Lancaster Cops Still Unclear On Public's Right To Record; Harass Same Citizen Who Recorded Them Last Week
from the there's-a-culture-problem-here dept
Apparently, the statement from a Lancaster, PA police spokesman that citizens are allowed to film on-duty police officers hasn’t made its way to the entire staff yet. Carlos Miller at PINAC reports that Paul Dejesus, the same man who had an officer walk away from taking an accident report because he was being filmed, was again approached by a police officer who demanded he stop filming because recording his voice “violated” Pennsylvania’s wiretapping laws.
Less than a week after a Pennsylvania man posted a video showing a Lancaster cop refusing to take an accident report because the man insisted on his nephew recording the interaction, a story that was picked up by a national technology site as well as the local newspaper, another Lancaster police officer threatened to arrest the man on wiretapping charges, indicating a clear pattern of abuse of authority when it comes to the Constitutionally protected act of recording cops in public.
Fortunately, Paul Dejesus knew his rights and was not afraid to assert them, even after the cop gave up on the wiretapping threat and began threatening him with disorderly conduct, which is the usual catch-all charge for contempt of cop.
But Dejesus slapped that threat down by pointing out he was recording from his own yard.
But if he was recording from a public sidewalk, he still wouldn’t have been guilty of disorderly conduct in that state.
The officer tries a little ad hoc prior restraint by shining his flashlight at Dejesus’ camera, a tactic that’s deployed frequently by cops wishing to stay unrecorded.
These actions directly contradict the statement given by police spokeman Sgt. William Hickey.
“It is not illegal to film police in the course of their duties, as long as you are not interfering with them doing their job…”
City officers are instructed during ongoing in-service sessions that citizens are allowed to film them doing their jobs, Hickey says.
Case law has established that right, and officers should not inform a citizen otherwise, Hickey says.
“It’s reasonable to expect, at any given time, anybody could be filmed,” Hickey says. “There are traffic cameras, cameras at ATMs, even most of our patrol vehicles are equipped with dash cams.
“You are under surveillance no matter where you go.”
Hickey’s not lying about the surveillance. Lancaster is somewhat infamous for the number of surveillance cameras it has installed, which surpasses the number installed by many larger cities like San Francisco and Boston. Not only that, but the system is manned by volunteers including, at one point, someone who had been convicted of stalking, harassment and impersonating a public official.
The fact that everyone in Lancaster is “under surveillance” (from the mouth of the PD PR himself) means that the police, who “benefit” from this camera system, are the last people who should be granting themselves an “expectation of privacy” in order to wave off pesky citizens and their recording devices.
These cops backed off when the usual stuff didn’t work, but there’s obviously still a disconnect between the PD spokesman’s calming statements and the actual attitude of the rank-and-file.