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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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RE: all part of a pattern
By CalaverasGrande on 11/27/2012 12:17:35 PM , Rating: 5
That is a false equivalency. The police are responsible for enforcing the law, and use deadly force in some cases. No matter how badly anyone screws up the network or an individual computer at my job, deadly force is not an option.
Nor is it an option for me to jail anyone, or to extract information from suspects. Most of us do not have jobs like this. We simply do not have the power to infringe on other citizens rights the way police officers do.
I would like to think that you make this poor analogy because you are fortunate enough not to have been on the receiving end of corrupt police attention.
I grew up in the deep south, and live in Oakland Ca. So I have some passing familiarity with what police abuse of power looks like.

RE: all part of a pattern
By Adonlude on 11/27/2012 5:40:15 PM , Rating: 2
I too have been on the receiving end of abusive Jack Booted Thugs. Many JBT's will lie so that they can perform an illegal search. They will even go so far as to play Judge Dread and assault you when nobodies looking if they think you are guilty. Police need to be monitored and we need to fight to reverse the police state that is forming. Most cops act like they are some special privilaged class of citizen and that has to stop. Police are the same as citizens only they have a couple extra legal protections, some of which they shouldn't even have. Citizens can carry guns, citizens can arrest, the only difference is citizens don't have blanket legal protection if their arrest is bogus.

RE: all part of a pattern
By michael67 on 11/28/2012 3:08:34 PM , Rating: 2
Personally i think a video cam should be mandatory for every cop that on the job, it has huge benefits for both sides.

- There is no question of (intentional) wrong full testimony of eider side.
- Complaints against the police go down if people see there own behavior.
- Cops also behave better according to the law.
- Conviction rate go's up with stronger evidence.
- Questionable actions can be judged in the right light(*)

(*) In case of for example, of a police officer shooting a unarmed suspect, did the suspect behaved like he was reaching for a gun or not, as now it often comes down to police testimony.

In Holland its not illegal to videotape a police, what is illegal is publishing it out of context.

Like putting up a video of a cop only hitting a suspect, but without the sequence of events before the cop hit the suspect, like kicking and spitting or what ever fiscal or verbal abuse preceded it.

Having police waring a video cam all the time when they are on the job would imho clear up many misunderstanding and ensure that at least the cops behave them self's in a way they are suppose to do, and as long as they behave properly they also have a better defense against wrongful accusations of misconduct.

We had on a central bus station, after a report of a armed man walking around, a officer shooting a unarmed north African man, for two weeks the officer was accused of misconduct in the newspaper.
Police shooting don't very often happen in Norway, so it was pretty big news.

But after 2 weeks some one that had bin on a holiday trip came back that had videotaped the incident on his mobile, ware you clearly could see the guy not following armed police instructions, and reaching in his pocket, even after the police warned the person in Norwegian and English to stop or they would shoot.

IMHO there would be only one winner with police waring cam's all the time, and that would be the truth.

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