets fixed - if it ever gets fixed.
posted by Xoebe at 7:36 AM on June 6, 2010


IIRC, the video of the Rodney King assault 20 years ago was used in the policemen's FAVOR. This is just appalling. Citizens have no expectation of privacy in a public place, but cops can beat up citizens in public and no one can record it without fear of being arrested. Is this really the USA?
posted by WilliamMD at 7:42 AM on June 6, 2010


Is this really the USA?

It always amuses me that Americans think they live in this glorious land of freedom and democracy. This just goes at the end of a long list of things you already can't do there.
posted by doublehappy at 8:43 AM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's some fucked up shit, America. What are you guys going to do about it? Is there anything you can do? Yikes. I'd hate to be in your shoes.
posted by dazed_one at 9:30 AM on June 6, 2010


I can see why the police are unhappy about being taped. There is often alot of context left out and there are lots of people out there that are perfectly happy to edit the video to cast the authority in the worst possible light. Sure the full tape can be supeoned but there is no gurantee that it will still be available and in any case the damage has already been done.

Of course the real defence is for the police to have their own camera's running. And I think that in the majority of the situations this would help them. If it doesn't then it's probable that the officer in question doesn't deserve protection.

But unlike some of the other commenters I think that the officer should be able to turn off the cameras when they feel the need. If something goes down badly they should have to explain themselves but there are many situations where it would be important to be 'off the record' or any number of valid reasons.
posted by cirhosis at 10:06 AM on June 6, 2010


Unfortunately there are authoritarians on the left and the right. Texas is a very authoritarian state. On the other hand, look at Oregon or Washington as examples of 'blue' states that are not very oppressive towards there citizens. On the other hand, Montana would be a good example of a 'red' state that's pretty laid back. They actually abandoned speed limits before the federal government forced them to put them in.

Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are blue states. I never had thought of them as being authoritarian but I'll keep an open mind.
posted by millardsarpy at 11:18 AM on June 6, 2010


Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Are you kidding? It looks as if this Canadian police officer was previously a soccer player.
I'm glad there is an International Day against Police Brutality.
posted by millardsarpy at 11:28 AM on June 6, 2010


Can somebody link to an official statement by the cops, any cops, explaining why they think it's better for them not to be recorded doing their job?
One reason I've seen given a number of times— sorry I don't have tim eto hunt down an official example— is that the camera captures not just the cops, but also the various members of the public with which they interact, and it is an invasion of those peoples' privacy for them to be videotaped without their consent. (Analogously, I suppose, to the way that police records are considered somewhat private.) I can see some merit to this argument, at least when the police are in a private space instead of just on the street.
posted by hattifattener at 11:44 AM on June 6, 2010


I wonder if you are just directly broadcasting--live streaming, via cell or whatever, if that, too, is considered "recording?" Sure, something at the other end of the transmission may be recording the stream
posted by bz at 11:50 AM on June 6, 2010


Did they think about this for three minutes? Didn't it occur to them that the narrative that the police are the good guys often enjoys support via photography.

Why don't they just add swastika armbands to the police uniforms if they're in such a hurry to erode trust while not doing anything to make life harder for problem police officers.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:01 PM on June 6, 2010


On a somewhat related note, an off-duty cop in Baltimore shot a man 6 times in the chest because the man groped his girlfriend. The man died.

I've lived in Baltimore for two years and I've had numerous negative encounters with the police here. They are typically bad people and its no wonder there is so much crime in this city. We have wolves tending the wolves.
posted by cloeburner at 12:23 PM on June 6, 2010


For whatever it's worth, I'm a resident of Illinois and I just emailed the Governor and my state rep and state senator, asking them to change the laws that are being used to prevent public recording of LEOs – both for the protection of a vast majority of good cops out there and for the few bad ones that ruin it for all of us (citizens and cops).

For all of you in Illinois, here's the place to find your rep & senator's names. Google will help you find their contact info, etc. etc.

Maybe it's a lost cause, but hey, we gotta start somewhere.
posted by incongruity at 2:06 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was going to make a similar post, might as well share. (I was in the middle of fleshing out those middle links, mostly I thought the announcement of the possible method of 'verification' of wiretap recordings sounding pretty amazing)

Before on the blue with due diligence skepticism; forensic audiology (Also many other times (see most 'binladen audio tape' related tags; figuring out if that voice matches a known extrapolated sample, building a map of peoples vocal characteristics (previously), and essentially all around doing the real life 'enhancing' of the world of various vibrational frequencies on the sonic spectrum.

*New discoveries could bring about an accurate way to 'watermark' and allow the creation of a 'time/place' verification process for wiretaps.

This could mean new ways of ensuring that what you say is what you say; it can't be doctored for 'good' or 'bad' purposes.* this will not help if you don't think wiretap is right or proper in the first place...

Nixon/ watergate
wired audio forensics

Although not yet at its peak potential, the technology currently helps investigators with tasks such as verifying Osama bin Laden videos and locating gunshots. -Interesting NPR series.

New analysis of a student’s audio recording from the shootings in which four student were killed at Kent State University in 1970 shows that Ohio National Guard troops received orders to fire into a crowd of unarmed students, according to two audio forensics experts. -NYT

Ocean city police get audio and video tools

And yet... in at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.

and then some audio nerdery stuff... AES, what is forensic science? , the CSI effect, Awesome list of 'audio engineering/processing industry related companies'

I could not locate where metafilter talked about the "safety dynamics" gunshot detector/locator thing in Chicago... But I remember it happening and would say ("previously'r").

Big times for Forensic Audiology!
posted by infinite intimation at 2:25 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ghidorah: I'd always kind of hoped that Illinois was better than this. I guess that's just not the case.

Yeah, after requiring confessions to police to be videotaped, this is quite a step back.

I am not optimistic about how this will go once it gets to the SCOTUS.
posted by ignignokt at 2:57 PM on June 6, 2010


unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway.

So if you're obvious about it, it's okay?

I'd like to start wearing tee shirts or buttons that say "THIS CONVERSATION IS BEING RECORDED" at all times.
posted by hermitosis at 3:14 PM on June 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


As a taxpayer, I like to think of police as my employees.

It's nice to have that fantasy.
posted by blucevalo at 11:57 PM on June 5 [1 favorite -] Favorite added! [!]


true, I'm very bold from over here behind my internets. IRL, cops scare the bejeezus out of me.
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:30 PM on June 6, 2010


Federal wiretapping laws apply to audio, I thought. If you overtly videotape someone, it is legal...and why not? I thought that covert audiotaping (not video, apparently) was the illegal activity.

Cops don't like to be videotaped? Makes me want to have a camera on me at all times...
posted by Chuffy at 3:39 PM on June 6, 2010


These machines kill fascists.
posted by KingEdRa at 3:51 PM on June 6, 2010


Certain headlines of interest: $1.7 Million to Brothers Wrongfully Arrested for Videotaping Drug Raid and $20,000 to photographer beaten for taking photos of police raid.
posted by millardsarpy at 4:46 PM on June 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


This FPP is worded a bit misleadingly.

First, I don't think the assertion is true with regard to Maryland. Maryland has a "reasonable expectation of privacy" exception to its wiretapping statute; a cop on a public street would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and so could be audiotaped. Illinois, on the other hand, revoked its "reasonable expectation of privacy" exception in order to prevent people from audio-recording cops. Massachusetts never had this common-sense exception.

Second, the use of the word "shooting" in the FPP makes it seems like video-only recordings are disallowed. But video alone is always okay, because these are wiretapping rules; they apply to audio recordings.

Third, it should be made clear that obvious recording is okay, because there is implied consent, if you see someone wielding a big old camera, and you continue your interaction with them without objecting. (That's why news reporters with big cameras aren't arrested at public riots in Mass and Illinois.)

So in sum: (1) video-only-recordings aren't affected; (2) open audio-recordings aren't affected; and (3) Maryland shouldn't be lumped in here.
posted by palliser at 7:46 PM on June 6, 2010


Maryland has a "reasonable expectation of privacy" exception to its wiretapping statute; a cop on a public street would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and so could be audiotaped.

Yeah, if you're willing to go to jail, get bail, and then fight it out in court. With an enemy still on the force if you manage to prevail.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:45 PM on June 6, 2010


My point is that the FPP says "it is now illegal," and this assertion is wrong. I don't think it's right that cops arrest someone for something that's actually legal, but it doesn't mean the state's laws are wrong.
posted by palliser at 5:33 AM on June 7, 2010


First, I don't think the assertion is true with regard to Maryland. Maryland has a "reasonable expectation of privacy" exception to its wiretapping statute; a cop on a public street would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and so could be audiotaped.

palliser, that isn't what the courts have ruled in MD. They've ruled that any taping of audio is a violation of privacy, even in a public area.

Having watched the Baltimore PD beat the crap out of people practically on my doorstep and harass poor people drinking a beer on their stoop while letting the upper middle class sports teams bring cases of beer into public parks, I'm perfectly willing to stipulate that, should I have any interaction with police in the state of Maryland, in any place, public or not, I do not mind being taped.
posted by QIbHom at 11:32 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


palliser, I agree, it is slightly misleading. Considered amending that bit about it NOW being illegal, for several reasons, but decided that because it is a quote I would leave it in.
posted by SixteenTons at 1:30 PM on June 9, 2010


My point is that the FPP says "it is now illegal," and this assertion is wrong. I don't think it's right that cops arrest someone for something that's actually legal, but it doesn't mean the state's laws are wrong.

What's the point of the law, then?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:40 PM on June 9, 2010


Maryland police once again use wiretapping laws to crack down on videographer
posted by homunculus at 1:14 PM on June 18, 2010


This Washington Post story (referred to in homonculus's link) on the pending cases in Maryland is pretty interesting. The prosecutor's theory, if you need a laugh:
"The question is: Is a police officer permitted to have a private conversation as part of their duty in responding to calls, or is everything a police officer does subject to being audio recorded?" Cassilly said.

Cassilly thinks officers should be able to consider their on-duty conversations to be private. Other officers share that view and have issued warnings to documentarians. Another video that surfaced on YouTube shows a Baltimore police officer at the Preakness warning a cameraman who was recording several other officers subduing a woman that such recordings are illegal.
So the police, backed by at least one Maryland prosecutor, are claiming to be having a private moment with a detainee in the middle of the Preakness.

It's going to take an adjudication to get the police to stop, though. It looks like any higher state courts that have considered this question (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, Washington) -- whether a police officer is having a private conversation during a public stop -- have decided "no," but the Illinois legislature was willing to override their state's supreme court's decision by just altering the wiretapping statute. Hopefully attention like this will make the legislatures less willing to do that. And hopefully Maryland will get an actual adjudication to bring their officers' behavior in line with what their statute says.
posted by palliser at 6:57 PM on June 18, 2010


Police Blackout: Law enforcement agencies in Northern Virginia say you have no right to know what they’re doing.
posted by homunculus at 3:13 PM on June 29, 2010


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