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Message sent is that citizens should not be able to monitor the public actions of officials they employ

"If you don't give me your ID, then you're going to jail."

That's what a California cop, Officer Gabriel "Gabe" Lira, tells a man who is videotaping a routine traffic stop.  For Daniel J. Saulmon who lives in Hawethorne, a suburb of Los Angeles west of Compton, he was simply doing his citizens duty.  After all, his taxes help fund the Hawethorne Police Department, so why shouldn't he be allowed to record video of police in public on the job, in order to ensure that they do not abuse their citizen-entrusted power?

I. Show Some ID, Bud

Unfortunately, the Hawethorne Police Department's police officers didn't feel they owed the taxpayer anything.

Instead they arrest him (as the tape clearly shows) for failing to produce ID.  The only problem?  There is no law in California banning recording of on-duty cops and there is no law that requires Californians to produce papers to cops.  And in states where there are such laws, the requirement is that the individual be suspected of committing a crime.

Initially the HPD tried to charge the citizen with resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer -- an offense punishable for up to $1,000 USD in fines and a year in jail.  They also cited him for not having reflectors on his bike pedals (punishable with a fine of up to $250 USD).

Ultimately both charges were dropped.  Mr. Saulmon's video, ironically, offered vindication by showing the officer improperly demanded his identification. It also showed he was standing a good distance away from the investigation site, and hence was not obstructing.


The extra irony is that the HPD officers should definitely have known better than  to pick on Mr. Saulmon.  Keenly aware of his rights, he regularly records local arrests.  In 2005 he was arrested in a similar situation for eavesdropping/wiretapping.  The charges were eventually dropped, and the HPD paid him a settlement of $25,000 USD for the wrongful arrest.

Mr. Saulmon is likely to pursue a similar settlement from the department this time around.

He tells the blog Photography is not a crime, "They knew exactly who I was.  They always address me as ‘Mr. Saulmon'."

II. Justice for Some, But Not All

While the incident ended in vindication for the accused, other similar encounters across the country ended with little reprieve for the arrested videotaper.  That's because some jurisidictions have banned citizens from recording local cops.  The fight to overturn these verdicts may have been given a helping hand by the U.S. Attorney General, who penned a fiery response arguing that such arrests were unconstitutional.  U.S. Circuit Appeals courts have ruled such taping to be well within a citizen's rights.

Some police organizations are still fighting to push back the current federal mandate and instead making taping cops a federal crime.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, argues that officers should not have to be held accountable and should be free to arrest citizens who try to monitor their activity for wrongdoing.

Officer blocking camera
The Frateneral Order of Police says citizens should not be allowed to hold cops accountable when on the job in public. [Image Source: ACLU]

He comments, "They [police officers] need to move quickly, in split seconds, without giving a lot of thought to what the adverse consequences for them might be. We feel that anything that's going to have a chilling effect on an officer moving — an apprehension that he's being videotaped and may be made to look bad — could cost him or some citizen their life or some serious bodily harm."

Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, agrees.  He has stated in previous comments that his organization "absolutely supports" throwing those who tape police officers behind bars.

He complains that citizens monitoring police activities for wrongdoing might "affect how an officer does his job on the street."

Sources: YouTube, Photography is Not a Crime



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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Jason, you forgot to mention
By Shadowself on 11/26/2012 4:36:17 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
While the incident ended in vindication for the accused, other similar encounters across the country ended with little reprieve for the arrested videotaper. That's because some jurisidictions have banned citizens from recording local cops. The fight to overturn these verdicts may have been given a helping hand by the U.S. Attorney General, who penned a fiery response arguing that such arrests were unconstitutional. U.S. Circuit Appeals courts have ruled such taping to be well within a citizen's rights.
You forgot to mention a recent Supreme Court actions where the court declined to hear an appeal to uphold the arrest of a person in Illinois (IIRC) who did just this. The person won his case in federal court and the state appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said the lower court ruling that the man was within his rights was to stand as is without further hearing.

This strongly implies (but does not guarantee) that any similar case brought before the Supreme Court will get a ruling that such videotaping and posting of the video tape online is covered under the first amendment.

Unless the police officers and some state officials want to push for a U.S. Constitution amendment to forbid this, this may rapidly become a non issue and anyone wanting to videotape the police on a non interference basis can do so with impunity.




"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser














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