New Bill In Connecticut Would Make It Illegal For Police To Stop You From Recording Them

from the good-to-see dept

We’ve seen numerous stories in the last year of police abusing anti-wiretap laws to go after people who record police activities in public. Thankfully, there are some people who realize this is wrong. A Connecticut state senator, Martin Looney, has apparently introduced legislation that not only says that it’s the right of citizens to record on-duty police officers, but (more importantly) gives citizens a civil action against police officers if they violate that right. As Radley Balko points out at that link:

That second part is important. A right doesn?t mean much if there are no consequences for government officials who ignore it. Witness this case in Florida, where an officer erroneously tries to say federal law prohibits citizen recordings of cops. Even in states where courts have thrown out criminal charges, a cop who doesn?t want to be recorded can still harass, threaten, and even arrest you. You may not be charged. But he won?t be punished, either.

It would definitely be nice if a similar rule was taken up at the federal level.

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Comments on “New Bill In Connecticut Would Make It Illegal For Police To Stop You From Recording Them”

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Spaceboy (profile) says:

I’ve always wondered at how a police officer somehow feels threatened when being recorded while at the same time having a camera mounted om their dashboard recording everything they do in the front of their car. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy if you are a police officer on the job.

Also, if it is illegal to record a police officer then doesn’t that make any news cameraman that records an officer guilty too? Where does it stop?

Kudos to Senator Looney!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The public camera is a very useful tool for turning the spotlight on a person accustomed to avoiding it.

People are people and deviate and develop approaches that are not socially friendly when they are repeatedly not called out on it.

We will end up with smarter, friendlier, more helpful cops as a result of this (though there may be a period of shaking out). And the force will attract more such tolerant people.

I like moves towards government oversight.

And I am sure pvt Manning had something to do with promoting this positive development.

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Realistically, video can be edited in such a way that shows cops’ action without the context that makes it necessary. Prime example is the Rodney King case. The video only showed the cops beating him badly, but not him resisting strongly prior to that.

You can make cops look abusive when in fact they are matching force in order to subdue someone.

Brian Schroth (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Given that even if Rodney King had just finished cloning Hitler and raping all the cops’ children, the beating shown on the tape would still not have been justified, I’m not sure I understand how that’s a “prime example” unless your goal was to show how valuable it is to film cops committing crimes.

Overcast (profile) says:

I’ve always wondered at how a police officer somehow feels threatened when being recorded while at the same time having a camera mounted om their dashboard recording everything they do in the front of their car. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy if you are a police officer on the job.

Well said. And… “If they aren’t doing anything wrong, they should have nothing to hide.” – isn’t that what they tell us?

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If their actions cannot withstand second-guessing, then, they should take actions that can withstand second-guessing instead. Police officers are not random shumcks who stumbled into a situation they cannot control and are unprepared for. They are trained for their job, they choose to do it and they are vested with significant authority to do it. If that is not enough for them to act irreproachably, well tough. What do they say again? Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

Havoc (profile) says:

Re: Re:

‘Gut interpretation’? Care to provide a link to a page where that shows this is a necessary(and legal) part of law enforcement? I understand your point, but remember that police are being trained to go right to the very edge of violating our waning rights, and some step over the line. I, for one, have written my Congressmen, requesting they support a return of our recording rights at the federal level, removing the various states’ gameplaying involving wiretapping laws to protect the police unions’ ‘privacy’ concerns.
I would ask that all write(not email, they’ll never read it) and make it known that, although you’re not a lobbyist, you matter.
Threadjacking over.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

>> I, for one, have written my Congressmen

Techdirt stories and discussion motivate me quite frequently to write to my elected officials. Though I can’t compete with the lobby industry, I can at least chip away.

SUBJ: Safeguarding our streets

I support a federal bill that explicitly reaffirms the rights of individuals to videotape the public, in particular, to videotape officers of the law.

Connecticut has already taken a leadership role through their state legislature as covered here .

The Connecticut bill specifically allows for civil actions to proceed against those who thwart that public right.

No human is wise enough to have their power go unchecked for very long. And American citizens need to keep a mindful eye on the actions of our public servants, in particular, when we have entrusted them with special privileges that can easily lead to death and injury.

Americans will end up with a more friendly, helpful, clever police force when we reduce the temptation for them to abuse their privilege.

Thank you.

PS: We will also need to improve the lack of civilian Due Process in the actions carried out by our military. As many have shown throughout history, respect and a civilized approach by those in power leads to further respect and a greater amount of peace and security.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

This may be of interest to some..

I modified the letter on the Senator’s webform and forgot to save it, but it turns out that looking at the page’s source view provided by the browser showed that my letter was on that *Thank you for sharing your thoughts* page hidden from sight (it was in the html but not visible when browsing the page normally).

FWIW, the letter I actually sent included much of the above (modified a little) and

> Valuable video technology offers much hope [for] removing crime from the streets.

> Americans will be much more likely to help law enforcement when respect is reciprocated.

Not sure if this made the letter better or worse.

Havoc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Civil action I generally despise, but will work nicely here. The reason most red light cameras are civil and not criminal(I’m sure you know this, I just hate breaking a train of thought) is the burden of proof shifts to the defendant. Sucks in camera cases, would work well on this- except I want all abusive cops- minority that they are(in numbers, not race) to go to prison. Fines, court judgments that wreck their credit, those really scare no one. Jail does.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re:

“Cops need the discretion to handle things according to their gut interpretation of procedures and common sense.”

Hogwash. And it’s quite scary that you think this is true. Cops need the discretion to handle things according to the law, evidence, and due process. Their “gut interpretation” does not belong in public law enforcement. Legislators and judges provide the interpretation of the law. Cops have only the duty to abide by it and enforce it using the proper, legal processes that do not violate human rights.

Rekrul says:

Cops need the discretion to handle things according to their gut interpretation of procedures and common sense. They don’t need people second-guessing everything they do while watching out of context videotape.

The problem is that a lot of cops don’t use discretion and common sense. Look at how many innocent, non-violent people have been tasered simply for not doing what a cop tells them. How many un-armed suspects have been turned into swiss cheese by trigger happy cops? How many people have been beaten simply because they mouthed off to a cop?

When a crime is committed, the first thing the detectives look for is to see if there is any surveillance footage of the incident so that they can use it in court. When a cop abuses their power, the first thing they look for is any surveillance footage of the incident, so that they can cover up the incident.

Thomas (profile) says:

But could it pass?

That doesn’t mean it will pass. Most states want to protect their cops from citizens, so the law isn’t likely to pass. Over the last 50 years or so the mission of the police has changed focus from helping people to catching criminals. A police department that shows high rates of arrests is considered far better than one that has high rates of helping people.

It all really boils down to cops wanting to be able to get away with beating the crap out of people when they feel like it.

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