No One Can Bait A Cop Into Doing Something He Didn't Already Want To Do, So Let's Stop Worrying About Activist Recorders
from the punch-UP,-officers dept
Cops and camera-wielding citizens are still getting to know each other and there’s been some… awkwardness. Hardly a day goes by that some peace officer isn’t caught doing something he or she shouldn’t be doing by a citizen armed with a camera. Certainly, hundreds of police officers all over the nation are “caught” doing their jobs professionally as well, but those videos rarely surface, largely because the market for non-outrage remains largely depressed. On top of that, we expect our public servants to behave professionally while on the clock, so video of someone doing their job competently is seldom interesting.
It does tend to present a very one-sided picture of law enforcement. (But, I would argue, not a wholly unrepresentative picture of law enforcement.) Bad behavior makes for more interesting viewing. That’s inarguable. This leads to recordings of officers who do their best to stay in control while a camera-wielding citizen does his or her best to push for a negative reaction.
An anonymous reader sent in this video along with the following commentary:
Here’s a video example of what police officers have to deal with. It’s clear this girl is filming the situation and trying VERY hard to bait the cop into saying or doing something untoward so she can get a viral video (and maybe settlement money).
Puts many of those videos you see into context. What level do people go to in order to get the cops to go off on them?
While I appreciate the point he’s making, an officer who “goes off” on someone for this sort of thing doesn’t deserve much sympathy. This example only makes the person recording it look like an idiot. The cop observed here is clearly annoyed but isn’t willing to lower himself to her level. Good for him. That’s how it should be handled, no matter how much “bait” is supplied.
There are a lot of videos of bad cop behavior that have an untold number of minutes excised by the uploader to make it look as though any negative reaction was unprovoked. That’s unfortunate, but it’s still no excuse for bad cop behavior.
Here are two instances covered previously at Techdirt where those recording did everything they could to generate some a negative response, and in both instances the officers refused to take the bait. These two videos do the same thing the above one does: make the person recording look like a tool.
The job of a law enforcement officer is generally unpleasant. Open-carry activists and “do-gooding” smartphone wielders shouting “brutality” at every slight use of force only make it worse. Because of the amount of power they wield, police officers are held to a higher standard. And they should be holding themselves to this higher standard. Part of that higher standard is not sinking to the level of camera-wielders who are hoping to generate controversy where none exists.
There will always be “trolls,” but cops should be able to handle them with a minimum of effort. The interactions between activists and police officers often show cops in the worst light, but that’s usually because responding officers can’t seem to prevent themselves from trying to seize control of a situation that doesn’t demand it.
Open-carry advocates do things like walk along busy thoroughfares with weapons hanging out everywhere. It’s perfectly legal. But cops don’t like it. So, they try to shut it down. And when they do, they’re just taking the bait. There’s no law to enforce here — just a desire to assert authority.
The same goes for the many officers captured trying to shut down First Amendment activity — like taking photos of government buildings from public streets. Carlos Miller at Photography Is Not A Crime has been arrested several times for this non-offense. So have many of his contributors. They call these events “audits:” checking to see whether local law enforcement and other government employees are aware of their constituents’ rights. They fail this simple audit far too often. To make it worse, they tend to get very defensive when informed of their ignorance. That’s when things get far uglier than they every should have been. This is “taking the bait” and it’s bait that isn’t even that attractive: just a person taking pictures of a public building.
So, the anonymous submitter’s rhetorical question about “baiting” cops for negative reactions should be answered with, “So what?” Officers should know — and do — better.
Look at it this way: would people “audit” local law enforcement if they didn’t have cameras rolling to document the outcome? Most likely not. A camera’s presence helps protect citizens from abuse or misconduct. It doesn’t always work but it’s far more protection (and power) than citizens had previous to the rise of camera-equipped cell phones.
Yes, there will always be some idiot who thinks he or she can capture the violence inherent in the system by parking in a fire lane, but there will be thousands more whose “bait” is nothing more than forcing officers to respect the rights of the citizens who pay their salaries.
Officers should be “better” than the people they’re policing. Let amateur trolls like this one make fools of themselves. Don’t feed into their perceptions by becoming the loud, violent jerk they so very badly want you to be.