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Sed quis custodiet ipsos cutodes
September 28, 2010 11:29 PM   Subscribe

Judge sides with motorcylist in videotaping incident. Previously

"Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation" writes Judge Emory A. Pitt Jr.

Video of original incident.

The Cato Institute weighs in.
posted by peeedro (37 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great news. I think everyone should wear helmet cams and live broadcast to justinTV or similar 24x7 - then there would be a public record of everything!
posted by russmaxdesign at 11:37 PM on September 28, 2010


This is great news, and a big deal, but we really need binding opinions on this from the Federal Courts, so that states (I'm looking at you, Illinois) stop with this nonsense.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:53 PM on September 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sanity at last, if only from a lowly county court.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:03 AM on September 29, 2010


This is a great decision, but it is unbelievable to me that in the year 2010, it is even required (and was not a foregone conclusion). We live in a dystopia. 1984 was optimistic.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:16 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here is Chris Drew's story, a pending Illinois case. Also, the ACLU, who declined to help Drew, is now directly suing the Cook County state's attorney challenging the use of wire tapping laws to charge people recording the police in public.
posted by lee at 12:16 AM on September 29, 2010


I love that the go-to worry for the greater good is that, I shit you not, the following:
But Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly said the ruling "will make it more difficult for the police to do their jobs" and warned that people armed with cameras might soon point their lenses at car accident scenes "and eavesdrop as police take medical history" from patients. Cassilly could appeal, but said on Monday that he had not yet read the judge's ruling.
Someone call the fucking whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaambulance.

Oh no! We may be violating HIPAA!

I think the end all is that it will make it more difficult for police to do their jobs poorly and outside of the bounds of the law, end of story. You are granted certain privileges in your position and capacity to uphold the law and keep the peace. You are thus to be held to a higher standard. There is absolutely no valid reason to attempt to disallow videotaping of how a police officer performs his duties in a public space. Glad we're adding one to the precedence file here. Hope we see it go up the chain and be upheld every step of the way.
posted by disillusioned at 12:27 AM on September 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


Back on topic.

As a decade-plus lurker and member here I've read many complaints about American society.

Taser use, the war in Iraq, gay marriage hysteria, the stolen "hanging chad" election, Arizona/Mexico border vigilantes, euthanasia...

But nothing - nothing - in these ~~twelve years has made me shake my head in disbelief as much as these crazy "you're not allowed to film a policeman" rules.

That's fucking North Korea standard.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:56 AM on September 29, 2010 [28 favorites]


>lowly county court

You wanted this to go all the way to the Supreme Court?!

Seems to me that the best evidence we're not living in a dystopian worse-than-1984 police state is that, er, even in the dangly bits of the judicial system they call bullshit on this stuff.
posted by chavenet at 12:59 AM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


From the Cato link: "The prosecutor behind the case against Graber, Joseph Cassilly, spoke on a panel last week at Cato. He made clear that he disagreed with the structure of the Maryland wiretapping law, and was using the case to push the legislature toward a single-party consent wiretap statute." Maryland is currently a two-party state.

So Casilly, the Hartford County State's Attorney brought this case knowing it was absurd in an effort to push legislators to reduce the level of privacy protection currently afforded the public as encoded in Maryland law.

Because, ya know, on-duty public law enforcement agents and private citizens are really the same thing.
posted by vapidave at 1:30 AM on September 29, 2010


Listened to a whole lot of This American Life Over the past few days, and somehow or other there are so many of them that are apropos to discussions here. For example, the story of Adrian Schoolcroft, who is, apparently, not in an insane asylum right now only because he had the forethought to tape record the criminal behavior of the NYPD.

No doubt the NYPD upper echelons who tried to get him locked up as a paranoiac wish there was a law that would protect them from the evidence he collected.

It seems like running a life recorder is getting to be a better and better idea all the time.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:11 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Someone explain to me please, will this case establish precedent nationwide if it is not appealed? My understanding is no, but I don't really know what I'm talking about. I'd really like this to be a nationwide law, I would love for cops to have to wonder if they were on tape whenever they're performing their duties.
posted by bluejayk at 2:31 AM on September 29, 2010


bluejayk: No, sadly it doesn't. It's binding within the jurisdiction of that court, and whilst it might be considered in the judgement of higher courts or the same level of courts in other jurisdictions it is not in any way binding on them.
posted by jaduncan at 2:46 AM on September 29, 2010


There is absolutely no valid reason to attempt to disallow videotaping of how a police officer performs his duties in a public space.

The funny thing is the only (ex-)police officer I know socially is hugely in favour of pervasive videoing in his old job. He reckoned that it mostly worked in the favour of officers and against bad guys - ones with a good lawyer, to hear him tell it, could spin some marvellous stories about mean police officers victimising their poor client; when the footage showed said client spitting, hitting, biting, etc, it all became a different story.
posted by rodgerd at 3:13 AM on September 29, 2010


As an Illinoisan, I completely agree that we need ruling on this at a higher level to set precedent against this sort of abuse of power. But I'm not sure that I want this case decided by the current Supreme Court, which has more than once proven itself blind to the interests of the people.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 4:23 AM on September 29, 2010


But I'm not sure that I want this case decided by the current Supreme Court, which has more than once proven itself blind to the interests of the people.

But hasn't Scalia recently asserted that there is no right to privacy? If that's what the cops are using as their reason for treating recording of them as illegal, he'd have to find some way to disagree with himself. Not that he's incapable of that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:39 AM on September 29, 2010


I see a tree, dying.
I see fertilizer everywhere.
Alas, there are no more farmers.
posted by Goofyy at 4:58 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is great news!
posted by OmieWise at 5:07 AM on September 29, 2010


It's a small victory in straightening out the growing information asymmetry that exists between the citizenry and the powerful. Just remember that these laws exist the next time you hear some Beltway insider on TV pushing for more freedom to wiretap and surveil the public without oversight -- they only want that right to exist in one direction. "If you're doing nothing wrong, you've got nothing to hide" just isn't good enough for the powerful.
posted by indubitable at 5:41 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, I really like this judge. Sound reasoning all around. When charges were also brought up about the legality of owning the helmet cam itself:
Graber was also charged with possessing a “device primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of oral communications" -- referring to the video camera on his helmet. The judge disagreed with the prosecutor that the helmet cam was illegal, and concluded the state's argument would render illegal “almost every cell phone, Blackberry, and every similar device, not to mention dictation equipment and other types of recording devices."
Seriously, though, WTF is up with the policeman pulling a gun?! He's wearing plain clothes, and if I, a woman, were driving alone, and he pulled me over, I'd be nervous to begin with, and if he pulled a gun on top of that, my first thought would be that he actually was some kind of predator impersonating an officer.

Even though he says, "State police," to the cyclist, I wouldn't blame the guy for thinking someone was trying to steal his bike, rather than thinking this was a legitimate traffic stop, and just taking off.
posted by misha at 5:43 AM on September 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I know you just copy-pasted it from the article, but it's "Sed quis custodiet ipsos cuStodes"
posted by MtDewd at 7:10 AM on September 29, 2010


I'm simultaneously happy with the outcome of this case and incredibly saddened that it had to go to court in the first place. The whole thing was absurd.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 7:47 AM on September 29, 2010


Does anyone have a copy of the ruling?
posted by prefpara at 8:03 AM on September 29, 2010


Jimmy Havok: "...It seems like running a life recorder is getting to be a better and better idea all the time."


I really wish I had a video of the time the cop almost tased me a few months ago. Almost may be a bit harsh, but the threatening body language, arms clearly ready at the draw, yelling for minutes on end without giving me a chance to explain, almost cutting me off (yes, I made a mistake, no, you do not need to pre-escalate the situation. The look of shock on my face when you came out yelling should've been clue enough that I wasn't trying to be a dick.

If I'd had a tape of that, I think it would've been good. But he know he dun goofed, and gave me a written warning instead of a ticket, cuz he KNEW if he did, I'd probably bring up that attitude in court (but then again, I have no proof). But yeah, would be nice to have that shit recorded.

And this was supposedly a "good" cop.
posted by symbioid at 8:42 AM on September 29, 2010


Pitt wrote: "Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation. 'Sed quis custodiet ipsos cutodes' ("Who watches the watchmen?”)."

This is such an obvious point that I can't believe that anyone would ever seriously try to argue against it in this country. You are in public. Acting as a public servant. You have no expectation of privacy. Period.

This judge is a fucking hero for stating this so plainly. I hope the rest of the country's judicial machinery follows from his example.

[not pictured: huge quantities of cynicism on my part about why this will never happen]
posted by quin at 8:44 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


'people armed with cameras might soon point their lenses at car accident scenes "and eavesdrop as police take medical history" from patients. '

This is a separate issue. Even if you are allowed to record *your* conversation with an officer, I believe it's still illegal (or unethical) to record someone else's medical history without authorization, regardless of whether or not it's a cop they're talking to.
posted by Eideteker at 8:46 AM on September 29, 2010


"This is such an obvious point that I can't believe that anyone would ever seriously try to argue against it in this country. You are in public. Acting as a public servant. You have no expectation of privacy. Period"

I agree, many, many times over. However, as a sweeping generalization, I can see cops frustrated by their perception of "criminals" getting off on "technicalities". You can bet they just feel like they are happily turning the tables on the criminals - which is to say, all of us. The obviousness of it simply adds to their gleeful perversion of justice.
posted by Xoebe at 8:54 AM on September 29, 2010


Well beside the point: "A Harford County Circuit Court judge Monday dismissed wiretapping charges against Anthony Graber, a motorcyclist who was jailed briefly after he taped a Maryland state trooper who stopped him for speeding on I-95 using a camera mounted on his helmet."

First kill all the copy editors.
posted by scratch at 8:58 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh happy day!
posted by bz at 9:02 AM on September 29, 2010


Hm. Not sure why this should be an opportunity to advertise the Cato Institute. They're on the correct side of an issue. Big whup. Libertarians are for the public right to monitor police and the legalization of marijuana. That doesn't make them not assholes.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 9:27 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The Cato Institute weighs in" is hardly advertising.

xo,
a libertarian who is not an asshole
posted by prefpara at 9:36 AM on September 29, 2010


you do not need to pre-escalate the situation.

Unfortunately, this is standard police doctrine. They are taught to always remain one step higher on the continuum of force from the "subject." Escalation is built into their operating doctrine.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:35 AM on September 29, 2010


First kill all the copy editors.

No need. They are all being laid off anyway. I bet none of them had the opportunity to edit the story you find so faulty. My understanding is that almost none of the material on newspaper Web pages gets copy-edited.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:44 AM on September 29, 2010


Seriously, though, WTF is up with the policeman pulling a gun?! He's wearing plain clothes, and if I, a woman, were driving alone, and he pulled me over, I'd be nervous to begin with, and if he pulled a gun on top of that, my first thought would be that he actually was some kind of predator impersonating an officer.

We had a huge discussion about that in the previously link if you're interested.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:45 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, this is standard police doctrine. They are taught to always remain one step higher on the continuum of force from the "subject." Escalation is built into their operating doctrine.

I can't think of any better strategy to evoke a violent reaction. Whoever sets these policies either understands nothing about human psychology, or they understand perfectly well and I should be much more paranoid.
posted by LordSludge at 11:55 AM on September 29, 2010


Man's 'nerdy' hobby lands him in hot water after taking photos of Kentwood water tower
posted by homunculus at 1:13 PM on September 29, 2010


It's a really REALLY tough job, and I can kinda understand cops "putting the slipper in" in the heat of battle. There but for the grace of God, go I. But the party's over. If you can't control yourself then don't become a cop.

From my PoV it all started to go down hill when a young Brett Darrow recorded a policeman abusing him and threatening to invent charges against him.

Do you all remember this? Then immediately after we had a whole heap of DOPEY BLOODY COPS on police forums threatening to "get him" and basically harrass the boy [which is still happening, according to a cursory Googling just then]. Talk about not getting it thru their thick skulls!

Even the police chief didn't get it. [He said] that, perhaps, Kuehnlein was not accustomed to having someone question him as Darrow did, with a camera recording his responses.

"Most officers aren't used to being questioned like that," [police chief] Uhrig said.


I just got the feeling, from thousands of miles away, of 50,000+ plus police officers symultaneously losing their freakin' minds at the tables being so well and truly turned.

BONUS LAUGHS: During the meeting Darrow asked to see the videotape from Kuehnlein's police car. But according to [police chief] Uhrig, that footage, inexplicably, is nowhere to be found.

"That's the million-dollar question," Uhrig said.

posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:17 PM on September 29, 2010


Bizarre. I thought I read about Brett Darrow via another link filter site. But looks like it was good old Metafilter. Posted to the blue three years and one day before this FPP.

When Googling trying to remember Brett Darrow's name I came across this doozy of a site [most examples with video footage]. Glad to see the cop who violently assaulted a cyclist is no longer employed as such.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:27 PM on September 29, 2010


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