Fortunately, there are exceptions. Reason Hit & Run directs our attention to Officer Matthew J. Lyons of the Oceanside, California police department. Lyons runs into a few issues that usually send other officers scrambling for their handguns and threats: an openly-carried weapon and a camera.
However, Lyons handles the situation in a professional, cordial manner, even as the person filming the encounter declines to show him any ID or provide a last name. Even better, he commends him for exercising his rights.
In just under three minutes, Lyons puts together a superb primer on how to handle interacting with the public, one that should be required viewing for law enforcement members everywhere.
Just a couple months ago, we wrote about how police were complaining that allowing people to film them in public created chilling effects on how they behaved. Separately, we've noted a variety of recent incidents in which police took action against those who filmed them in public.
"It feels uncomfortable when I don't have it," Nguyen said of the video camera that is smaller than a smartphone and is worn on his chest. "You can never be too safe."
"First and foremost, it protects the officers, it protects the citizens and it can help with an investigation and it shows what happened," said Steve Tidwell, executive director of the FBI National Academy Associates in Quantico, Va. "It can level the playing field, instead of getting just one or two versions. It's all there in living color, so to speak."
Of course, this is just an extension of grill cameras that many police cars have to record traffic stops. But a personal camera definitely goes further. Others will probably point out that this is different in that the police retain these versions, and don't make them public (unless they want to). And that's definitely true. It's certainly not entirely the same. But, it does serve as at least a partial counterpoint to the idea that police are entirely against being filmed, and that it will somehow create a "chilling effect" for them.
It really is quite amazing how so many authority types these days can't seem to comprehend the idea that people can and will take phones and record public events. Sinan Unur alerts us to the news of how two reporters were arrested in Washington DC while attending a public meeting of the DC Taxi Commission, which was meeting over a planned medallion system for taxis (used in many other cities, but somewhat controversial due to the ability to artificially restrict the market). Apparently, a reporter by the name of Pete Tucker was arrested for taking a photograph, and then Reason's Jim Epstein filmed the arrest and subsequent outrage by pretty much everyone in attendance. He then tried to leave, and the police tried to get his camera and then arrested him as well. You don't see him arrested in the video, but the woman at the end who declares that he has no right to film her (false, since this is a public place) apparently is told by a police officer that Epstein's phone would be turned over to her, which raises questions as to why police would be handing a phone over to someone else.
Last week, we wrote about the absolutely ridiculous situation, in which a woman who filmed the police in the process of a traffic stop in front of her house was arrested and charged with "obstructing government administration." The whole thing was clearly a sham, involving law enforcement that didn't like having their actions scrutinized in perfectly legal ways. The vast publicity that story generated apparently made law enforcement in Rochester think twice about going ahead with the case. Shane alerts us to the news that the district attorney decided "after reviewing the evidence" that "there was no legal basis" to continue the case and asked for it to be dismissed, which the judge granted.
This followed reports over the weekend that, during a meeting over the weekend in support of the woman, police went on a selective enforcement rampage, looking for any reason to give the supporters parking tickets, including being parked more than 12 inches off of the curb.
The whole situation caused the mayor, the head of city counsel and the chief of police to put out a joint statement saying that its procedures for handling such things will be reviewed, including the whole parking ticket mess:
"We believe that the incident that led to Ms. Good's arrest and the subsequent ticketing for parking violations of vehicles belonging to members of an organization associated with Ms. Good raise issues with respect to the conduct of Rochester Police Officers that require an internal review. A review into both matters has been initiated."
"Police officers must be able to cope with a high degree of stress while performing oftentimes dangerous duties, relying on their training and experience to guide their behavior. As routine as a traffic stop may appear, it has proven over time to be a potentially dangerous activity for police. Nonetheless, police must conduct themselves with appropriate respect for the rights of those involved or who are observing their actions."
"There is a mandated legal process that governs our internal response when police officer behavior is called into question. We must respect this process and that may be frustrating to those who may have already made up their mind about the outcome. We have confidence that the review will be fair and impartial and invite Ms. Good and anyone else with firsthand information to participate. We will withhold our judgment until the review is completed."
"Whatever the outcome of the internal review, we want to make clear that it is not the policy or practice of the Rochester Police Department to prevent citizens from observing its activities - including photographing or videotaping - as long as it does not interfere with the safe conduct of those activities. It is also not the policy or practice of the Department to selectively enforce laws in response to the activities of a group or individual. This has always been the case and it is being reinforced within the Department, so that it will be abundantly clear to everyone."
Of course, given all that, one thing still not explained is why the DA pressed charges in the first place. While it's good that they've now decided that there was no legal basis, isn't the point to determine that before you press charges?
We've had a ton of stories recently about police reacting badly (and contrary to what the law says) when they discover that someone is filming some of their actions in public. Police keep trying to claim that doing so is illegal, and have even tried to claim that such video taping violates wiretapping laws. The latest such example is really bizarre. Boing Boing points us to a story of how a woman was arrested in Rochester, NY and charged with "obstructing government administration," all because she was filming a (questionable) traffic stop in front of her house. You can see the video below:
The guy keeps trying to come up with reasons to get her to leave her front yard, first suggesting that she can't film from the sidewalk (so she takes a step back) and then complaining that she's "anti-police" and that he doesn't feel safe unless she goes inside. She points out that she's in her own front yard and not doing anything wrong. The cop then threatens her with arrest, and quickly arrests her, claiming that she didn't obey a police order.
What's really stunning is that prosecutors went forward with charges here. They must have known there was a video. I'm curious how anyone can claim that filming police is obstructing governmental administration.
DannyB was the first of a few folks to send in the latest story of police massively (and dangerously) overreacting to people filming them in public. This case involves police in Miami Beach, who filmed a fatal shooting by the police. Apparently, the police didn't like such things being caught on camera and reacted about as poorly as you can imagine:
First, police pointed their guns at the man who shot the video, according to a Miami Herald interview with the videographer
Then they ordered the man and his girlfriend out the car and threw them down to the ground, yelling “you want to be fucking paparazzi?”
Then they snatched the cell phone from his hand and slammed it to the ground before stomping on it. Then they placed the smashed phone in the videographer's back pocket as he was laying down on the ground
And finally, they took him to a mobile command center where they snapped his photo and demanded the phone again, then took him to police headquarters where they conducted a recorded interview with him before releasing him.
Turns out the last laugh was on the police. The guy whose phone it was had removed the SD card from the phone, which contained the video, and had it in his mouth the whole time. The video itself is now available on YouTube. It's pretty intense (and NSFW with the sound on). It shows the initial shooting, and then all the way up to the point where the same police who just opened fire on someone else are pointing their guns at the guy doing the filming, as he sits in his car. I have no idea how he was able to get the SD card out and in his mouth before police seized the phone:
This is all pretty scary no matter how you look at it, and it's really troubling, yet again, to see such a brazen abuse of the law by law enforcement officials who think that it's somehow against the law to film their actions in public.
from the those-aren't-the-chilling-effects-you're-thinking-of dept
There isn't a ton of new information in this NPR piece on how police still can't stand the fact that people record them with cameras and cameraphones, but it's one of the first articles on the subject that has actually laid out an argument for why police think it's bad that people out in public can film them:
"They need to move quickly, in split seconds, without giving a lot of thought to what the adverse consequences for them might be," says Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police.
"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," Pasco says, "or some serious bodily harm."
Frankly, this makes absolutely no sense. Why would a police officer think twice about doing his or her job if there are legitimate reasons to do what's being done? The only time I could see a "chilling effect" on the actions of officers, is if what they're doing is not legal.
Meanwhile, the article does show the real chilling effect of officers intimidating people who are filming them. The article tells the story of a teenager who tried filming police in Newark, New Jersey last year, and for her troubles, was handcuffed, put in the back of a squad car, and had the videos deleted off the phone. She was released two hours later and no charges were filed (though, she's now suing the Newark Police Department). Still, when asked, the woman, Khaliah Fitchette, says that she probably wouldn't film police in Newark again:
Khaliah Fitchette's lawyers in New Jersey say her detention was illegal. But Fitchette still says she'd think twice before filming police in Newark again.
"It would have to be important enough to get myself in trouble for, I guess," she says.
She has this attitude, Fitchette says, because she thinks she could get in trouble again, even though her detention was allegedly unlawful.
A few folks have sent in variations on this story, involving how a guy named Phil Mocek has been acquitted of charges filed by the TSA after he refused to show TSA officials his ID back in 2009. Mocek had no ID on him and noted (correctly) that you do not, in fact, need ID to fly. He filmed the entire incident and then was charged with four misdemeanors: disorderly conduct, concealing his identity, refusing to obey a police officer, and criminal trespass. You can see the video here:
It turns out that Mocek was completely correct in that he did not need to have ID and he was well within his rights to film the encounter. At no point did he raise his voice or act in a "disorderly" manner, and it appears that the jury recognized that -- and also recognized that the TSA and the police appeared to simply be annoyed at the guy for doing what was completely within the law.
Earlier this year, we wrote about the (very, very cool) publicity stunt pulled by the band Atomic Tom, where they performed one of their songs live on the NYC Subway using only iPhones as instruments. Of course, they also filmed the whole thing with iPhones as well and that's actually becoming more popular. Jeremy points us to a story at Mashable covering ten music videos filmed with the iPhone and most of them are pretty damn good. Here's one that was produced and edited by Emmy Award-winner Alen Petkovic for the band Vintage Trouble:
As you watch these videos, you realize that in a lot of cases, if you didn't know they were filmed with a smartphone, you'd probably never know. We've shown how filmmakers can make a pretty high quality film with a standard DSLR in the past but I'm beginning to wonder when we'll see the first released "feature film" filmed entirely with smartphones. I would imagine it can't be that far away.
And, if you think about it, this is pretty damn exciting. I remember when I was a kid, the idea of being able to make movies was a really cool idea but it involved saving up a ton of money to buy an expensive video camera or hoping that you could find some friends whose parents had a video camera (which they never really wanted us kids to borrow). But when you get a super high quality video camera included in the phone you already bought anyway... well, suddenly some pretty powerful things can be enabled.
At a time when the movie industry is whining and complaining about how there are supposedly going to be fewer movies made, I'd argue that they haven't paid much attention to how much the tools of film making have been getting ridiculously cheaper over the past couple of decades. And no (before the Hollywood apologists step in and falsely claim this), I'm not saying that just because you can take decent videos on an iPhone, it means that we don't need professionals or higher end cameras and such. This is just to point out the extreme end of the spectrum and to recognize that some of it is definitely filtering back to other parts of film making as well. A professional film shot on a tight budget might actually be able to do a few more things because they can go with cheaper cameras. I've been listening to Kevin Smith's podcasts about his upcoming film Red State, and at one point, they mentioned that in order to fit things in their budget, they ended up borrowing a Red Camera (which is a high quality, but relatively cheap camera) from a guy in exchange for letting him hang out on set. But imagine what more people could do if they could devote less of their budget to things like cameras and make existing budgets go further.
Peter writes in to alert us to the latest example of copyright madness. It seems that over in Scotland, an amateur football (soccer, to us Americans) club, Buckie Thistle, would get a small group of about 500 fans attending each game, and one of them, a 16-year-old kid named David Smith would sit in the back of the stands and film the action. He would then post 10-minute clips to YouTube so those who missed the games could catch up. It built up a small, but decent, following. And that's when the trouble began. The league's secretary claims that Smith is violating the league's copyright and has issued him a £5,000 fine:
"I was made aware that edited footage of games involving Buckie Thistle was being shown on YouTube without the prior approval of the league. Over the last three months, attempts were made to establish who was responsible, but I was advised that the person's name was unknown.
"On meeting Mr Smith at Deveronvale, I asked him if he had permission to video this game, as it was the copyright of the league and no permission had been sought nor given. After brief discussion, he was advised by me that he may have to pay for the royalties for all videos taken and the sum could amount to £5,000."
Now, there are all sorts of issues here, so let's go through them one by one:
The secretary of an amateur sporting league has no authority to issue any kind of fine, let alone a £5,000 one.
As the article details, the league secretary is very confused if he thinks that the action on the field is copyright to the league. As a media lawyer notes in the article:
THIS is not a question of copyright. The SFA does not own copyright on a football game. Copyright only applies to something such as a book, film, play etc that has been created as an act of labour by an individual or group of individuals. Men running around chasing a ball is not something that has been created.
If there is any copyright here, it should be owned by David Smith. Again, as noted in the article:
The irony is that David Smith owns the copyright to his own piece of film; he has put the effort into filming and editing it and when he puts it on YouTube, he is tacitly allowing people to watch it and even download it on to their computer. But if those individuals then attempted to sell it for commercial gain then he would be well within his rights to stop them as they would be breaching his copyright.
This isn't a question of competing with broadcasting rights. No one else is filming the games. It's just the kid. Doing it as a labor of love to help promote the team he loves.
The club itself is thrilled with Smith filming the games, and is upset that the league is trying to fine him.
The whole thing is yet another example of what happens when people hear about copyright and "ownership" all the time and assume that it gives them control over all sorts of things it does not.