California Cops Arrest, Harass Man for Videotaping Them on the Job
November 26, 2012 4:01 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
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
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.
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."
Photography is Not a Crime
"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer
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