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Cops And Cameras Revisited.

We’ve discussed the concept of filming police in the context of doing their job before. Citizens have a First Amendment right to film the police as long as the citizen does not interfere with the police. “Interfere” is somewhat of an ambiguous term however. For example, a single person ten feet away from a police officer arresting someone has a different “feel” to the circumstances than 40 people in a 10 foot radius circle around a cop.

One of the battle ground states on the right to film has been the State of Maryland. In 2010, motorcyclist Anthony Graber was pulled over by an off duty police officer who exits his vehicle with his gun drawn and no identification visible and cites Graber for speeding. We won’t defend Graber here because he was doing over 120 mph on the highway and popping wheelies. How do we know that?

Graber had one of the “GoPro” HD cameras mounted to his helmet to film his antics.

(Note: Graber was convicted of speeding and eventually sold his motorcycle. Going 120 and popping wheelies is ridiculous and reckless behavior that should have cost him his license, but he was convicted of vehicular violations.)

Graber posted the encounter with the cop on YouTube.

Note that the officer leaves his car brandishing a gun. Note that the car is unmarked. Note that the officer never turns on his blue lights. Note the plain clothes. Note that it takes the trooper 5 seconds to identify himself as an officer of the law. Note that the officer never produces a badge. Note that Graber’s offense, reckless driving and speeding, is not a crime of violence.

A month later, police showed up at Graber’s home with a warrant to seize Graber’s computers, electronics and cameras.

Graber was arrested and charged with “illegal wiretapping” for filming the encounter with the policeman. (Interestingly enough, if Graber had filmed a man brandishing a gun who ordered him around, the video would be considered evidence. Yet because Graber filmed a police officer, it was thought to be a crime.)

A judge ruled that Graber’s filming was not a crime.

Circuit Court Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr.’s ruling helps clarify the state’s wire tap law and makes it clear that police officers enjoy little expectation of privacy as they perform their duties.

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

….

The judge wrote that Graber’s encounter “took place on a public highway in full view of the public. Under such circumstances, I cannot, by any stretch, conclude that the troopers had any reasonable expectation of privacy in their conversation with the defendant which society would be prepared to recognize as reasonable.”

Two months before the Graber case was decided in court, Maryland’s attorney general issued an opinion in July advising police agencies that people have a right to record officers and that most interactions between the police and the public cannot be considered private.

Some cops didn’t get the nearly four year old memo on that.

On February 23, 2014, police were called to a location near Towson University just north of the Baltimore City line. Police eventually arrested a man and a woman and charged them with disorderly conduct, drug possession and “resisting arrest.”

The scene is chaotic with a large crowd of bystanders followed by police coming onto the scene.

In the middle of the chaos, a person films the arrest.

What happens next is astounding. (NSFW language)

I’m allowed to do this,” [the videographer] told the officer.

“Get it out of my face,” the officer replied.

“I have my rights,” the man said.

“You have no rights,” the officer said.

But the man didn’t stop rolling and was once again aggressively approached.

“Do you see the police presence here? Do you see us all? We’re not [expletive] around. Do you understand? Do not disrespect us and do not not listen to us,” the officer said. “Now walk away and shut your [expletive] mouth or you’re going to jail, do you understand?”

After backing away, the officer came at the man a third time, appearing to grab him.

“I thought I had freedom of speech here,” the man said.

“You don’t. You just lost it,” the officer replied.

As of this date, the police are still “investigating” the conduct of the officers.

If a citizen had violated the rights of another citizen as the cops did in this case, they would be arrested on the spot and rightfully so. Yet because the violators are police, they are allowed to continue to roam the streets.

That isn’t right.

There are some who say that police should be held to a higher standard of conduct when it comes to the law. Some believe that they police should be “examples” to look up to. There is validity to that point of view, but here we see police that aren’t even upholding any standard of law, much less a “higher” standard. The police are aggressive, confrontational, commit a battery on the person, seek to deprive him of his rights and what happens?

Nothing.

Nada.

We understand and sympathize that being a cop is a difficult job. There are a lot of good cops out there but these incidents continue to pop up because they are tolerated by those same good cops and the departments for which the cops work.

In some ways, it is not the criminal that is a cop’s worse enemy, it is cops themselves as they allow this type of behavior to go unchecked and unpunished.

Any police officer who is so anxious and willing to violate the rights of citizens should not have a job as a cop. Until the police themselves live up to the standards of law and respect they want from citizens, there will continue to be incidents like this caught on tape which will tarnish the reputations of police around the country.

Law enforcement officials must do more than police the populace. They must police themselves.



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