Saturday, August 07, 2010

Should Videotaping the Police Really Be a Crime?

Video of incident at bottom of post. If you slide the video slide to about the end you'll get the 3 seconds, or so, of "the offense".

Anthony Graber, a Maryland Air National Guard staff sergeant, faces up to 16 years in prison. His crime? He videotaped his March encounter with a state trooper who pulled him over for speeding on a motorcycle. Then Graber put the video — which could put the officer in a bad light — up on YouTube.

It doesn't sound like much. But Graber is not the only person being slapped down by the long arm of the law for the simple act of videotaping the police in a public place. Prosecutors across the U.S. claim the videotaping violates wiretap laws — a stretch, to put it mildly.

These days, it's not hard to see why police are wary of being filmed. In 1991, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) beating of Rodney King was captured on video by a private citizen. It was shown repeatedly on television and caused a national uproar. As a result, four LAPD officers were put on trial, and when they were not convicted, riots broke out, leaving more than 50 people dead and thousands injured (two officers were later convicted on federal civil rights charges). (See TIME's special: "15 Years After Rodney King.")

More recently, a New York Police Department officer was thrown off the force — and convicted of filing a false report — because of a video of his actions at a bicycle rally in Times Square. The officer can plainly be seen going up to a man on a bike and shoving him to the ground. The officer claimed the cyclist was trying to collide with him, and in the past, it might have been hard to disprove the police account. But this time there was an amateur video of the encounter — which quickly became an Internet sensation, viewed more than 3 million times on YouTube alone. (Read about the hidden side of the NYPD.)

In the Graber case, the trooper also apparently had reason to want to keep his actions off the Internet. He cut Graber off in an unmarked vehicle, approached Graber in plain clothes and yelled while brandishing a gun before identifying himself as a trooper. (Comment on this story.)

Back when King was beaten, it was unusual for bystanders to have video cameras. But today, everyone is a moviemaker. Lots of people carry video cameras in their pockets, on iPhones, BlackBerrys and even their MP3 players. They also have an easy distribution system: the Internet. A video can get millions of viewers worldwide if it goes viral, bouncing from blog to blog, e-mail to e-mail, and Facebook friend to Facebook friend. (See photos from inside Facebook's headquarters.)

No wonder, then, that civil rights groups have embraced amateur videos. Last year, the NAACP announced an initiative in which it encouraged ordinary citizens to tape police misconduct with their cell phones and send the videos to the group's website,

Law enforcement is fighting back. In the case of Graber — a young husband and father who had never been arrested — the police searched his residence and seized computers. Graber spent 26 hours in jail even before facing the wiretapping charges that could conceivably put him away for 16 years. (It is hard to believe he will actually get anything like that, however. One point on his side: the Maryland attorney general's office recently gave its opinion that a court would likely find that the wiretap law does not apply to traffic stops.)

Last year, Sharron Tasha Ford was arrested in Florida for videotaping an encounter between the police and her son on a public sidewalk. She was never prosecuted, but in June, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida sued the city of Boynton Beach on her behalf, claiming false arrest and violation of her First Amendment rights.

The legal argument prosecutors rely on in police video cases is thin. They say the audio aspect of the videos violates wiretap laws because, in some states, both parties to a conversation must consent to having a private conversation recorded. The hole in their argument is the word "private." A police officer arresting or questioning someone on a highway or street is not having a private conversation. He is engaging in a public act.

Even if these cases do not hold up in court, the police can do a lot of damage just by threatening to arrest and prosecute people. "We see a fair amount of intimidation — police saying, 'You can't do that. It's illegal,'" says Christopher Calabrese, a lawyer with the ACLU's Washington office. It discourages people from filming, he says, even when they have the right to film.

Ford was not deterred. According to her account, even when the police threatened her with arrest, she refused to turn off her video camera, telling her son not to worry because "it's all on video" and "let them be who they continue to be."

The police then grabbed her, she said, took her camera and drove her off to the police station for booking.

Most people are not so game for a fight with the police. They just stop filming. These are the cases no one finds out about, in which there is no arrest or prosecution, but the public's freedoms have nevertheless been eroded.

Ford was right to insist on her right to videotape police actions that occur in public, and others should too. If the police are doing their jobs properly, they should have nothing to worry about.

Cohen, a lawyer, is a former TIME writer and a former member of the New York Times editorial board

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My comment to the above:

Only tool for justice against police, a video camera

In Massachusetts any videotaping of police, if you're caught, can result in your arrest. Videotaping police brutality and misconduct is illegal, but if cops perpetrate these crimes the only evidence that stands up is video. It is dangerous to let police video us at will, when we can't even document crimes committed by them.

When you make a police misconduct complaint, in most states, it is to the next ranking officer from the same department! In Connecticut the policy for making a police misconduct complaint is "Arrest and discredit". Officers will commit fraud claiming to have worked overtime. When caught, officers don't have to pay it back, aren't fired for committing felony theft and fraud. Homeland Security federal tax dollars are being stolen. Documenting felony theft and fraud of officers is a crime, but the officers committing crimes aren't punished. Officers conducting illegal searches aren't punished, complaining about it, or videotaping it is.

I complained about Connecticut State Police Officers having improper relationships with underage prostitutes to elected officials in Stafford Springs, CT. I dared not use video cameras to document statutory rape by the officers fearing I'd be arrested, have to serve time, and have to register as a sex offender just for having evidence in my possession of their crimes. But soon after, I got a year in prison for resisting being mugged on my property after I had lodged a police misconduct complaint.

If you videotape police, suggest legislation like Civilian Oversight of police or court reform to elected officials, lodge a misconduct complaint, or have a significant other a police officer wants you can be beaten up, murdered, or railroaded to prison for years. Cops were caught on tape using $10,000 to pay a police informant to kill a US Marine who lodged a police misconduct complaint. Should it be okay for cops to use tax dollars to murder citizens? Should our only protection, video cameras be taken away?

Police in Connecticut use tax dollars to have a golf outing called the "100 Club", have 100 or more, even false arrests for DUI, get a reward at an exclusive Golf resort.

by Steven G. Erickson (2 fans, 8 articles, 5 quicklinks, 153 diaries, 752 comments [468 recommended, 1 rejected]) on Saturday, Aug 7, 2010 at 6:31:54 PM

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Cop Pulls Out Gun On Motorcyclist

Text with video:
FunkensteinJr | June 05, 2010

UPDATE: Please see my other related video

Motorcyclist jailed for 26 hours for videotaping gun-wielding cop

DN! Maryland Man Could Face 16 Years in Jail for Videotaping Traffic Stop

Text with video:
StartLoving3 | July 20, 2010

Maryland Man Could Face 16 Years in Jail for Videotaping Traffic Stop

A twenty-five-year-old staff sergeant for the Maryland Air National Guard is facing up to sixteen years in prison for uploading a video on YouTube that showed an undercover police officer pulling a gun on him during a traffic stop. Anthony Graber was initially ticketed for speeding, but once he posted the video, the state charged him with four felonies, including violating Maryland's wiretap law. State police officers also raided Graber's parents' home and confiscated his camera, computers and external hard drives. Graber is one of many Americans facing possible jail time for videotaping police activity. Last week Democratic Congressman Edolphus Towns of New York introduced a non-binding resolution calling for the protection of citizens who videotape cops in public from getting arrested on state wiretapping charges.

Maryland State Police No cameras, please.mp4

Text with video:
Jahbulon555 | June 11, 2010

Maryland State Police stopped Anthony Graber for speeding on I-95 at a reported 100 mph -- while popping a wheelie on his sport bike. The traffic stop got a little weird when the officer, dressed in plain clothes and driving an unmarked car, busted out of the driver's door with a drawn handgun. The officer rushed over, grabbed the front of the bike and ordered Graber to get off the motorcycle before identifying himself as a State Police officer and holstering the weapon.

RTamerica Clip 11th of June 2010

Man Gets Arrested, Posts Video of Plainclothed Officer on You Tube, Gets Raided

Text with video:

P0LICEstateWATCH | June 21, 2010

Videotape police, who videotape you constantly, and get a SWAT team busting down your door! In recent months, there have been several cases of citizens being arrested for recording police activity, in clearly public areas. Of course, law enforcement and the courts constantly proclaim that in public, you have no perception of privacy. Which is why we can't leave our homes without the expectation of being videotaped dozens of times by cameras, public and private. The defendant in this case clearly deserved to be stopped and apprehended, pulling reckless maneuvers in traffic, and riding his motorcycle 120 mph. However, having been taping his own motorcycle stunts, he captured the plainclothes officer cutting him off and wielding a gun, and decided to post it on YouTube. Soon after, the Maryland State Police raided his home and took his computers and recording equipment. This type of double standard is truly dangerous for our liberties. If law enforcement, even if videotaped when committing crime themselves, can simply arrest the citizen taping them, we are in serious tyranny. Either there is a perception of privacy, or there is not. Laws must apply for everyone equally. This is indicative of the problem with America. Politicians write laws, and exempt themselves! They increase taxes, and don't bother to pay them! Once again, the Maryland State Police are unapologetic, and insist they are only enforcing the law. If police have no code of conduct, no way to ensure accountability, then they become just another gang infesting our streets. We need some serious reforms quickly.

Video aired June 16, 2010 WUSA CBS9

These videos may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes only. This constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

NH candidates on "YouTubers' rights."

Text with video:
RidleyReport | August 07, 2010

Sponsor: - I do some gentle "ambush interviews" in the public parking area as politicians come and go from a GOP meeting. The question: Would you in theory support a bill that enshrines the right to record police?

Includes music by:

How you can buy an advertisement on this show:

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Arrested for video taping the police (Massachusetts State Police)

When citizens are brutally beaten by police, they are often charged with assault in the police officer after being brought to the hospital. The only defense against such police brutality and misconduct is a video camera, or their collective lies, false report, and perjury stand. Citizens can spend years in prison, or even decades, just for having taken a police beating, and then complaining about it.

Police brutality - Maryland Police Beating Unarmed Student Unprovoked

Text with video:
enslavetherich | April 14, 2010

Officers caught beating student on video had blamed injuries on their horses (RETARDS)
Three Maryland police officers were caught beating an unarmed student following post-basketball game revelry in a videotape released Monday.

The incident, recorded in part by another student Mar. 3 following a Maryland basketball victory, shows several officers in riot gear beating the student with batons. The officers deliver roughly a dozen blows as the student crumples to the ground.

John McKenna, 21, was subsequently charged with "felonies on suspicion of assaulting officers on horseback and their mounts," but prosecutors dropped charges Monday as the video was released.

"The video shows the charging documents were nothing more than a cover, a fairy tale they made up to cover for the officers' misconduct," Christopher A. Griffiths, a lawyer for the student, told the Washington Post. "The video shows gratuitous violence against a defenseless individual."

The Post notes that the beating "occurred March 3 near the university's College Park campus after the Maryland men's basketball team defeated Duke. After the game, students took to the streets to celebrate. Twenty-eight people were arrested or cited, sparking a debate between police and students over how and when it is appropriate to break up a group of revelers." The video shows McKenna on the sidewalk as he skips and throws his arms in the air. He stops about five feet from an officer on horseback, the video shows. In the video, McKenna's arms appear to be in front of him, but he does not appear to touch the officer or the horse. His hands are empty. McKenna backs up, then two county police riot officers rush toward him from the street, the video shows. The officers slam McKenna against a wall and beat him with their batons. McKenna crumples to the ground. As McKenna falls, a third county police riot officer strikes his legs and torso with his baton. The video shows the officers striking an unresisting McKenna about the head, torso and legs -- more than a dozen blows in all.

Other riot police officers on horseback who are captured on tape don't intervene as the student is beaten to the ground.

In charging the student, police initially said McKenna and another student "provoked the beating" by attacking the mounted officers. The Post reports that the charging documents asserted that the horses, rather than the officers, had injured McKenna -- a claim impossible to defend once the video of the incident went public.

An ABC News affiliate reported Tuesday that one of the officers has been suspended and several others could be fired.

"Some of these characters ought to go to jail," McKenna's family said in a statement to ABC. "Some ought to merely be booted off the force, and the remainder should be properly trained to discover that force is not always necessary, and brutality is always wrong."

The Post has more details here.

This video is from The Washington Post, broadcast April 12, 2010.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been altered from its original version. It was expanded to provide more detail about the incident.

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