Seems like everyone’s been writing, calling, and otherwise asking me about this story. I want to talk about it, but there’s really nothing for me to add. I think we all know the situation by now, that the police are trying to make it criminal to record them. And it’s already succeeded in three states.
Once again, in three states it is illegal to videotape on-duty police officers.
The legal justification for arresting the “shooter” rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where “no expectation of privacy exists” (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.
As the examples listed prove, though, this is one of the more disgusting cases of bastardizing a law to suit someone’s desires. No one’s gotten arrested yet for taping a cop doing his job admirably, I have yet to see any stories of college students landing in jail after procuring a video of a police officer heroically rescuing a hostage from a crisis. Instead, the police are prosecuting people who have recorded officers abusing their powers or breaking the law.
What’s really, really fucking aggravating is that we as citizens are supposed to accept having just about every single aspect of our lives recorded both public and private. Security cameras in buildings, traffic cameras, wiretapping, and the goddamn police themselves use them during traffic stops (as anyone who’s watched TV is likely aware). Yet, for some reason, public servants whose job it is to protect the populace are saying they cannot be taped.
Let’s rephrase a bit, just to hammer it home. It’s okay to record my private phone calls in the off-chance that I commit a crime, but it’s not okay to record a cop shooting a child.
And the worst part of it all is that they aren’t pushing for this out of some altruistic or benevolent sense of duty to the country, that these recordings could somehow make it harder for them to get the bad guys, no. They’re doing it because they’re getting caught fucking up.
But that’s how things go these days. The citizens have to accept greater and greater intrusions into our lives while the people who enforce the laws fight to enjoy greater and greater immunity. Orwellian dystopia indeed.