Your right to record the police

posted at 5:15 pm on September 5, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

In an era where virtually every phone is a combination audio recorder, still shot and video camera, one disturbing trend of late has been the increasing habit of police to arrest citizens who record their activities in the public square. For those opposed to such practices, a couple bits of good news are brought to light by Glenn Reynolds in the Examiner.

All over America, police have been arresting people for taking video or making sound recordings of them, even though such arrests are pretty clearly illegal. Usually, the charges are dropped once the case becomes public, and usually that’s the end of it.

But sometimes things go farther, and in two recent cases, they’ve gone far enough to bite back at the police and prosecutors involved. We need more such biting.

The first case comes from Barack Obama’s hometown of Chicago.

Tiawanda Moore had made a sexual harassment complaint against a Chicago patrolman. When she was visited by police Internal Affairs officers who tried to persuade her to drop the charge, she recorded the audio using her Blackberry. Though the audio reflected rather poorly on the Internal Affairs officers, the response of the Chicago state’s attorney was to act not against the offending officers, but against Ms. Moore, charging her with “wiretapping.”

After the tape was played, the jury took less than an hour to return a verdict of not guilty. “When we heard that, everyone (on the jury) just shook their head,” said one juror interviewed afterward. “If what those two investigators were doing wasn’t criminal, we felt it bordered on criminal, and she had the right to record it.”

Glenn goes on to detail the additional case of Simon Glik in Massachusetts, who recently won an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals For The First Circuit. Mr. Glik was arrested for videotaping police in the act of detaining a suspect on a public street and subsequently charged with “wiretapping.”

I should say up front that I’m pretty much always a big supporter of the police, having had more than a few of them in our family. But when they conduct their business out in public, they are held to a high standard. If they are doing their jobs properly, they should have nothing to fear from the scrutiny of the rest of the citizens. Even in cases where misleading footage is used by people with an ax to grind, they will still have their day in court and can clear their names. Seizing people’s cameras and arresting them for the simple act of recording the activities of public servants in their communities is pretty much contrary to everything we stand for in a free society.

I’m with Reynolds on this one. We need to see more of these cases disposed of in this fashion and, eventually, a definitive decision at the highest level to stop these sorts of arrests.

Edit: “dong” = “doing” Thanks. :-)

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Comment pages: 1 2 3

JannyMae on September 5, 2011 at 8:44 PM

You must be from Universe 101A. In this universe the Supreme Court has ruled on at least 3 occasions that the police do not have a duty to protect and or intervene in an ongoing crime. Their only duty is to attempt to solve the crime once committed. That many adhere to the duty to protect standard is to their credit.

chemman on September 5, 2011 at 11:41 PM

not going to get involved with this

F15Mech on September 5, 2011 at 10:24 PM

No RINOS allowed. :)

chemman on September 5, 2011 at 11:47 PM

If you got nothing to hide, what’s the problem?

skydaddy on September 6, 2011 at 12:32 AM

Or to commit and assault on the officer. . . which is really my initial point.

RedNewEnglander

Sorry but to me this sounds like an excuse that’s been handed down to cops to give as a reason that they shouldn’t be recorded. It’s a horrible strawman unless you can give some examples of people using the excuse of videotaping a cop to get close enough to attack him. Which of course you can’t or you already would have when that other guy called you on it.

How about not breaking the rules? If you don’t do anything wrong then there’s no reason to be scared of someone with a camera. Frankly I’m more scared of cops these days than of criminals because they have the same mentality but are allowed to carry a gun.

Benaiah on September 6, 2011 at 12:48 AM

What’s as bad as the law against citizens being permitted to record Police acting in their capacity as law enforcement officers is the exception for reporters. IIRC, there are recently created laws determining who is a reporter, something like “… people who report and are paid by ‘legitimate’ news agencies …” those agencies being whatever the state defines, of course. The only people left out of the equation are private citizens.

This gives the state two very chilling sets of control over the citizenry: it destroys the equal protections of both parties to record events, and it gives itself the right to assign “licenses” to the press, which the state is permitted to withdraw at any time.

Laws are interpreted by judges, but this is completely against the spirit of the Constitution. Massive kudos to that brave Illinois man who’s up for 75 years for recording police on his own property, yet is sticking his neck out to get the laws changed.

Aardvark on September 6, 2011 at 12:51 AM

There is a problem, however.

People act differently on camera. Some go into their shell while drama queens go berserk. That can make the job for cops far more difficult and dangerous… and some types will even play to the camera. See: “Judge Judy’s” antics.

Remember CNN’s running about the Somali beach as our troops came ashore those many years ago? How would you like a blinding video light in your face or silhouetting you as a prime target when a major part of your mission objective is to complete the task and survive the day?

viking01 on September 6, 2011 at 1:36 AM

1) You’re wrong.

2) Because citizens deserve protections against the government that the government does not deserve against citizens.

vermin on September 5, 2011 at 9:56 PM

How am I wrong? Illinois is a “two party” consent state. All parties to a recording must consent before recording a conversation. If the police didn’t know that they were being recorded, Tiawanda Moore committed a crime.

If the police had recorded the conversation without her knowledge and consent, they would have committed a crime. They would have lost their jobs for it too.

Shivv on September 6, 2011 at 1:47 AM

I remember an old episode of ‘Adam 12′ where they were followed by a couple of malcontents with a camera who would take pictures of arrests, then sell the worst, most out of context pics to the papers with false accusations of abuse. Malloy’s advice to Reed was to just ignore it and do the job. Of course, the 2 knuckleheads interfere in the arrest of an armed robber and an innocent bystander is killed, thus teaching them a valuable lesson.

Today’s cops need to take Malloy’s advice and just ignore it. Heck, it’s not like they don’t have a dashboard camera in their cars now; heck, officers are even wearing personal recording devices these days to capture evidence of what exactly happened in case one of these ‘citizen camera men’ turns in out of context pics or tape. Welcome to the new millenium, get used to it.

wolfva on September 6, 2011 at 3:32 AM

Law enforcement learned an important lesson from the Rodney King scandal.

Unfortunately it was the wrong lesson.

They didn’t learn to conduct themselves with honor and to always do the right thing, but to viciously attack anyone who might be able to prove that they have acted improperly.

The worst criminals are those who hide behind badges.

It is the duty of the police to uphold the law, not to place themselves above it. They are public servants, not knights of the realm to who get to pick and choose which laws they comply with and punish anyone who challenges them with trumped up felony charges.

Once upon a time anyone found guilty of bearing false witness against someone in a criminal trial would themselves be punished with the very same penalty their intended victim would have faced.

It is high time this policy was reinstated.

Cops who lie and file fraudulent charges against citizens who attempt to record their public actions should have the sentence that they tried to put upon that citizen imposed upon them instead.

As time goes by I think we are going to find that there are a lot more dirty cops out there than we think there are.

leereyno on September 6, 2011 at 3:58 AM

The cops in my town are just glorified tax collectors. As someone else previously mentioned, they are usually people of low character who could not get into college. I know one who’s a porn addict, another who’s a wife beater–and I’m supposed to listen to them? I have no hatred of cops; just a disrespect that they have rightfully earned. I’ve watched them abuse their power and trample the constitution for years. I wish they looked at themselves as public servants rather than goons with impunity. I wish my kids could look up to them and respect them, rather than just fear them.

But to use their own rationale: “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t mind me filming you.” And no, there is no rampant problem with those using the cameras interfering with the cop doing his job. That’s not even the debate; that’s a red herring brought up by internet-cop guy to reassert his impunity.

shawk on September 6, 2011 at 5:59 AM

Ron Paul releases new attack on Dingy Perry today in Iowa and NH

AD – Reagan Republican or Gore Cheerleader
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Spathi on September 6, 2011 at 6:26 AM

I have a new name for Rick Perry…

DINGY PERRY!

Spathi on September 6, 2011 at 6:40 AM

Law enforcement learned an important lesson from the Rodney King scandal. …

They didn’t learn to conduct themselves with honor and to always do the right thing, but to viciously attack anyone who might be able to prove that they have acted improperly.

The worst criminals are those who hide behind badges.

And what is that, exactly?

Do you have any idea what all the facts are behind the Rodney King “scandal?” Here (emphasis original):

For over a year, Americans were shown again and again a frightening videotape of white police officers beating a black man. Indeed, the sight was so shocking that the president of the United States remarked on national television that he was surprised by the not-guilty verdict.

No one who saw the few seconds of the video that were repeatedly shown could imagine an acquittal of any of the officers involved.

But those who saw what the news media refused to show, or watched the entire trial, or understood that overly harsh charges were brought against the policemen, had a far fuller understanding of what happened, and why the jury reached its verdict. They saw a 230-pound, six-foot-three-inch man, with a .19 blood alcohol level (.08 is legal intoxication), acting wildly and lunging at policemen, four of whom he actually threw off.

Those who saw this, or learned of it from the prosecution’s eyewitnesses, understood that the policemen had suspected that King was under the influence of the hallucinogenic drug PCP. Like other PCP suspects, he could not be subdued by “tazing,” the shooting of powerful electric shocks. Even after being shot twice with the Taser gun, King still resisted being handcuffed…

Only after their verbal orders had been ignored and “tazing” and other techniques had failed to subdue him, did the police use their batons to beat King. And all this was after an eight-mile car chase at speeds of up to one hundred miles an hour on a freeway, and eighty miles an hour through city streets.

It is almost impossible to overstate how responsible the media were for the rage over the Rodney King verdict. Los Angeles and national news programs deliberately and repeatedly showed only the most brutal seconds of the tape, thus never providing viewers with a context…

So, if there’s any lesson to be learned, it’s that the media won’t pass up an opportunity to smear those it disagrees with ideologically.

How am I wrong? Illinois is a “two party” consent state. All parties to a recording must consent before recording a conversation. If the police didn’t know that they were being recorded, Tiawanda Moore committed a crime.

No, you are wrong. According to this website, Illinois is a “two party consent” state with regards to recording telephone conversations, but that recording a conversation between two present parties (which was what happened with Ms. Moore — the IA guy visited her) the statute does NOT apply. See: People v. Jansen, 561 N.E.2d 312, 314 (Ill. App. Ct. 1990).

So Ms. Moore did not commit a crime, but was wrongly accused of doing so.

englishqueen01 on September 6, 2011 at 6:49 AM

Normally, I support police who follow department procedures designed to insure their safety as well as the public’s. But when those procedures include teaching them ways to get around the constitution, then I have a problem. Their power over citizens and the public safety aspect of their jobs puts them in a category of public servan that bears watching. An officer (or politician) who minds “being watched” is one who minds “being caught”.

SKYFOX on September 6, 2011 at 8:16 AM

servan = servant

SKYFOX on September 6, 2011 at 8:17 AM

If the police had recorded the conversation without her knowledge and consent, they would have committed a crime. They would have lost their jobs for it too.

Shivv on September 6, 2011 at 1:47 AM

Do Illinois police have dashboard cameras, and do they ask for the consent of those they pull over before they start recording?

JohnTant on September 6, 2011 at 8:19 AM

Do Illinois police have dashboard cameras, and do they ask for the consent of those they pull over before they start recording?

JohnTant on September 6, 2011 at 8:19 AM

Good point and yes, they do have those cameras and I’m not aware they ask for consent nor do they have to. What I want to know is, do they properly ask for consent before searching your vehicle or just lead you with “You don’t mind if we check, do you..what do you have to hide?” Shame on us for not knowing our rights and insisting they be respected.

SKYFOX on September 6, 2011 at 9:31 AM

Shivv on September 6, 2011 at 1:47 AM

As has been pointed out, police routinely record people without their consent.

vermin on September 6, 2011 at 9:53 AM

There was a diabetic man in Ohio who had his arm & thumb broken and Tased 7 times by police because he was having an insulin reaction. The police mistakenly thought the diabetic was drunk until a state trooper arrived and discovered the diabetic kit in the car. In addition, the police still charged the diabetic and sent him to jail.

As the mother of a diabetic child, this is terrifying. Filming the police could prevent such harm to innocent people. I hope the man is awarded over a million $$ in his subsequent law suit.

If only there had been video of this happening…

The_Livewire on September 6, 2011 at 9:54 AM

I should say up front that I’m pretty much always a big supporter of the police

What does this even mean?

I support them doing their job, but otherwise they are most certainly a power that needs to be checked. A corrupt law enforcement officer or department (or DOJ) is one the gravest dangers to liberty we face.

I don’t disparage the police, but they are usually on the side of criminalizing everything because it’s job security.

You know what the police do better than anyone? They take pictures of crime scenes. I support their ability to apprehend criminals. I support lessening the burden of paperwork. I support allowing them greater use of deadly force when deemed necessary. But the vast majority of what the police do is file crime reports after they occur and hassle average citizens not doing anything particularly dangerous.

mankai on September 6, 2011 at 10:04 AM

As has been pointed out, police routinely record people without their consent.

vermin on September 6, 2011 at 9:53 AM

And when they do so, they do so without a warrant. Cops can stop people and even arrest them on reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed.

gryphon202 on September 6, 2011 at 10:08 AM

Further, when police do violate warrant requirements or otherwise trample the rights of citizens, they are almost never subject to civil or criminal penalties. So no, Shiw, the police would not be in jail if they had recorded the woman without her consent.

vermin on September 6, 2011 at 10:24 AM

If the police had recorded the conversation without her knowledge and consent, they would have committed a crime. They would have lost their jobs for it too.

Shivv on September 6, 2011 at 1:47 AM

Perhaps in the Twilight Zone.

If you have a link to a case in which this happened, I’d be happy to review it.

mankai on September 6, 2011 at 10:34 AM

Project Veritas (James O’Keefe) has done a great job of listing the laws per state.

The key is the audio portion of the video recording. All the wiretap laws are old and did not account for the digital age where our greeting cards can now be recording devices.

Get your Looxie camera, but if you are in a state with AUDIO wiretap laws, turn the audio record off.

I have been wondering on two points for states that don’t allow AUDIO recording:
If you had someone listening live, did not record, but transcribed the conversation.
If you used something like Dragon Dictate that transcribed the audio portion live, would that be wiretaping?

barnone on September 6, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Also those who are asking about dashboard cameras;
They are not doing AUDIO recording.

barnone on September 6, 2011 at 11:04 AM

Also those who are asking about dashboard cameras;
They are not doing AUDIO recording.

barnone on September 6, 2011 at 11:04 AM

If you mean the cams in police cars, some do record the audio. Might depend on jurisdiction, but you can see any number of copcarcam vids with audio at places like YouTube.

whatcat on September 6, 2011 at 11:13 AM

They are not doing AUDIO recording.

Yes they are.

vermin on September 6, 2011 at 11:20 AM

They are not doing AUDIO recording.

Yes they are.

vermin on September 6, 2011 at 11:20 AM

Yup. By way of just one example, nobody should have a problem hearing the “SMAAASH” in this close-call video:

Traffic Stop

whatcat on September 6, 2011 at 11:30 AM

But when they conduct their business out in public, they are held to a high standard.

When they conduct their business (enforcing the law) it is held to the same high standard public or private.

Herb on September 6, 2011 at 11:46 AM

We certainly have more than enough video/audio of out of control, crazed cops so I’m quite willing to balance it out with all the videos of people who have snuck up on cops by with a videocam ruse.

Care to share? I mean, what it being so common and all I can only imagine the mountain of visual evidence to support your excuse.

whatcat on September 5, 2011 at 6:19 PM

You’re stupid beyond belief.

Nice trollin’, tho. ;)

RedNewEnglander on September 5, 2011 at 6:23 PM

Sounds like a legitimate question to me.
CAN you back up your assertions – or are you the one doing the trolling?

You’re sounding less and less like an actual cop all the time – and a lot more like a “cop groupie”.

Good cops aren’t going to object to the camera. Bad cops fear it – with reason.

Solaratov on September 6, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Cops have cruiser cameras recording us, we should have the option as well.

Alden Pyle on September 6, 2011 at 12:48 PM

And what if it’s the person being stopped who has the camera and is doing the recording?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFzH5Oe-YL4&feature=player_embedded

This, by the way, is how a good cop acts when dealing with the public.

Solaratov on September 6, 2011 at 12:56 PM

I know they taught you in the academy that “I’m a police officer in the performance of my duty” is an omnibus excuse to do just about anything you want and that anything you say is a “lawful police order”, but this isn’t a police state.

~~~~~~~~~ BZZZZZZZZT. Sorry, having laws and people willing to enforce them do not make this “a police state.”

No, but when those who enforce the laws think that they’re above the law and that they’re the ones who are the ultimate arbiters of the law we’re on a slippery slope to authoritarianism. You don’t have a problem with authoritarianism because you’re an authoritarian.

Your silly little “I just arrest them. The courts decide if they were breaking the law” is BS and you know it. You know full well how getting arrested will mess up someone’s life. You think that messing up someone’s life is an appropriate response to your bruised ego.

Are you capable of actually responding without deflecting the issue? Where did I take issue with laws and those willing to enforce them? You’re not the ultimate arbiter of what is legal. You’re just a glorified DMZ clerk who cleans up after crimes have been committed. You’re far more interested in your own safety and that of your fellow cops than in the safety of my children which is what you’re actually getting paid for. You’re main interests are your paycheck, your pension (and if you’re like many cops you’ll probably gin up some kind of “disability” to bump up your pension) and getting home at night. The public’s safety isn’t anywhere near your Top Ten.

If I’m not committing a crime you can’t order me around just because you’ve been trained to act with a command presence when dealing with non-cops.

~~~~~~~~~ If you are interferring with my scene in an unlawful manner, you can be arrested. And standing in a proximity that is too close for my safety is interferring with my ability to do my job at said scene. Why is this so hard to grasp?

Again, you deliberately avoid the question and obfuscate (for the cops and badge bunnies, “obfuscate” means to make less clear). If I’m not breaking the law, I’m none of your business. If I tell you that you’re blocking traffic and creating a safety hazard because you insist on taking up two traffic lanes when you pull someone over (just to demonstrate to the public that you can inconvenience them whenever you feel like it, just to show that you’re the boss), you’ll say that’s “interfering”. So what’s the legal difference between “Officer, you’re parked unsafely, I almost rear ended your cruiser” and “Officer, I’m lost. Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”. Well, besides your butthurt and bruised cop ego.

I’m willing to bet my left testicle that the person criticizing you will more likely be ordered away with the threat of arrest if they don’t comply. It’s about pushing back, not enforcing the law.

Just because you’re worried about your safety is no reason to deny me my freedoms.

~~~~~~~~~And your perceived “freedoms” will not potentially endanger me or any third parties. I’m going home at the end of my shift. Period.

There’s the rub. You place your own desires above my freedom.

You’d serve in any police force, no matter how totalitarian.

rokemronnie on September 6, 2011 at 1:08 PM

smellthecoffee on September 5, 2011 at 9:44 PM

That’s the best you can offer: ad hominem bulls**t?

You’re kind of a sad little bugger, aren’t you.

Solaratov on September 6, 2011 at 1:28 PM

Who said anything about getting in their faces? Hell, a cop tells me to move I move. Now that I’m outta the way my cellcam is somehow reaching across space to endanger him? Please.

Limerick on September 5, 2011 at 8:50 PM

It’s the invisible “assault rayz” from the videocam.

They’re devastating to the authoritarian mind (such as it is).

Solaratov on September 6, 2011 at 1:31 PM

A fascinating thread.

RedNewEnglander and his hangers-on come across as smart-ass bullies and sycophants of the state and unions. We the people REALLY don’t like being condescended to (calling people “son”) and having people act as our betters.

thebrokenrattle on September 6, 2011 at 1:50 PM

“If You’ve Done Nothing Wrong, Then You Have Nothing to Worry About.”

Bunk.

TimBuk3 on September 6, 2011 at 2:10 PM

smellthecoffee on September 5, 2011 at 9:44 PM

That’s the best you can offer: ad hominem bulls**t?

You’re kind of a sad little bugger, aren’t you.

Solaratov on September 6, 2011 at 1:28 PM

No. But I do have an opinion, that I believe I’m entitled to. Got a problem with that?

“Shut the hell up, tough guy, Barney Fife badges, cops should sweat. . .” I’ve known people who have that kind of hostility toward cops in my life, and they weren’t the kind of people I want near my family. Just sayin’.

smellthecoffee on September 5, 2011 at 10:00 PM

smellthecoffee on September 6, 2011 at 3:33 PM

smellthecoffee on September 6, 2011 at 3:33 PM

So, your opinion is that anyone who disagrees with and tells an internet tough guy and/or phony cop to “shut up” must be a burned out hippie or a drug dealer with a meth lab in their basement?

Yeah. I’ve got a problem with that sort of stupidity. Obviously, you don’t.

Amd that’s the sort of thing that aids, abets and feeds police states where only approved thought is allowed.

Solaratov on September 6, 2011 at 3:46 PM

Amd that’s the sort of thing that aids, abets and feeds police states where only approved thought is allowed.

Solaratov on September 6, 2011 at 3:46 PM

This

smellthecoffee on September 6, 2011 at 4:36 PM

Solaratov on September 6, 2011 at 3:46 PM

So one guy opines that in his experience with people who display a certain level of downright hostility to law enforcement tend to be either criminals, ex-criminals, or ex-hippies–according to you this leads to a police state, where only approved thought is allowed? Get your meds checked, bro.

smellthecoffee on September 6, 2011 at 4:41 PM

smellthecoffee on September 6, 2011 at 4:41 PM
“people who display a certain level of downright hostility to law enforcement tend to be either criminals, ex-criminals, or ex-hippies”

If “criminals, ex-criminals, or ex-hippies” includes innocent citizens who have been harassed, beaten and/or falsely arrested in the course of exercising their Constitutional Rights simply because they caught the attention of some power-tripping, ‘roid-raging thug-with-a-badge (and a chip on his shoulder), then yeah, you might be right.

Bob Mc on September 6, 2011 at 9:51 PM

The police have a tough job, don’t control enough and get killed. Controll too much and go to jail.

For the good police thank you.
To the ones that break the law, plant evidence, make up charges..GtH.

This is one of many videos on LiveLeak that shows why police need cameras on them 24/7.

SFTech on September 7, 2011 at 6:21 AM

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=c12_1315360804

linkey no workey…

SFTech on September 7, 2011 at 6:22 AM

I don’t give a damn how the police and investigators feel about this – when they’re behaving badly – we have a right to record them.

WE CIVILIANS are recorded 24/7 – even when we’re not doing anything illegal. I go through a red light – there’s probably a camera recording me. My internet searches are recorded. My cell phone texts are recorded.

Please – if the police can’t take a bit of this in return they can kiss off.

HondaV65 on September 7, 2011 at 7:56 AM

smellthecoffee on September 6, 2011 at 4:41 PM
“people who display a certain level of downright hostility to law enforcement tend to be either criminals, ex-criminals, or ex-hippies”

And all the reflexive pig apologists I’ve known have been closeted holster-sniffers with masturbation problems. Making silly generalizations is fun.

vermin on September 7, 2011 at 1:01 PM

There is a problem, however.

People act differently on camera. Some go into their shell while drama queens go berserk. That can make the job for cops far more difficult and dangerous… and some types will even play to the camera. See: “Judge Judy’s” antics.

viking01 on September 6, 2011 at 1:36 AM

So we remove all the cameras from the dashboards of all the squad cars? Or is it only “civilian” cameras that have this effect? Are the dashboard cameras magical or is their A/V recording somehow different?

And I’ve heard the audio with the video on those; no cop ever asked me if I consented to being recorded… why isn’t that “illegal wiretapping”? Is the claim that police can’t break the law regardless what they do now?

gekkobear on September 7, 2011 at 3:02 PM

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