A Geek With Guns

Discount security adviser to the proles.

Making Recording the Police Illegal

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There is a rather frightening article about the police and their love of cameras, so long as they’re the only ones who have them:

In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.

Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.

More or less the same group of individuals who often say nobody should fear being under surveillance unless they’re doing something wrong doesn’t like being under surveillance. This seems to imply they know they are doing something wrong using their logic. The justification for these laws is also sickening:

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.

If you or I are out in public we can’t sue somebody for recording us specifically because there is no expectation of privacy under the law. Apparently since the police are better than us lowly surfs they are getting an exception in some states. This is a classic case of rules being applied differently depending on your status (in this case a police officer is a civilian but since they’re employees of the government the government is giving them special treatment). Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying all police officers are beating people on street corners but any officer supporting laws banning citizens from recording their actions while on duty makes it appear as though they have something to hide (by many officers’ own logic).

Society and technology are now at a point where a majority of people are carrying video recording devices in the form of cell phones. Coupled with the cellular Internet access we can share recorded videos with the entire world instantly. Even if the police confiscate your cell phone upon discovering you are recording them the video can already be uploaded to any number of websites making the confiscation meaningless.

This has been used quite a few times to record instances of police abuse which is later used to reprimand the recorded officers. So now the citizens can monitor the police force instead of only the police force being able to monitor the citizens. Some people join the police force because they want the authority and power that goes along with it. Of course these same people don’t want to responsibility and accountability that also goes along with it hence empowered citizens are a bad thing to them.

Banning the recording of police officers (or any public servant) while they are on duty is nothing more than government empowerment at the sacrifice of the peoples’ liberty (which is always the case). It’s one of the few methods we have at our disposal to play checks and balances with the police force. Otherwise it simply becomes a case of our word against theirs which almost always goes the way of the officer under question.