Filming the Police

In at least three U.S. states, it is illegal to film an active duty policeman:

The legal justification for arresting the "shooter" rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are 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. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where "no expectation of privacy exists" (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.

Massachusetts attorney June Jensen represented Simon Glik who was arrested for such a recording. She explained, "[T]he statute has been misconstrued by Boston police. You could go to the Boston Common and snap pictures and record if you want." Legal scholar and professor Jonathan Turley agrees, "The police are basing this claim on a ridiculous reading of the two-party consent surveillance law -- requiring all parties to consent to being taped. I have written in the area of surveillance law and can say that this is utter nonsense."

The courts, however, disagree. A few weeks ago, an Illinois judge rejected a motion to dismiss an eavesdropping charge against Christopher Drew, who recorded his own arrest for selling one-dollar artwork on the streets of Chicago. Although the misdemeanor charges of not having a peddler's license and peddling in a prohibited area were dropped, Drew is being prosecuted for illegal recording, a Class I felony punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.

This is a horrible idea, and will make us all less secure. I wrote in 2008:

You cannot evaluate the value of privacy and disclosure unless you account for the relative power levels of the discloser and the disclosee.

If I disclose information to you, your power with respect to me increases. One way to address this power imbalance is for you to similarly disclose information to me. We both have less privacy, but the balance of power is maintained. But this mechanism fails utterly if you and I have different power levels to begin with.

An example will make this clearer. You're stopped by a police officer, who demands to see identification. Divulging your identity will give the officer enormous power over you: He or she can search police databases using the information on your ID; he or she can create a police record attached to your name; he or she can put you on this or that secret terrorist watch list. Asking to see the officer's ID in return gives you no comparable power over him or her. The power imbalance is too great, and mutual disclosure does not make it OK.

You can think of your existing power as the exponent in an equation that determines the value, to you, of more information. The more power you have, the more additional power you derive from the new data.

Another example: When your doctor says "take off your clothes," it makes no sense for you to say, "You first, doc." The two of you are not engaging in an interaction of equals.

This is the principle that should guide decision-makers when they consider installing surveillance cameras or launching data-mining programs. It's not enough to open the efforts to public scrutiny. All aspects of government work best when the relative power between the governors and the governed remains as small as possible -- when liberty is high and control is low. Forced openness in government reduces the relative power differential between the two, and is generally good. Forced openness in laypeople increases the relative power, and is generally bad.

EDITED TO ADD (7/13): Another article. One jurisdiction in Pennsylvania has explicitly ruled the opposite: that it's legal to record police officers no matter what.

Posted on June 16, 2010 at 1:36 PM • 98 Comments

Comments

HJohnJune 16, 2010 2:02 PM

@: "prosecuted for illegal recording, a Class I felony punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison."
___________

Some people get less than that for murder.

HeronJune 16, 2010 2:05 PM

I wonder what would happen if you told the officers as they approached that you are recording video, and that by approaching you they consent to be recorded.

Anonymous1June 16, 2010 2:07 PM

HJohn:

Of course. Murder doesn't threaten the power of government.

freedomofeverythingJune 16, 2010 2:07 PM

One jurisdiction in Pennsylvania has explicitly ruled the opposite - that it's legal to record police officers no matter what.

http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?...

It's the only sensible thing to do - these preposterous miscarriages of justice are tantamount to admitting that the police are corrupt, but you aren't allowed to tattle.

Anonymous1June 16, 2010 2:08 PM

Heron:

"What did you say? I can't hear you. Did you say you're ARMED?!?!?"

Kjetil KjernsmoJune 16, 2010 2:14 PM

If they tell you to turn the camera off, tell them "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" and see what they think of it... :-)

AlanSJune 16, 2010 2:24 PM

The Seattle PD were caught in another incident April:

"In that incident, also videotaped, two officers kicked and stomped a prone robbery suspect. One officer kicked the Latino man while he was lying on the sidewalk and shouted, "I'm going to beat the [expletive] Mexican piss out of you, homey. You feel me?" Officers later let the man go after realizing he was the wrong person."

Oops!

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/...

MuffinJune 16, 2010 2:26 PM

"Another example: When your doctor says "take off your clothes," it makes no sense for you to say, "You first, doc." "

...I've got to try that some time, just to see how my doctor will react. :)

RyanJune 16, 2010 2:27 PM

And it was the blog entry Bruce references here that first drew me into this blog into the first place. Have I really been following him for 2 years, where does the time go.

Just as valid today as when I first stumbled upon it back then. I particularly chuckled at the doctor comment.

ChrisJune 16, 2010 2:41 PM

How can it be illegal to video a public servant performing a public duty on public property?

And if it is illegal without consent, then why can't the public sue the police for videoing from the patrol car when they pull you over?

ChrisJune 16, 2010 2:45 PM

"...they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes."

George Orwell

jonJune 16, 2010 2:48 PM

The public's business must be conducted in public. When the public is barred from observing and participating in what is done in its name, abuses inevitably follow.

The police, being used to the discovery process used in court proceedings and being public employees, have no expectation of privacy.

This is particularly so when the police are conducting public business in public places.

Essentially, this is a matter of the police not wanting there to be a factual record of their activities that might show them in a bad light or be evidence of a crime or denial of rights to suspects. It s a matter of police not wanting to be held to the same standards of the law that they are sworn to uphold.

AlanSJune 16, 2010 2:51 PM

The MA law, as it has been interpreted by the courts, allows you to be prosecuted for recording in a public space without consent. Ugh, so it isn't really public space then? I guess MA residents shouldn't be surprised that they have such awful laws given the pols they elect.

http://www.citmedialaw.org/legal-guide/...

LesnaJune 16, 2010 3:18 PM

(Related to U.S.A. law, but those with information about other countries are free to chime in ...)

I'm not clear on something:

Does it matter whether one is capturing "still images" vs. "video recording"?

Also, there used to be a distinction if audio is also captured. Is that still the case?

BobbyJune 16, 2010 3:23 PM

AlanS when you touch a police officer you get whats coming to you... nothing wrong with the officer trying to maintain order as best he can while being assaulted.

BrickJune 16, 2010 3:42 PM

@Bobby Indeed, but if the officer is doing nothing wrong, then he need not fear a recording of his actions for posterity.

HJohnJune 16, 2010 3:49 PM

@Brick: "Indeed, but if the officer is doing nothing wrong, then he need not fear a recording of his actions for posterity."
__________

For the most part, I agree. But there have been cases where cameras can take things out of context. I saw a video a while back that showed a police officer trying to maintain order and a woman slapped him in the face hard enough to knock his glasses off. He picked up his glasses, put them on, and slapped her back. I had no problem with his action (I know some wills). However, I can see where this would be more of a problem if the camera was only activated and pointed at the incident because of the slap. In other words, it would catch only his reaction and not the whole context.

This has been staged in classrooms on occasion. A student will deliberately instigate a conflict with a teacher without any backing down, and when the teacher finally loses their temper, the friends of the student turn on their videos...just as they had planned. They don't tape the entire altercation in context.

To be sure, I agree with Bruce that it should not be illegal to film the police. But we must also keep in mind that if the police (or anyone else for that matter) are filmed, we may not view the entire event in context.

Tom T.June 16, 2010 3:53 PM

As others have mentioned, police often film their stops, to prove that a suspect was intoxicated, uncooperative, or resisting. Isn't it possible that a third-party taping of an incident on public property (not inside someone's private property, without consent) might also substantiate the State's allegations in court, or protect an officer from false complaints of misconduct?

Police arrests are a matter of public record -- often to the embarrassment of the suspect (picture a prostitution sting), but much more, for their protection from being held incommunicado, etc. (except for Gitmo, of course ;)

By the same token, actions taken on public property, or within plain view thereof, have no expectation of privacy for *anyone* - cop, criminal, your mother. Old adage: "The eye cannot commit a trespass." (This would *not* apply to infrared-enhanced or other enhanced electronic "eyes", of course, which can invade where there is reasonable expectation of privacy.

And why isn't the name "Rodney King" found on this page? Adage for LE: "Don't do anything (under color of law) that you wouldn't want publicized." The millions of good cops in this country wouldn't have a problem with that.

Transparency and visibility in *all* areas of government (Yeah, I'm talkin' to you, Congress and President), not just LE, lead to better government and a citizenry more willing to accept the government's *legitimate* powers.

Credibility disclosure: I have close friends in law enforcement.

BobbyJune 16, 2010 3:55 PM

Not really true that they have nothing to worry about. You can edit video to make it look fairly damning one way or the other.

JoeJune 16, 2010 3:57 PM

@HJohn

Believe me the police and DA's have plenty of ways to combat a video that misrepresents them. The fact that a video can be used to misrepresent facts does not mean that making the video should be illegal.

Forensic data can be used to misrepresent facts and I am involved in a case where this misrepresentation is being actively pursued by the DA's office. Obviously we don't make collecting forensic data illegal so neither should we make videotaping illegal.

RoyJune 16, 2010 4:02 PM

When the US Constitution was ratified, the press was everyone with an observation or opinion they were willing to share with the public, with a byline or anonymously.

Technology now allows anyone with a camera or audio recorder and access to the Internet to be member of the press, deserving of First Amendment protection.

We need a federal law to explicitly enforce the First Amendment, making it a civil rights violation for the police or security guards or anyone else to crush freedom of the press. Only the FBI would have jurisdiction.

HJohnJune 16, 2010 4:04 PM

@Joe: "The fact that a video can be used to misrepresent facts does not mean that making the video should be illegal."
__________

To be clear, I absolutely agree it should not be illegal.

In regards to the ways to combat a video that misrepresents, let's keep in mind that a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is probably worth 10,000. Take the "slapping" example I used above... if the only thing released was the slapping, they could combat it a million ways and prove to investigators (or a jury should it come to that) beyond a shadow of a doubt what really happened, but it is the video that most people will remember. Anyone who has had to deal with unfair gossip knows that it spreads to people far faster than any information undoing it does.

But, yes, the videos should be legal, even the ones that do not show the whole story.

meJune 16, 2010 4:09 PM

@Bobby

Please see Bruce's other blog about authenticating recordings using the (induced) power line fluctuations present in the recording.

Film the police 24/7June 16, 2010 4:10 PM

Imagine if Chief Bull Connor had these laws! He could have arrested all the camera-people taking pictures of his officers using firehoses and police dogs to attack black people during the Civil Rights Movement. Then America would never get to see how much fun it was to be a civil-rights marcher in Alabama.

Bruce ClementJune 16, 2010 4:33 PM

@Roy "When the US Constitution was ratified, the press was everyone with an observation or opinion they were willing to share with the public, with a byline or anonymously."

When the US Constitution was ratified the press needed to own an expensive printing press, so they were (or represented) the monied class and were little or no threat to the establishment.

Even later in times of social upheaval, you still needed money to have a voice and so revolutionary movements were limited in how far they spread their message. This also allowed distributors who were largely part of the monied classes to act as censors.

The internet allows anyone to have their say and permits the previously voiceless to be able to afford this, unmoderated by either big capital or socialist parties. Of course the established powers are afraid of it.

Fortunately for them, Joe Public is more interested in the traditional pastimes than in changing the system ... for now.

BobbyJune 16, 2010 4:34 PM

@ Joe: I don't think taping should be illegal either. HJohn said pretty much what I would want to say, and much better than I would have said it=)

@ me: A video can completely misrepresent an incident simply by omitting context, just as in HJohn's example again. I don't mean actually manipulating a video...

RoxanneJune 16, 2010 4:38 PM

IMO, an on-duty public official of any kind should have no expectation of privacy. They should assume that they are being recorded all the time, and what they do will come under public scrutiny.

Can we start the Government Transparency Party?

Andre LePlumeJune 16, 2010 4:45 PM

While the Illinois law is absolutely atrocious public policy, to a degree the prosecutor has discretion in deciding to bring charges. This one should be ashamed.

HJohnJune 16, 2010 4:49 PM

@Andre: Illinois law is absolutely atrocious public policy
__________

Really hard to believe considering the caliber of leaders our fine state has produced in recent years, isn't it?

Ward S. DenkerJune 16, 2010 6:46 PM

I think what we need is a federal law that makes it legal to photograph, videotape, or record any police officer while they're operating under official capacity for the public.

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

Steven HooberJune 16, 2010 6:52 PM

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

Um... cameras are getting smaller all the time. Kind of annoyingly small to old timers like me. Even disregarding the "everyone makes the news" concepts, the nightly news action team will catch up momentarily.

And what constitutes the Press these days? The company blog I contribute to is enough to get press credentials at all sorts of events. I can reasonably photograph or film stuff in the course of my work. Why can't I capture that on something pretty hard to spot from 200 yards, not adjacent to a large, clearly-labeled van?

Bob GannonJune 16, 2010 8:15 PM

Does this mean an officer in Illinois can arrest the driver of the Google street view car for recording the officer in a public place?

ugJune 16, 2010 9:03 PM

@HJohn: Yes, but the police and DA's have even more power to take things out of context than the public does.

do as I say, not as I doJune 16, 2010 9:47 PM

Part of the problem is that all of the police officers cover for each other. Even the ones who are basically decent, hard-working civil servants (as opposed to corrupt or power-drunk). So if a cop shows up in court and testifies that the suspect tried to physically resist being cuffed and had to be restrained, and the cop's partner corroborates his account, no one is going to believe the suspect's alternate version where the police officer punched him without provocation. But if someone managed to videotape the incident and the police didn't manage to confiscate his tape, then the tape will hit Youtube and the cops will get in trouble, and they can't have that! So now they go out of their way to prevent or harass anyone who tries to record them. Which is offensive, Orwellian and should be resisted.

Some journalist could do a sensational sting of this as follows: Listen to police scanners and follow them to the scene of an incident, something outdoors in a public space (e.g. a drunk-and-disorderly). The journalist can approach the scene and obviously be filming it. But another cameraman should secretly follow them from a distance and with a high-zoom lens and a good mic. When the police come and try to confiscate his tape, he can passively resist by asserting his constitutional rights, stalling for time, and maybe even subtly provoking the officer through his non-compliance. If he's lucky, the cops will rough him up a bit or "accidentally" damage/destroy the camera while they deal with him "resisting arrest". All of which will be captured on film by the second cameraman. Then they just need to arrange for the tape to be anonymously delivered to a major news network and convince them to run it on the evening news with a headline about police brutality. (If that is deemed too dangerous, just post it on Youtube from some internet cafe)

NobodySpecialJune 16, 2010 10:10 PM

So can we officially ban the 'land of the free' bit?
If you live somewhere that it is illegal to report on what the police do in public - you live in a police state, end of argument.

JakubJune 16, 2010 10:20 PM

Another interesting example of filming police officers at work took place in Poland very recently. A man was about to take a picture of his car not noticing that further behind it a police action took place. Man was arrested for filming it! After the trial it was underlined that this is a police job to ensure confidentiality of a scene. If this is not done, anyone can film everything

GeoffreyJune 16, 2010 10:25 PM

There are cameras in every Wal Mart and Shoprite and many indoor shopping mall parking lots. These are places of public accomodation: So says the sign posted prominently in New Jersey places of public accomodation. And I am not even talking about the indoors areas which are swarming with cameras on the ceilings.

Are businessmen who own these places more free than the rest of the citizens?

Are not individual citizens being given the shaft by both police and businessmen who would record citizens but disallow the exact same recording in return?

F them.

David in ChicagoJune 16, 2010 11:41 PM

Has anyone advanced the argument that (a) the consent rule follows from the principle that there is a standard of privacy but (b) the police, being agents of the state, have no such privacy interest? It seems like filming police behavior, regardless of the circumstances, is on its face a permissible act in a republic.

Julien CouvreurJune 17, 2010 12:11 AM

The doctor story is funny, but fatally flawed, as visits to the doctor are voluntary, not coerced. Government has a monopoly on use of force, which is a unique kind of power.

George OrwellJune 17, 2010 12:47 AM

The total Police State is coming - soon.
Big Brother were amateurs compared to this.

FAA under pressure to open US skies to drones

"Unmanned aircraft have proved their usefulness and reliability in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now the pressure's on to allow them in the skies over the United States."

http://rawstory.com/rs/2010/0614/...

ytJune 17, 2010 1:30 AM

@Lesna: I think in Maryland the question of whether there is audio is the deciding factor in whether it's legal or illegal. Without audio, it doesn't fall under wiretapping laws.

thinkerJune 17, 2010 1:44 AM

story from Berlin (Germany): last year there was a big demonstration (some 10k people) against censorship and so on and at the side someone was brutally taken down by police (blood on the face, punches). This caused some ruckus and made it even in the mainstream media. The reson that this incident could not be hushed over was the taping from several people. Shortly after the demonstration the first videos made it to youtube and some others followed in the days and weeks after.

The interesting part of the story is, that the police also had camera units on site. Their video did show nearly nothing - the camera turned away when the beating started. Officers and DA declared the suspect resisted arrest and was treated accordingly. The combined videos of the normal people could prove, that the beaten man simply asked a police officer for ID (note: in Germany the do not have names or ID-numbers on their uniforms but are legally obliged to tell you if you ask). This did upset the police enough for taking him down and punching his face.
One can sure imagine what would have happened if the videos did not exist. The police would stick to their story, it would be word against word in court and by definition a public servant like a police officer has a higher credibility plus he would have the testimonies of his colleagues. The beaten man would be convicted of resisting arrest, hindering the police, trying to assault an officer or what not.

The result so far is, that an open discussion is going on whether police should carry open ID-tags.
In the past whenever someone accused police oficers of unduly force (e.g. unprovoked usage of the baton) this one was almost immediatly prosecuted for resisting arrest, hindering of the police and false testimony backed up by statements of other officers from the same brigade. No chance for the individual and an open invitation for bad cops to play it out.

EvertheWatcherJune 17, 2010 2:17 AM

fun that most encounters with motorists are filmed, yet there is no accountability when said tape proving police misconduct is "damaged/misplaced/lost" knowing that it is evidence that the accused should have right to...

A Nonny BunnyJune 17, 2010 5:22 AM

I think that recording police action should be legal, but police do deserve certain protections; specifically they have a right not to be harassed in their daily life for doing their job (provided they have conducted themselves properly).
There is a difference between using recordings you made, as evidence to address police misconduct, and violating their privacy be exposing them online (seeing as the two do not always overlap). Admittedly things in the US and Europe are not as bad as in Mexico where you risk being executed just for being a cop, but you still risk harassment by unsavory types.
People should have the right to record in public, but they then also have the duty to use that right responsibly.

ScottJune 17, 2010 6:08 AM

I live in Illinois and the primary use of these statutes seems to be the prevention of the recording of law enforcement malfeasance and corruption.

BF SkinnerJune 17, 2010 7:03 AM

@Chris "How can it be illegal to video a public servant performing a public duty on public property?"

Well there's SCOTUS. They still refuse video broadcast of their proceedings.

@Andre "prosecutor ... This one should be ashamed."
Prosecutors shamed? That'll be the day. A good aggressive track record for persecuting villians is what get's them a) re-elected and b) elected as State attorney general.

If it's legal for them to record me at a rally exercising my political rights. Then it's legal for me to record them.

As many have pointed out this is deliberate use of law to avoid any scrutiny. perhaps a predictable response to the wide spread adoption of mobile video.

Cops are starting to be checked because of the avaliable technology. During the Duke "riots" a student was exonerated when it was shown on film that the cop just started beating the crap out of him without provocation. 3 county deputies were suspended.

Accountability sucks don't it?

Where laws are being misconstrued like Boston and Illinois they need to be changed. to the PA model.

Likely the issue will need strong advocacy sustained over time.

I'm not sure the ACLU would take it up as I don't know if there are constitutional issues.

EFF maybe. (have you donated recently?)

Clive RobinsonJune 17, 2010 8:10 AM

@ HJohn,

THe example of a Police officer slapping a woman in the face, has a factual basis.

In the G20 protests in London various very very unsavory behaviour was witnessed and recorded by many many people on their camera phones.

Several people recorded the police "Territorial Support Group" just lashing out and hitting people for no better reason than they wanted to (and as various other police officers in other areas have noted the TSG are kept in their own cages for the protection of others).

Well one officer of the TSG a Sargent smashed his gloved hand into a small woman's face. He came out with a ludicrous reason in court and got away with it and has now been exonerated by the police complaint authority so is free to carry on as before...

Oh and the newspaper sales man on his way home that died at the hands of the police, well apparently it's under investigation still...

Apparently it was "common knowledge" in City of London Police circles who saw what and who the supposedly unknown police officer is before the end of the day but every body kept quiet...

Oh and for some reason M'learned Brethren in their red silk and ermine still think a police uniform is sufficient evidence of "lawful authority" even though people are being killed everyday by people wearing fake uniforms...

So nothing changes just the technology...

Matt JoyceJune 17, 2010 8:17 AM

I wrote some thoughts on this very topic here:

http://www.music-piracy.com/?p=235

To my mind this concern ties in closely with the permeation of surveillance throughout our society. We live in a brave new world, where every cell phone has a camera ( or more than one ), and cameras, voice recorders, and sense nets are becoming something of a normalcy in homes and commercial installations throughout the country.

At the end you have to either oppose this organic growth of surveillance, or adopt it. I say adopt it. But, that means we have to accurately define it by consensus first.

Anon.June 17, 2010 8:27 AM

My personal belief may seem extreme...

Police should be required by law to record *everything* they possibly can. Their radios should be open microphones, recording audio at all times. (a cop isn't going to give up his radio any more than he will his gun!) The dashboard cameras should roll whenever the car is "on duty." (and cars shouldn't be used off-duty)

Data should be checked in as evidence, and managed the same way.

Subsequent interactions (booking, interrogation, whatever) should also be recorded - for use by the court in determining the truth based on objective facts.

Yes, that's expensive. So are helicopters, patrol cars, radios, and weapons.

Personally, I trust the officer's account of what happened a little more than the defendant's. But I'd trust a video tape a LOT more.

DEEJune 17, 2010 8:34 AM

@roy, you are right except that the fbi should not be allowed any exception, the institution has never had any respect for the bill of rights and is just a political police force to repress ideas and reforms and support government corruption, for fifty years it was also a branch of the mafia.
It has a long and well documented history of this unbroken for a hundred years.
If they even ask to talk, just refuse and tell them you're not lewinsky or jewel. they can talk to your lawyer and you give name and address nothing more.

power corrupts, police power corrupts absolutely. All police will commit perjury to protect the thugs among them, and this combined with video can be embarrasing. They will kill you to prevent this embarrasment. Because they have impunity, the whole justice system is absolutely scared of them. This is the basis of the impunity.
look up officer jason anderson and the throwdown gun from the evidence locker
in minneapolis, even the corrupt police chief got on tv and claimed to see the invisible gun in the surveilance video, (it clearly was not there where they said it was and the gun was logged in police evidence
Roxanne, I abosolutely agree with you


kiwanoJune 17, 2010 8:59 AM

It's funny, but I'd expect that police officers carrying out their duty should, in the interest of accountability, be specifically excluded from having the ability to decline to be recorded. I mean we already make them wear badges with visible and unique ID numbers so that we can hold them to account for our interactions with them; why would we then decide that we can't record them?

bob (the original bob)June 17, 2010 8:59 AM

It should not only be LAWFUL to record public servants in public; it should be recommended, perhaps even compulsory; like a paramedic being required to treat an injured person they happen across even if they are off duty. Anyone who sees someone in uniform and has a camera should have to record it!

I am always fascinated that the UK has 9 cameras (minimum) covering every square inch of the country, but discourages individuals from photographing (I guess they figure it would be redundant).

Furthermore all interrogation and any "confessions" which occur should be routinely thrown out of court if not captured on camera. And recording systems should have a time signature to reduce tampering. For that matter all police speed guns (radar, laser) should snap a time-stamped picture of what the viewfinder saw as the speed was recorded. If no citation is issued the picture is deleted, however if a citation is issued the alleged violator can demand the photo in court or go free.

@Muffin: Let me know how that works; my doctor is a BABE!

@Anon: Not just police, but all government agencies that act in public: military, coast guard and the other 207 different US Govt non-police organizations with power of arrest...

Ci8ViethJune 17, 2010 9:03 AM

@HJohn:

Clearly, that problem could easily be solved via pervasive video surveillance of all public places by an independent organ of the government. Formalize data access and put 24x7 public streaming webcams in the workplaces of the workers of that government organization so that everyone can see and hear what they are up to. To protect the workers identities they wear Guy Fawkes masks with large QR codes plastered everywhere and on their badges.

J.D. BertronJune 17, 2010 9:21 AM

That reasoning looks very mathematical. Is this part of a theory of privacy or security or something ?

InterestedJune 17, 2010 9:23 AM

So, recordings are illegal in Illinois, and the streets are littered with surveillance cameras?

I wonder if a guy could sue the government after simply walking down the street. Man I almost want to try.

TSavageJune 17, 2010 9:48 AM

I had a sticker made and placed it on my drivers side window that reads "You are being audio and video recorded. You consent by speaking to me".

AlanSJune 17, 2010 10:01 AM

@Bobby "when you touch a police officer you get whats coming to you... nothing wrong with the officer trying to maintain order as best he can while being assaulted."

I'd just like to point out that in my comments I didn't evaluate the conduct of the police officer or the people he was attempting to arrest. Whether the police officer's actions were merited or not is irrelevant to the topic: the rights of citizens to record behavior in public spaces and the merits of such recordings in fostering greater accountability of public servants.

The release of the video motivated a review of the incident that might not have otherwise have happened. Maybe the officer will be cleared or maybe not, but it's good that event is being reviewed.

Form my earlier link:

"Acting Deputy Chief Nick Metz, speaking at a hastily called news conference Tuesday morning, expressed concerns about Walsh's conduct, saying the department was "withholding judgment" pending a separate internal investigation into the officer's action by the department's civilian-led Office of Professional Accountability. His comments represented a stark reversal of the department's preliminary statement Monday night, when a spokesman said Walsh had acted appropriately."


DayOwlJune 17, 2010 10:06 AM

@Ward: The government is afraid, hence the effort to prosecute for recording their activities.

I have to wonder: Are we missing a key piece of information in the Illinois case? I can't see this actually making it through the court system as presented.

HJohnJune 17, 2010 10:13 AM

@DayOwl: "I have to wonder: Are we missing a key piece of information in the Illinois case? I can't see this actually making it through the court system as presented."
_____________

Probably. Seems there always is. This is also why, like clockwork, a candidate for almost any office can campaign against what his predecessor does, and then when in office themselves do the same thing. Part of it may be self serving. Part of it may be that the powers in the hands of someone they trust are things they don't see as a problem in their own hands (that they do trust). But I also suspect a part of it is that they just didn't know as much on the outside as they did once they were inside.

Same can be said for news items. That explains why people sometimes, based on what they read in papers or see on TV, are absolutely shocked that 12 of 12 people on the jury would rule one way, but the fact is those on the inside have more information. We know what the press tells us, which is often incomplete.

BF SkinnerJune 17, 2010 10:19 AM

@Anon "may seem extreme..."

Not extreme enough. I'd go further and say all elected officials or others working in the public interest or where public servants have the ability to abuse their power.

MikeAJune 17, 2010 11:48 AM

@HJohn: shocked that 12 of 12 people on the jury would rule one way, but the fact is those on the inside have more information.

Contrariwise, sometimes the 12 have _less_ information than nearly everybody else, because the lawyers for one side or the other managed to get relevant information suppressed, and the jury was sequestered when this information was revealed to the world at large.

IANAL, but I seem to recall that even jurors using personal knowledge as a basis of their decision is dis-allowed. Example: testimony is that a suspect "could not see because it was so dark", but juror realizes she was near the spot of the alleged crime, at the time it was committed, and it was still daylight. Not allowed to mention this to other jurors. Not allowed to take that information into account in her own decision (although that would be very difficult to prove :-).

HJohnJune 17, 2010 12:17 PM

@MikeA: "Contrariwise, sometimes the 12 have _less_ information than nearly everybody else, because the lawyers for one side or the other managed to get relevant information suppressed, and the jury was sequestered when this information was revealed to the world at large."
_________

Sometimes, but court information must meet a higher standard than news items, and this is as it should be. In some cases, the O.J. Simpson case is a high profile example, the public probably has more information than the jury, since the entire trial was televised and the audience wasn't sequestered from other info as the jury was.

In most cases though, a few news articles don't present the detail that a jury will be given. The public just doesn't have the time or the attention span to take it all in.

I also agree with you about some personal bias, even if can't be stated in the jury room. Since I specialize in technology (for a group that is related to law enforcement no less), what seems like a slam dunk to another juror may leave me full of doubts if I have a tech understanding they don't have. Just like a doctor may have doubts a secretary may not have.

It's always interesting.

GreenSquirrelJune 17, 2010 1:14 PM

@ bob (the original bob) at June 17, 2010 8:59 AM

"It should not only be LAWFUL to record public servants in public; it should be recommended, perhaps even compulsory; like a paramedic being required to treat an injured person they happen across even if they are off duty. Anyone who sees someone in uniform and has a camera should have to record it! "

I concur!

:-)

GreenSquirrelJune 17, 2010 1:46 PM

@ Clive Robinson at June 17, 2010 8:10 AM

Well brought out point - especially ironic as the G20 was used to highlight the farce that is the Anti Terrorist legislation preventing photography of Police Officers (*).

The, largely amateur, photography - video and still - was the only way to conclusively demonstrate just how out of control the TSG had become. The personal outrage I felt that their Inspectors and Sergeants were allowing officers out onto duty having taken deliberate measures to conceal their identity cant be described in words.

Without video evidence it is unlikely that the public at large would have believed to what extent this self-selecting group of cowboys felt themselves outside the rule of law. They dress in a manner reminiscant of Arkhan's Tigers (**) so is it any surprise when they act like that as well?

I dont think the Home Office forces do themselves any favours with their combatative stances in general. We regularly see senior Police on TV talking about "fighting crime" and "whatever they have we are ready for them." On one TV cop-documentary thing, they had a senior police man talking fighting crime and that the police were "the toughest gang on the street."

This (IMHO) sends out the totally wrong signal to the bobby on the beat who then becomes geared up for a fight.

Police are there to protect the public and maintain the peace. _NOT_ fight.

--
* Although there is one cool aspect of it. It also prohibits the photography of ex-Military personnel, so I frequently toy with the idea of making a complaint about CCTV systems. etc. But I dont because I dont want to lose my job....

** if you dont believe me have a look at http://img66.imageshack.us/i/26iy4.jpg/ - take the guns away and its TSG.

mbkJune 17, 2010 2:06 PM

All the comments and discussion here focus on the object of the recording and social or civil implications of it, bad as it is.
But this has nothing to do with actual law governing the recording and machine of "justice" system applying the letter of law (no matter how stupid law it is). The prosecution of a felon (a person breaking any law) is automatic and mandatory and this is a job of government to prosecute. The job of judge is to make sure the laws are applied accordingly. There is no place for common perception of "justice" in this system. IMHO, there is no "justice" system any more, it is only "law and order". If the law is bad change it (easer said then done).

Now, if police is using an ill-formulated law to cover up their dirty actions, they can and should do it. It is not their problem that the law is such. If you were taped doing something bad would you then choose not use this law in court as your defense (yes, this is a moral not a legal question)?

Anon of IbidJune 17, 2010 2:57 PM

@Anon. I also agree with you. If you want the power of being a police officer, then you have to give up your privacy when you are on duty. I think we should have mandatory cameras (with audio) on every on duty cop, uploaded to a local and public web server so everyone in the community can see what police officers do with their time.

Also, thumbs up to "Photography is not a crime" as well as "Injustice Everywhere" blogs. Check them out, if you have a moment.

BF SkinnerJune 17, 2010 3:30 PM

@mbk "is automatic and mandatory "

Not so true. There is a real thing called "discretion". Every level of the justice system (there is justice just no system) can apply it.

Police use their discretion on whether or not to arrest. DA's use theirs on whether or not to try. Judges use it to decide punishments or revokations.

This is why different people seem to get different treatment before the law.

HarryJune 17, 2010 3:36 PM

Does this mean I can avoid being caught on security cameras simply by saying I don't consent?

AlanSJune 17, 2010 4:18 PM

Stepping back a little from the more specific issues, I think the broader issue is one of balance of power. From the Tech and Law Blog's summary of Bruce's Open Rights Group talk in London:

"Privacy tends to increase your power, openness tends to reduce it. Between government and people, there is a power imbalance - government tends to have the power. (I.e. it's a question of balance of powers or separation of powers, of checks and balances, concepts essential to democracy.) Open government reduces government power, and so is an equaliser. Privacy for the people increases the power of the people and decreases the power imbalance. Forced openness in people increases the imbalance. So we want government to be open, and individuals to be private."
http://blog.tech-and-law.com/2009/12/...

Peter E RetepJune 17, 2010 6:03 PM

In most US states, it is required practice for police to film themselves during traffic stops.

Are they then breaking their own laws?

What about cell phones?

Also, while the MTA is encouraging people to "see something, say something" about passenger's 'odd' behavior, such as looking at other passengers, looking at the equiopment, or filming the trains, they also have a contest right now to "film your own commercial" about "using the MTA" by filming "on the MTA", for prizes.

How much more contradictory can they get?
Stand by - - -

BF SkinnerJune 17, 2010 6:19 PM

@Peter E Retep "Are they then breaking their own laws?"

I was thinking about this. By filming themselves on department issued cameras on publicly funded equipment and information systems. It seems like they are removing their own "expectation" of privacy which they are asserting (and is the basis of the wiretap laws) against the rest of the population.

GTJune 17, 2010 7:02 PM

"How can it be illegal to video a public servant performing a public duty on public property?"

Shut up, that's how.

"And if it is illegal without consent, then why can't the public sue the police for videoing from the patrol car when they pull you over?"

Shut up, that's why.


You and I and all us other Mundanes are peons, and they (the political parasite class and their gun-toting drones) are das Herrenvolk. For the moment, at least.


It's also illegal for us Mundanes to assault folks (even each other - can't have the livestock kicking each other)... but when some drunk tax-guzzling arse-hole does it, no charges ar filed. (I speak here of the politician assaulting a young lad the other day).

This is why nothing changes until blood runs in the streets: morons sit around asking themselves questons as if we and they are geneuinely subject to equal rteatment and'or protection.

We're not, and we never will be under ANY form of government.

Cheerio


GT

Jonadab the Unsightly OneJune 18, 2010 6:55 AM

> You're stopped by a police officer, who demands
> to see identification. Divulging your identity
> will give the officer enormous power over you:
> ... The power imbalance is too great, and
> mutual disclosure does not make it OK.

This is industrial-grade stupid.

If a police officer can unilaterally do horrible things to you for no good reason just by knowing who you are, then the problem isn't that they have the ability to find out who you are.

Obviously the police HAVE to be able to ask for ID when they pull you over. They would not be able to do their job otherwise.

JJune 18, 2010 8:48 AM

Not just police activities but also medical procedures NEED to be routinely videotaped. Cops and surgeons alike would benefit from understanding that if they don't self-audit their behavior, someone else might. (This may result in a lot fewer fits being thrown in the OR.)

DEEJune 18, 2010 10:35 AM

@peterepeter

Are they breaking their own laws? The government in the US is assumed to have the power to kill and burglar as they please. its not in the constitution, its in the rules police live by. which include training is weaseling around constitutional rights, getting away with murder, and theft, the Metro gang strike force in minneaplis was a gang of thieves who use thier badges to steal as much as they could haul away from people whom they robbed under color of law. Then they write lies about the victims in their reports, but after one honest cop found flagrant evidence of this and a scandal was reported in the papers, felony thefts were called misappropriations, when peoples large screen tvs were recovered from the officers homes. Local law enforcement is actually a racketeer influenced corrupt organization, and the racketeers have badges. Non of these felons have been charged with their crimes because of the badge of impunity. They have the badges so they can commit crimes.
every crime on the books has been committed by the government with impunity. Conclusion, the government is a gang, the most well armed gang of all.

KentJune 18, 2010 4:49 PM

Does this mean that the operation of security cameras in these states is illegal?

EricJune 19, 2010 9:42 AM

I wrote to my representative in Maryland, Delegate Barbara Frush, to find out her opinion on the matter and to determine whether or not she was interested in changing it. Sadly, she is a strong defender of the current law and believes it is right and proper that citizens should be denied the right to defend themselves against corrupt police officers through filming because she believes it does "protect everyone from harmful privacy invasion."

I would be interested to learn how the representatives of others defend this kind of law. Perhaps by holding our representatives accountable we can get this changed.

With all of the other additional links provided, I thought I would add these two:

Police Accountability in Maryland
http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2010/05/24/...

and

10 Rules for Dealing with Police
A film produced by Flex Your Rights
http://www.cato.org/events/100212screening.html

The film, especially, is excellent!

JesseJune 19, 2010 2:00 PM

Isn't this extremely unconstitutional? I cannot see these laws actually standing up in a court of law that isn't totally ass-backwards.

gopiJune 19, 2010 4:22 PM

@MikeA:

You give the example of a juror in a trial where a crime happened:
a) At a certain place
b) At a certain time
c) In the dark.

The juror knows that at that time, at that place, it was daylight.

I'm not sure what should be done in this situation, but allowing the juror to believe a) and b) and disregard c) would be a mistake. Clearly, at least one of the supposed facts is wrong. Unilaterally deciding which one is wrong doesn't sound like a good idea. If the time or location were wrong, then c) could still be correct.

I don't think I could be a juror. Sitting and listening to a presentation without the ability to take notes or to ask for clarification would be immensely frustrating.

GeminiAtlasJune 21, 2010 4:08 PM

This seems like a clear violation of 1st amendment rights of the arrestee.
Don't we all have "freedom of the press" esentially "freedom of media production" meaning you are free to create (but not steal as in copy infringe) media. By recording on public property an interaction with a public employ, how does that violate the "freedom of the press" principle? I could make a case on private property it would be some kind of trespass violation, but in public there is no trespass.
Freedom of the Oppressed, more like it...

LauraJune 22, 2010 2:37 AM

@MikeA "IANAL, but I seem to recall that even jurors using personal knowledge as a basis of their decision is dis-allowed."

I was on a jury several years ago for a trial in which some of the witnesses testified in Spanish through a translator. At the beginning of the jury selection process, we were informed that we were required to accept the English-language translation of each witness's testimony, even if we believed the translation to be inaccurate. They then asked each juror if they spoke Spanish, and, if so, whether they could accept the translator's version, even if they believed it was wrong. Surprisingly (to me, at least), everyone who said they spoke Spanish agreed to this.

BF SkinnerJune 25, 2010 10:53 AM

The EULA method - "Officer I am recording this interaction in audio and video. Your consent to be monitored is given by your continuing arrest of me. You may remove your consent at any time by leaving."

Richie RichJuly 7, 2010 11:20 AM

All it will take is to get a lawsuit into a Federal court and this crap will end. No federal judge is going to allow cops to make themselves a privileged class and forbid US from doing what THEY do. No way.

The only reason cops hate being videotaped is because a very large percentage of their day is spent lying, bluffing, illegally harrassing, falsley arresting and otherwise shady conduct which they do not want a permanent record of. Cops want to film us, in traffic stops, undercover, when we protest anything, etc.

But THEY are so brazen, so nervy, that they actually violate the law and our Rights without the least fear of being disciplined. This problem can be solved with a memo...but for some reason the brass always wants to allow their underlings to get away with egregious violations even when they pay millions a year in lawsuits.

The citizen should SUE cops any time that they cross the line; a Federal lawsuit for civil rights violations gets their attention fast. And if the cop should have known better, he does not get ' immunity' and has to pay himself instead of the insurance companies or the department. It costs the taxpayers of course no matter what.

Cops CANNOT be trusted in any way, shape or form. Their track record when dealing with Rights is abysmal. We MUST be able to document their abuses, and if a cop can grab a camera and destroy al the proof of their crimes, none of us are safe. Cops must be made to PAY, and pay heavily, to teach them a lesson they must learn:

We the People have a RIGHT to record them while they are on duty and in public, and that Right cannot and will not be allowed to be taken away so cops can cover up their crimes.

Blake DanielsJuly 9, 2010 1:10 PM

As long as the officer is recording you with his dashboard cam (they always are) then he is implying consent to a recording of the instance, am i right?

cenotaphJuly 15, 2010 12:56 PM

@HJohn:

"I saw a video a while back that showed a police officer trying to maintain order and a woman slapped him in the face hard enough to knock his glasses off. He picked up his glasses, put them on, and slapped her back. I had no problem with his action"

In what way is this EVER acceptable behavior? The return slap was not in self-defense. The return slap was not to physically restrain a resisting suspect. It was revenge. Pure and simple. The police - being the maintainers of the law - are by definition held to a higher standard. The officer in question should have arrested the woman for criminal battery. Physical violence for the sake of physical violence is never acceptable from a person entrusted with upholding laws against physical violence.

ThomasJJuly 17, 2010 11:56 AM

A well regulated Law Enforcement Agency, being necessary to the security of a well ordered State, the right of the people to keep and bear Video and Audio, and record said Law Enforcement in public places, shall not be infringed.
-
Think about it.

peterJuly 21, 2010 12:09 PM

I believe the legal basis being used by police in Mass and Maryland is the audio recording that typically accompanies video recording. Maryland's laws are stricter than many other states in this regard. This became an issue in the Monica Lewinsky-Linda Tripp phone conversations (part of the "Clinton affair"). Tripp was charged under Maryland's wiretap law, although the charges were later dropped.

BF SkinnerOctober 4, 2010 7:03 AM

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/10/03/...

Anthony Graber, charged with illegal wiretapping for recording plainclothes state trooper J.D. Uhler, vindicated from charges in Maryland.

"Maryland state judge stated in no uncertain terms that the felony charge never should have been filed.

“Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public,” Circuit Court Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr. wrote. “When we exercise that power in a public forum, we should not expect our activity to be shielded from public scrutiny.”

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