Police Try To Bring Wiretapping Charges Against Woman Who Filmed Them Beating A Man

from the wow dept

For the past year, we’ve talked a lot about how police and some courts have been abusing wiretapping laws to go after people who film the police in public. Thankfully, more recently, it appears that more and more courts have been smacking down such lawsuits, and those who are bringing them are regularly being scolded. Not everyone has received the message however. For example, there’s police officer Michael Sedergren, who was disciplined for an incident in November of 2009, in which police were caught on video beating a guy named Melvin Jones III. The video was made by a woman named Tyrisha Greene. Jones had bones all over his face broken and became partially blind in one eye.

You would think that Sedergren, who was suspended for 45 days for his actions in the video, would know better and just get on with his life. Instead, he’s “filed an application for a criminal complaint” against Greene, saying she violated wiretapping laws in filming him without his permission. Everyone involved knows the law is not intended for situations like this, where an officer of the law is out in public. If this officer’s response to being filmed involved in questionable activities is to push for criminal charges against the person who caught him doing it, it seems like he does not deserve to be an officer of the law at all any more. What a massive abuse of the law.

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Comments on “Police Try To Bring Wiretapping Charges Against Woman Who Filmed Them Beating A Man”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s only audio that’s illegal to “intercept”. Most security cameras are video only (and probably for just that reason).

Two party consent wiretap laws exist for one reason. To protect politicians from bribery laws. “Oh, you taped our conversation and now are threatening to release the tapes? Well, if you say anything I’ll have you arrested for violating wiretapping laws.”

ianal but ur dumb says:

Re: Re:

Wiretapping laws aren’t only about tapping wires, they’re about recording conversations. In many two-party consent states you cannot record any conversation unless you have the explicit consent of all parties, whether that is through a phone, or if you’re all sitting around a table.

The only exception is usually when the recording equipment is so obvious that the person is aware that they are being recorded, such as a TV cameraman with a full camera pointing it in their face as an interviewer is asking questions.

Tim K (profile) says:

Re: Re: Gosh

If this officer’s response to being filmed involved in questionable activities is to push for criminal charges against the person who caught him doing it, it seems like he does not deserve to be an officer of the law at all any more.

If this officer beats someone til he’s blind in one eye it seems like he does not deserve to be an officer of the law at all any more regardless of whether or not he sues someone afterwards.

David says:

Re: Re: Gosh

I agree with this and the line from the summary

“If this officer’s response to being filmed involved in questionable activities is to push for criminal charges against the person who caught him doing it, it seems like he does not deserve to be an officer of the law at all any more.”

I would seriously question reinstating him as an active officer without some sort of re-training / testing. If I wanted that kind of aggression I would send him to the army, this is not the kind of behavior I would expect from the police. I can understand the beating and the punishment associated, I can’t understand his complete lack of remorse in this matter.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian says:

A police officer, not The Police

The headline is a bit misleading…

“Police Sgt. John M. Delaney, aide to Commissioner William J. Fitchet, said Sedergren filed the complaint personally, not on behalf of the Police Department. ?If officer Sedergren feels his rights were violated under the law then he has the opportunity to make his case in court, just like everyone else,? Delaney said.”

The Police did not file, a police officer filed.

LVDave (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 A police officer, not The Police

Well, assuming for a moment that you really ARE a police officer, *you* may be a fine upstanding office of the law, but EVERYTIME you turn your back when one of your brother officers pulls crap like this, this makes you a BAD COP!!
If you’re not part of the solution, you ARE part of the problem..

Spaceboy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 A police officer, not The Police

No, just the ones ‘like’ the one I responded to. There are plenty of legitimate reasons that someone would wish to remain anonymous. But recently it has been pointed out that some of the pro-IP-enforcement blogs don’t let any anonymous comments and comments must be approved.

The beautiful thing about Techdirt is that it allows everyone and anyone to post.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian says:

Re: Re: A police officer, not The Police

I understand that your comment is incited by anger at the police officers who did this act and those who allowed it to happen. The anger is justified. They should all be held responsible for their actions, and the department should review it’s policies (and conscience). But, that was not my point.

If I file suit against someone I deal with at and in the course of my job the headlines shouldn’t read “The Library files suit…”, because it is me personally doing it. In this action I am NOT representing the library. “A Librarian files suit…” is fine, and accurate.

MrWilson says:

What annoys me about this is that it’s another situation in which technology allows you to do something more easily that you could already do before.

Previously, nobody would get arrested for publishing an account of what they saw cops doing. But with a video recording, the cops can’t argue and say you’re lying or mistaken about what you saw.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I can’t imagine this will go far in court.

?Massachusetts Wiretapping Law Strikes Again?, by Sam Bayard, Citizen Media Law Project, Dec 12, 2007:

Boston Now reports that Peter Lowney, a political activist from Newton, Massachusetts, was convicted last week of violating the Massachusetts wiretapping statute (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, ? 99) and sentenced to six months probation and fined $500. The criminal case arose out of Lowney’s concealed videotaping of a Boston University police sergeant during a political protest in 2006. Apparently Lowney was shooting footage of the protest when police ordered him to stop and then arrested him for continuing to operate the camera while hiding it in his coat. As part of the sentencing, the Brighton District Court ordered Lowney to remove the footage from the Internet.


?Was convicted?, ?sentenced to six months probation and fined $500?, and ?ordered … to remove the footage from the Internet.?

How far is that?

Thomas (profile) says:

Re: Re: (masssachsetts "wiretapping")

The mass state supreme court has rules that the law is constitutional and the prosecution and sentence were valid. Other people have been prosecuted under this law. they call it wiretapping since you are recording AUDIO without a person’s permission.

Massachusetts cops routinely harass people for videotaping them. You can easily be arrested in Mass for this. Personally, I’d much rather deal with a mugger than a cop in Mass. A mugger will only take your phone and wallet, which is a small loss and not a huge thing. A corrupt cop can arrest you, beat you, have you thrown in jail, and you get a permanent arrest record that will cost you tens of thousands of dollars to fight. I don’t trust most of the cops in Mass. They believe themselves above the law and feel they have every right to beat people who annoy them. And they still do not understand why people do not trust them and are afraid of them. The cops view anyone who is not a cop as a criminal either now or in the future.

Jim Norcal says:

Re: Re:


I can’t imagine this will go far in court

It depends on the judge. We’ve seen all too many times that there are judges who care only for the winning of police officers even if that winning violates all laws and ethics that exist. We really need new laws that require mandatory prosecution of police, DAs and Judges who act in such disregard for law and civil rights.

Anonymous Coward says:

Its personnel

The officer did not loose his job over this incident, but the black mark he recieved on behalf of the public and the police force has forever tainted his chances of advancing his career. He will be stuck in his position for who knows how long, while he watches cop after cop get promoted ahead of him. He is just being bitter cause he is now stuck where hes at with little or no hope of moving forward.

LVDave (profile) says:

Re: Its personnel

Don’t count his career being tainted.. I’m gonna bet he winds up being chief in that department. And yes, the increasing number of bad cops give the ever decreasing number of good cops a bad name. Which is why I will never willingly give a police officer more than I’m legally required (name/address).. I’m not taking a chance that the cop is one of the good ones…

Tom says:

Re: Its personnel

Oh give me a break!!! Unfortunately most Americans just love torture beatings and mahem. As long as whites are making their $10.00 plus an hour they could care less about what happens to a black guy in an American state. Look at all the people Bush/Cheney (our CIA and military) tortured at Gitmo prison (still not closed BTW). Americans LOVE !!KILLING!! people. Who are you killing. Look at all this reality TV now. The MORE drama and fighting the more money you win on TV. It’s awful. Obama PROMISED over and over again that no troops would be left in Iraq. He lied!! Now there will be. How many innocent CIVILIANS have we murdered in Pakistan with the CIA’s drone strikes? Still no American outcry. After STEALING all this land from the native American Indians and then instituting SLAVERY on black people (and fighting a civil war based on slavery – hey slavery is in the bible so it must be ok right?). Americans just ABOSULTELY LOVE TORTURE, KILLING AND MURDER. As long as our government tells us “it’s only the terrorists we’re killing”. Police state America. If MASSIVE protests were held here in America (for whatever reason), you don’t thing that our police force wouldn’t be out there BEATING American citizens? Unfortunately it’s the OLD Farts in America who usually vote and they’re so old, frail and scared of everything (not to mention very comfortable getting Social Security) that they will vote EVERY time to increase the police state mentality.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Its personal

And he thought this would make the situation better rather than worse?

Yeah I have no sympathy for this dirt bag cop.

Just for this stupid legal stunt I genuinely hope his career is so well ended andover he won’t even be able to get a job licking AIDS invested toilets clean in a Tiajuana whorehouse.

Never mind whether should ever be allowed to work for any position of authority in the public or private sector ever again. That’s an obvious no and the public to keep tabs on him from now on to hound him out of any such job he ever gets again.

jimbo says:

he was on duty and supposed to be upholding the law. that surely doesn’t include beating someone so badly that he ‘had bones all over his face broken and became partially blind in one eye’, does it? he over stepped the mark, got caught, now wants revenge. why should he get anything from her? all she did was video atrocious behavior, yet again, by a police officer. considering what he did, did he have to pay compensation to the victim? he should be grateful he kept his job!

Overcast (profile) says:


Can we use that term somehow? This guy’s name should live on..

Perhaps now when some public official tries to make their job ‘non-public’ for purposes of corruption, we could say they are “pulling a Sedergren”.

Just seems oddly fitting. Obviously, there’s no other real good explanation for a ‘servant of the public’ – while on public duty, paid by taxpayers would have to think his job is in anyway private.

After hours or in the context of an investigation, it would be different – but not in this case. This should be as public as possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Police officer Michael Sedergren

Based upon what I’ve read here, and in my own personal opinion, I think that police officer Michael Sedergren is a loser. I think that police officer Michael Sedergren is an idiot. I think that police officer Michael Sedergren broke the law. I think that police officer Michael Sedergren deserves to go to jail for breaking the law and violating the public trust. I think that police officer Michael Sedergren doesn’t understand the meaning of wiretapping. I think that police officer Michael Sedergren is a loser idiot who got caught breaking the law and deserves to go to jail.

Police officer Michael Sedergren meet the Streisand Effect.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

Wait what? 45 days suspension for that? How about 45 years in jail instead? Instances of rights violations by police officers or other public officials should be met with unyielding severity. As a general rule, I oppose the death penalty. But I’m willing to make an exception for public officials who abuse their power and violate individual rights and freedoms. If you are a public official and you hurt someone in such a clear way, a public execution would be the best response.

Ian (profile) says:

Old saw, new twist.

It’s long been the case that the most certain way to guarantee you get criminal charges is to be a victim of police brutality.

It’s done to cover their asses. If the police beat someone, that person had better be doing something wrong. It also lets them attack the person’s character in the media. Charge big, and pretend you’ve got a sure case. After the media furor dies down, you can drop the charges or reduce them to something reasonable.

The new twist is that merely witnessing police brutality can now be treated the same way by misapplying wiretap laws, or obstruction of justice laws, or whatever else they think they can make stick.

Rob says:

Pulic video of police

Anyone can sue anyone else; read “frivolous lawsuit”. A cop, doing his job – that is ‘to protect and serve’, is a public employee doing his job for the public. As such they have no “reasonable expectation of privacy” and therefore cannot complain when someone catches them permanently disabling on of the public whom they are bound to protect.

Yeah, sure, sometimes a culprit or suspect will try and push a cops’ buttons, and sometimes it works. The cops have what they call “circle of force” wherein they respond to a situation using only that amount of force to resolve the conflict, and no more….Most cops are good, and trustworthy, but at times, some pass through unnoticed, until they get caught.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

Re: Pulic video of police

I think that’s a fair assessment. The only addition I would have is that when they get caught, the bad ones should be thrown into a tank filled with sharks. Maybe I’m going overboard, but 45 days of suspension for beating someone blind is absurd. That is not a cop. That’s a dangerous criminal and he deserves harsh punishment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yep that about sums it up. A cop is video taping you because he wants to arrest you. You video taping a police altercation can be for several reasons:

1) You could be doing the police a favor thinking in case something happens I’ll have proof of what I saw not have to try to remember it a couple years from now.

2) It might be cool and you just want to put it on You Tube.

3) It might be a family member and you figure: lets keep some evidence so if they treat my kid improperly we can prove they screwed up the arrest.

Regardless rarely is the camera on because people are suspecting the cops will do a crime. Probably more of trying to catch them making an error in the process so the case can be overturned against their friend/family member, or just general that’s cool “I don’t see cops making an arrest every day”.

As mentioned several times: cops are doing things in public so shouldn’t have any expectation of privacy. Often when cops are filming you they want to sneak cameras into your house/work, hide them on themselves while they try to make a buy, etc etc. They are both moving into the private realm and often setting up the scenario that would lead them to witness something illegal not just being passive bystanders.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Maybe its time we get “The Government?” to pass a law at the Federal level that finally points out the simple fact that a police officer, in public, working has no expectation of privacy.

Mind you I doubt this would gain much traction, given how much the concept of transparency has been colored over with sharpie in this country.

I find it appalling, from reading the article, that another officer (with a long history of “alleged” police brutality) involved was fired – but they waited for his disability pension to kick in first.

While it is nice the Government wants to back the officers, they should also take into account the idea that blindly supporting them just adds to the contempt people feel for the police as a whole. The systems in place to deal with the bad apples obviously are not working correctly.

Martin G says:

Wow… how low can you go when a “police officer” does BAD things and get’s caught that he needs to actually sue because he got caught on camera. My only thing… this cop needs to loose his job, get thrown into jail with with all the other criminals (because he is a criminal himself for doing what he did) and get a beating of his own… Really? Yeah Really…

Anonymous Coward says:

this isn’t new, this kind of things is happening more and more every where. we need to wake up and put a stop to this abuse and Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws.
not saying there arn’t good cops but far and few of them between.
we all need to start using our camera’s and video alot more.
hope that person get their eye sight back.
glad the cops are here to protect us.f…

Anonymous Coward says:


All that crap from the USSC about no privacy in public applies to the police too, not just to cops searching random people they’ve pulled over. They have no more, and arguably less, of an expectation of privacy when compared to the general public. In that respect Sedergren is doing everyone a favor, because he’s going to lose badly.

Aonymous LEO says:

As a law enforcement officer, I don’t have a single problem with being video taped during the performance of my duties.

Would be videographers should be aware though, when one video tapes a crime it turns the media the video was saved on into evidence. Whether the video supports the police’s position or not, it should be seized as evidence and held until trial.

Don’t freak out and complain that this is just another means for the police to harass. Any good defense attorney would agree with me.

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