No shooting police (with video cameras)!

The frequency with which policemen are Tasering grandmothers and moms with kids for trivial reasons (or none at all) is a horrible sign of out-of-control authoritarianism in America.

Another is that citizens who videotape police misbehavior (even as they’re being beaten up) are being thrown in jail for the “crime” of videotaping a police officer!

In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer….

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….

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.

In 2001, when Michael Hyde was arrested for criminally violating the state’s electronic surveillance law – aka recording a police encounter – the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld his conviction 4-2. In dissent, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall stated, “Citizens have a particularly important role to play when the official conduct at issue is that of the police. Their role cannot be performed if citizens must fear criminal reprisals….” (Note: In some states it is the audio alone that makes the recording illegal.)

…Glik captured a police action on his cellphone to document what he considered to be excessive force. He was not only arrested, his phone was also seized….

Hyde used his recording to file a harassment complaint against the police. After doing so, he was criminally charged.

…On March 5, 24-year-old Anthony John Graber III’s motorcycle was pulled over for speeding. He is currently facing criminal charges [in Maryland] for a video he recorded on his helmet-mounted camera during the traffic stop.

One citizen is so outraged that he has created a website, “Photography Is Not a Crime”.

Posted by James on Friday, June 04, 2010