If you’ve been wanting to record the actions of police in your area but have been nervous about being prosecuted under archaic wiretapping and spying laws, check out the ACLU’s new resource page on photographing and recording video of police actions.
The video recording and photographing of police actions has been in the news quite a lot lately, with various cases being thrown out over the last few years. For instance, an Illionis man is facing 75 years in prison for recording police. More recently, there was the Long Beach man who was detained by police for photographing an oil refinery.
To help clear up confusion, the ACLU has created a web resource page to educate people that it is a constitutional right to take “photographs and video of things that are plainly visible in public spaces… and that includes the outside of federal buildings, as well as transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties.”
The ACLU notes that there is a “widespread pattern” of law enforcement ordering people to stop recording video or taking photographs in public spaces, and hopefully this site and continued media attention helps to highlight this civil liberties issue.
The resource pages lists various recent incidents of photographer harassment by police in the post “You Have Every Right to Photograph That Cop,” directing readers to a more complete list over at Photography is Not a Crime.
To echo the ACLU for a moment, being able to freely and legally photograph and record police actions is a critical check and balance on police power. As a friend of mine noted recently (in quoting a friend who is a U.S. Marshall), law enforcement graduates are taught to expect the photographs and videos, and so they better be pretty damned sure that a situation requires use of force.
And, of course, photographs and video can also be used to vindicate law enforcement, which was the case recently in the San Francisco shooting of a suspect. The suspect ran from police after they boarded the bus to check that passengers had paid the fare. Police claimed he had a gun and fired at them, but witnesses and a video seemed to show that he was weaponless and had been brutally murdered.
A second video surfaced showing that an onlooker grabbed the pistol and fled the scene to make the police shooting seem racially-charged. With that second video, the police found the onlooker and thus the gun, and have determined that the fatal shot was inflicted by the suspect’s own gun, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
A society in which people are not free to scrutinize their law enforcement isn’t a free society but a police state.
Help spread the word.