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.

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Comments on “Lancaster Cops Still Unclear On Public's Right To Record; Harass Same Citizen Who Recorded Them Last Week”

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22 Comments
Not Amish (sigh) says:

Small correction

Mike, small clarification/correction from someone who grew up in the area (in Manheim Township, in fact):

Both your original article, the LancasterOnline article, and this current article seem to refer to the Lancaster (City) Policy Department, but the last article has a quote from the Manheim Township PD spokesman.

I haven’t quite been able to figure out with 100% certainty which entity these reports are referring to.

These are two distinct, independent districts: Lancaster PD actually only patrols/is responsible for the urban city limits of Lancaster, whereas MT is a suburb adjacent to the city with territory bordering on, but independent of the city.

Which one is actually at fault here?

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: Small correction

I believe it’s the Lancaster PD. I included a policy statement (PDF) from the Manheim Township in the last post, but the quoted PD statement (added in the update) was from someone referred to as simply “city police spokesman.” (That’s the same spokesman quoted in this post.)

So, the Manheim policy may be irrelevant, but in both cases, this appears to involve Lancaster City PD.

Ted Moore says:

Re: Most are not bad cops

It is a tough job and the worst part of it is dealing with the dirt of our society. There are several categories: Officers of the Law, Policemen, cops, and pigs. Most officers work in the upper echelon of that but exposure to the worst affects them. Worst thing is that Police will stick up for pigs, and civilian bosses will throw them under the bus trying to make themselves look good. We make their job close to impossible by insisting on standards that we would not impose upon ourselves.

Howard Roark (user link) says:

Re: Obama planes with banners

Is this the same Obama who uses drones to kill people guilty of being male while living in a Muslim country?

Is this the same Obama whose NSA collects every email sent/received in the US?

Is this the same Obama whose IRS targets political opponents?

Is this the same Obama who won his US Senate seat in Illinois by leaking the sealed divorce records of his opponent?

The Obama you hope will fix the problem is THE leader of the thuggish government. And approves of the thuggishness.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And that would be great, but it would do nothing to lift the emotional level: most police officers are thugs, gang members, psycopaths, control freaks, etc. That’s why they get a badge: so that they can indulge their freakishly sadistic tendencies under the cover of law. So yes, more education would be great, but we also need psych screening to disqualify the insane who currently make up most police forces.

Ted Moore says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I will believe that when the rest of us do that. When school teachers rag teachers who abuse their students instead of backing teachers no matter what. When politicians start telling the truth instead of pointing somewhere else. When workers rag on people who are ‘carried’ by their peers. When people walking by crime quit ignoring it.

Since that day will never come, excuse me if I am grateful for the few who hold to all their standards in every walk of life. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Lots of people do adhere to those standards in their personal and professional lives. But the police are a special case. The police have extraordinary, easily-abused power over all of us and as such, they must be held (and hold each other) to a much higher standard than most of us.

As it is, they’re pretty much held to a lower standard.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Words are meaningless, actions are what matters

Police spokesmen, chiefs, any of them reassuring people that recording police on the job isn’t a crime makes for a nice sound-bite, but until they actually punish those officers that do it anyway, it’s all nothing but smoke and mirrors, something to make people feel that their rights will be respected, while doing nothing at all to ensure such.

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