Print 102 comment(s) - last by VideoTape All .. on Dec 2 at 3:44 PM

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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RE: all part of a pattern
By Jeffk464 on 11/26/2012 6:41:48 PM , Rating: 3
Seems to me you could almost make a living doing this type of thing and then suing to police department. Cops often overstep their bounds offering lots of opportunity for lucrative lawsuits.

RE: all part of a pattern
By Jeffk464 on 11/26/2012 6:45:30 PM , Rating: 4
People should start using voice recording apps everytime they have a police encounter.

RE: all part of a pattern
By bsd228 on 11/26/2012 9:47:42 PM , Rating: 3
> Seems to me you could almost make a living doing this type of thing and then suing to police department. Cops often overstep their bounds offering lots of opportunity for lucrative lawsuits.

perhaps, but at what I would consider an unacceptable chance (1 in 100?) of getting killed in the process. After a few times, like with this person, they know who you are, and your prior lawsuits harmed their colleagues, so they have both the anger at your for exercising your rights to monitor as well as a wish to retaliate for the prior incidents. \

Wrongful death verdicts tend to be smaller sums, and I'd be dead. Not an ideal outcome.

RE: all part of a pattern
By Strunf on 11/27/2012 7:18:53 AM , Rating: 2
You don't need to go that far... everyone will need a cop eventually and when you call them and identify yourself chances are they will take a bit longer than usual to arrive.

RE: all part of a pattern
By Schrag4 on 11/29/2012 1:15:58 PM , Rating: 2
First, the idea that everyone will need a copy eventually is utter nonsense. An unlucky few may legitimately need the police (or someone who can help them out of a bind), more will unnecessarily put themselves in a position where they need one, and the vast majority of people will never encounter a police officer outside of the occassional speeding ticket.

Second, you may be right about these people being recognized by the responders, but believe it or not, there are police that can put their personal differences aside and do their job, even if they don't like the person they're helping. It's not as high a percentage as it should be (it's less than 100%) but you can find examples of cops behaving professionally when dealing with people that frankly don't deserve to be treated professionally.

RE: all part of a pattern
By superflex on 11/27/2012 8:42:18 AM , Rating: 2
Seems to me you could almost make a living doing this type of thing and then suing to police department.

This guy does. He was awarded $25,000 last time the cops arrested him for videotaping.

RE: all part of a pattern
By Jeffk464 on 11/27/2012 8:22:28 PM , Rating: 2
yup, not bad for an evenings work. :)

RE: all part of a pattern
By Piiman on 12/1/2012 3:09:22 PM , Rating: 2
Hardly a living and if the Cops stop breaking the law he would go broke.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh

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