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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: Sounds like they should always be recorded
By GreenEnvt on 11/26/2012 10:20:21 PM , Rating: 3
I fully support having the right to videotape cops in public, however I'll play devils advocate for a second here.

It is quite easy to make someone look bad on video when you might not be getting the whole story. An example is some kid attacking people or officers off screen, injuring officers who try to restrain him. He flees and then the camera catches the cops tackling said kid and being more rough with him to subdue him because he's already escaped by injuring another officer.

While the truth may come out days after the video of this "brutality" is published online, the damage is done already.

That's just an example I made up, but I think you can see how situations like that could occur. However I think a lot of bad cops (most are good) are more worried about getting caught abusing their powers than the type of scenario I stated above.


By BillyBatson on 11/27/2012 2:41:02 AM , Rating: 1
So? If th cops didn't do anything wrong and can prove their behavior was warranted than there is no problem, right? Even in your example th person filming didn't interfere in any way and no harm was done to the case. If the person later wants to post the video or approach police with it the situation can easily be explained.
Again I comes down to if you haven't done anything wrong and the person filming is not interfering than there is absolutely no reason to worry. If you aren't doing your job properly than of course you don't want prying eyes. And in the end being a police officer is a public servant job and you should expect to be under a larger magnifying glass and have more responsibility to follow rules.

All cops should one day all have to wear web streaming go-pro cameras that can be watched by any civilian even if it comes with a small delay for safety and to protect any civilians identity.


RE: Sounds like they should always be recorded
By wordsworm on 11/27/2012 7:00:18 AM , Rating: 2
Your reasoning is that some kids can beat up a cop and then get beat up in return? Are you talking about the midget regiment of cops in particular? The cops I see around are usually big beefy guys. A kid isn't going to beat them up. Also, maybe they could be wired with cameras so that everything is caught on tape.


By RufusM on 11/27/2012 10:11:38 AM , Rating: 2
His example was a hypothetical case of how surveillance can be abused. It cuts both ways. In a modern world, malicious surveillance of citizens by police is a problem and malicious surveillance of police by the citizenry is also a problem.

The difference is that police are powerful public servants and can legally use force to detain and imprison the citizenry so they need to be held to a higher standard.


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