Saturday, June 05, 2010

Police Arrest Those That Video Tape Them: Is it a privacy issue or CYA?

If there's one thing I could say about myself it is that I am anti-authoritarian, which means I am pro-liberty or libertarian. This belief transcends political parties or religion and remains my prime mover if you will, that people should be free.

Ayn Rand said it well in this statement:
"The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities."
She also said
"Any alleged "right" of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right. No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as "the right to enslave".  Strong words from an articulate woman.
When it comes to a philosophy that summarizes this in a way to live, Thomas Jefferson said it thusly:
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

Yesterday I received a message through chat from a friend of this blog and myself, Hector Portillo. Hector has a blog, The Electric Eye. Hector was one of my first readers and has engaged me in very meaningful conversation that has had a profound effect on some of my ideas. He's a very intelligent young man and we keep in touch as they say. Anyway, Hector sent me this link, Are cameras the new guns? from Gizmodo. Probably knowing how pro-second amendment and individual rights oriented I am,  he sent this to me for comment.

In the United States, most states are what they call single party consent states. Usually this means that if I am involved with a conversation or interaction, I can record it without the other members consent. In 12 states, the consent must be from all members involved in the conversation.

After reading the article, I have come to the conclusion that some police in all party consent states have come up with the bright idea of using this law to cover their asses. This is what happened in one case:

On March 5, 24-year-old Anthony John Graber III's motorcycle was pulled over for speeding. He is currently facing criminal charges for a video he recorded on his helmet-mounted camera during the traffic stop.
The case is disturbing because:
1) Graber was not arrested immediately. Ten days after the encounter, he posted some of he material to YouTube, and it embarrassed Trooper J. D. Uhler. The trooper, who was in plainclothes and an unmarked car, jumped out waving a gun and screaming. Only later did Uhler identify himself as a police officer. When the YouTube video was discovered the police got a warrant against Graber, searched his parents' house (where he presumably lives), seized equipment, and charged him with a violation of wiretapping law...

Wow. And the story Continues:
2) Baltimore criminal defense attorney Steven D. Silverman said he had never heard of the Maryland wiretap law being used in this manner. In other words, Maryland has joined the expanding trend of criminalizing the act of recording police abuse. Silverman surmises, "It's more [about] ‘contempt of cop' than the violation of the wiretapping law."
3) Police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley is defending the pursuit of charges against Graber, denying that it is "some capricious retribution" and citing as justification the particularly egregious nature of Graber's traffic offenses. Oddly, however, the offenses were not so egregious as to cause his arrest before the video appeared.
Almost without exception, police officials have staunchly supported the arresting officers. This argues strongly against the idea that some rogue officers are overreacting or that a few cops have something to hide. "Arrest those who record the police" appears to be official policy, and it's backed by the courts.

Interesting. There have been incidents, according to this article, where police have been willingly videotaped without explicit consent and did not interdict or prosecute the videographer, such as when the police are doing something positive, heroic, etc. Do news people get releases from police? I don't know, but I bet not.

What makes these cases interesting is that they do rely on law that is clear and can be used to justify their actions. The question of privacy is a valid one, but I haven't seen the police exercise such concerns with the cameras in their cars, speeding and red light cameras, and certain municipalities that have installed cameras to monitor the public, including police, as in New York City and Chicago. In all these cases the police seem to go along with the program.

What seems res ipsa loquitur about this is that their actions are self-serving. We have seen many cases where police brutality has been uncovered with video and if it were not for the video, such abuse would have gone unpunished. It's an interesting juxtaposition of rights here, and if I had to take a stand, it would have to be on the side of the public. The police work for the government and as such an agent thereof with powers that extend beyond the average citizen, come under a higher level of scrutiny and a set of standards.  An individual in society should be able to use any means to document interactions with these agents of the government as a protection of their rights. I might have a slight difference of opinion if police were against red light and speeding cameras, as well as cameras in public. They are not. They are also not against cameras in their own cars, which we have seen malfunction at certain times. What I would like to see happen is the thin blue line go away. This fortress mentality has not served police well and this type of enforcement we see here does not serve them well either. They seem to forget they serve us. Since when does the servant become our master? Let me know what you think.

Thank you for reading this blog.

8 comments:

Chris W said...

Video is the arbiter of the truth and those in power do and should fear it. It is the right of the citizen to defend himself from the government and it's agents.

What Makes Us Right said...

Great post, and I love the point about the police allowing the videos to be aired when it is in their favor, but not when it makes them look bad.

Will said...

I don't always agree with the folks from Free Talk Live, as their politics, or I should say, lack of politics resembles Tom Knapp, (not that, that is always bad) but they keep abreast of issues like this better than any talk show host. Recently they had a story about a man in Chicago who received fourteen years in prison for video taping a cop. Check them out at freetalklive.com, and listen to their podcasts. The hosts are generally more passion driven, a contrast to your intellectual style, but I think you would still have much in common with them, especially occasional guest host, Gardner Goldsmith.

The Right Guy said...

Will:
I guess I will have to check out Free Talk Live.
et al
You'd think I'd be a law and order kind of guy: My grandfather and uncle were cops, my parents were the straight and narrow types, I've worked with a bail bond and a child abuse investigator in NYC, BUT I guess I am an oppositional-defiant guy at heart. I hate abuse of authority at any level anywhere and where the abusers take the take to be self-righteous to cover their collective and individual asses, I get my irish up for sure. Like I said, when did our servants become our masters?

Will said...

Being a classical liberal, you'll find plenty to disagree with from the Free Talk Live crew, Jim. They refer to themselves as voluntaryists, which has a nicer ring than anarcho-capitalist. In theory, their vision of a perfect is in line with my own. But having been around the rim of the ol' piss pot for going on fifty-six years, I have to say it's just not going to happen; especially when government is growing, rather than decreasing. But hell, there is nothing wrong with being an "oppositional-defiant guy." My first influence from liberty loving folks were not Mises, Hayek, or Milton Friedman, but Henry David Thoreau, and also Jack Kerouac and the Beat generation in general. I was far more influenced by the Beats, than any other movement, because all they wanted was, was to be left alone. No government handouts... just a chance to live they way they saw best for them as an individual. Therefore, I can relate to defiance against bullshit laws leading to tyranny.

The Right Guy said...

On The Road was an influential book for me, as was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Jack Kerouac lived on Long Island for a time. He was a character as was Neal Cassidy. I've also read Ken Kesey, who was great and Hunter. All a must for young rebels.

kasteer said...

Great post. Well written and right on point.

In a public setting we loose our privacy. Secondly, privacy is not a right. In a public location, our actions and words are seen/heard by others. What is the difference if these are recorded and replayed? There is no difference.

I think we need this type of protection from law enforcement. When it comes down to their word against ours, we are at a disadvantage when in a court of law. The LEO's word carries more weight than ours. If we have a simple tool like video/audio we even the field.

Where do we draw the line? Photographers take pics of celebrities... this is similar to video recording, only its a still photo, not motion. News agencies record people all the time. Security cameras record patrons as well as criminal activities. Police USE private video survelance to arrest and persecute criminals.

I've never given permission to be video taped in public, but I am. Criminals never gave permission to be video taped, but the video was used to persecute them... will they appeal the verdict based on illegal video now?

The police have crossed the line on this one I think. We are entering Tyranical times when they can video us, but we get 14 yrs in jail for videoing them! Its the SAME as saying they can have a gun, but we cannot...

The Right Guy said...

Listen to the show tonight. We will cover this topic.

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