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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 ebakke on 11/28/2012 3:09:08 PM , Rating: 2
Think McFly....and not just from your point of view.
You would be well served heeding your own advice.

You're also muddying the issue. No one here is arguing that individuals should be "swarming around the police scene" or putting an officer's "safety/life in jeopardy". We're not talking about interfering with investigations, or with an officer's ability to do his job. Obstructing an officer is already illegal. But an individual can do that with or without a video camera. Your current argument against videotaping is analogous to banning guns because some people killed others with them. Guns *can* be an instrument for murder. And a camera *could* be an instrument for obstruction. But both also have legitimate other purposes that should be protected. Further, laws should ban the act (murder, obstruction) and not the implementation (gun, knife, rope, etc).

BUT, I am also VERY, VERY, VERY confident that YOU and most of the commenters here have absolutely no idea what each/any police officer experiences daily/hourly while at thier job.
Agreed. And as I stated yesterday, I don't care. It doesn't matter to me. The police are tasked with enforcing our laws with whatever rules or restrictions we place on them. They are given special powers and special abilities that the average citizen is not so that they may perform these duties. But ultimately they serve at our pleasure. If we demand they perform their jobs under a microscope, that's within our prerogative as it is OUR power that we have placed in them. We may certainly take it back, or place more limits upon it.

And at the end of the day, if the job becomes too difficult, people will stop doing it. Then we, as the employer, will have to reevaluate our offer.

RE: all part of a pattern
By GotThumbs on 11/28/2012 4:04:52 PM , Rating: 1
I don't care. It doesn't matter to me. The police are tasked with enforcing our laws with whatever rules or restrictions we place on them.

Enough said. You obviously believe police are sub-human adn are only here to do your bidding as you see fit. Do you kick dogs as well?

I'm done wasting my time here.

As I wrote earlier, Ignorance is not a cold that can be cured in a week.

Best wishes on finding a cure

RE: all part of a pattern
By ebakke on 11/28/2012 5:56:01 PM , Rating: 2
You obviously believe police are sub-human adn are only here to do your bidding as you see fit.
No, I don't believe that. Stop putting words in my mouth, and read the ones I'm typing!

Acknowledgement of the relationship between a citizen and a civil servant isn't anywhere remotely close to the equivalent of me believing police are sub-human. Nor is it equivalent to violence upon another being.

Stop acting like a petulant child. It's fine that we have different opinions. The whole point of a forum like this is that we can share those opinions with one another. You keep stomping your feet and decreeing that anyone who doesn't think as you do is some ignorant fool. It's your behavior that's appearing foolish. Defend your positions. Counter mine. Screaming "I'm right, and you're wrong, POOPY HEAD!" is useless.

I leave you with this question, which I admittedly have no expectation you'll give a thoughtful answer: How are police, judges, politicians, and members of the military not here to do our bidding as we see fit? All of those groups exist to serve the public, do they not?

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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