“Smile, Officer,” you’re on Candid Camera

New developments in modern technology, coupled with a burgeoning social media network and a 24/7 news cycle, have combined to create a cottage industry of  amateur videos that are shedding much-needed light on everything from politicians’ gaffes to police abuses.  And law enforcement officers especially are not taking kindly to the unwanted scrutiny.

Perhaps the most well known example of this is an incident that took place on a rail platform in Oakland, California on New Year’s Day in 2009. Transit officers were responding to a fight and while attempting to detain one of the suspects, who was unarmed; an officer pulled his weapon and fatally shot the man in the back. The incident was captured on video by witnesses, and later was used to convict the officer of involuntary manslaughter.

It may also be that the same video evidence saved the officer from a more serious charge, as experts in the trial testified he mistakenly thought he was pulling his taser, not his firearm.

Police irritation at being videoed when they don’t want to be, has led to a number of incidents where officers improperly have bullied citizen camera operators to stop recording.  This was the case earlier this year when United States Park Police stopped reporters from recording a protest against the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, where six members of the military handcuffed themselves to a gate in front of the White House.

Police offered no explanation to reporters as they hurried them away from the scene other than saying that Lafayette Park, a public area directly across the street from the White House, was “closed.”

So long as private citizens record what takes place in public, and do not in so doing actually interfere with an arrest or other legitimate law enforcement activity, they have every right to do so.  If the police or politicians have a problem with that because it might cause them embarrassment, then they probably shouldn’t have been doing what they were doing that prompted the recording in the first place.

Thankfully, there is something called the “First Amendment” that guarantees the citizen’s right to record what happens in public.  And, unfortunately, things have reached the point at which politicians and law enforcement alike need to be reminded of that.

54 comments Add your comment

Rob

October 22nd, 2010
6:25 am

Unfortunatly Bob, the cameras rarely show what led up to the incident in the first place. Usually the circumstances that lead up to the unfortunate “captured” event, certainly warrant what follows.

skydog

October 22nd, 2010
6:38 am

Bad advice Bob.

You should have been on our team in the 60s and 70s. The students at Kent State were within their rights and got shot, with impunity.

You are pretty bold with other peoples skulls. Remind us of the times you have pushed back on cops in the streets?

As far as mounting cameras in politicians foreheads, who could stomach watching what you guys do at night. Don`t worry Bob, i`m not fixen to bring up the Goat.

Larry

October 22nd, 2010
6:44 am

Rob,

Agreed.

As a former law enforcement officer I can tell you what too often is captured on camera is analogous to the athlete who gets the flag that retaliated (responded) to the act of the initial instigator. Regardless, as one who believes he treated all situations with the the best possible reaction given the circumstances I have absolutely no problem with any photography or videography.

I do, however, strongly believe that any and all coverage with the specific intent to profitize such should be prevented. It absolutely appalls me when I see cameras chasing COPs on raids or even routine traffic stops so they can then use this footage to create and profit from at the publics expense and embarrassment.

These are government employed officers/deputies that should have higher honor, decency and integrity to allow such desperate, bottom-feeding journalism. Someone caught on camera could actually be innocent and with such could certainly be injurious to their personal and professional future; however, innocent or not, this is wrong!

Mike

October 22nd, 2010
6:53 am

Why are cops afraid of cameras? Strange.

Browncoat

October 22nd, 2010
6:56 am

Wow skydog, nothing you said made any sense. Frankly, I don’t know whether you arre joking, or just took a hit of LSD.

The point Mr. Barr makes is that the First Amendment guarantees our right to record what police do. I am concerned if we have reached a point where people don’t understand why that right is important. And why we should be scared if police and policians are trying to take that right away.

Karl Marx

October 22nd, 2010
6:57 am

“Usually the circumstances that lead up to the unfortunate “captured” event, certainly warrant what follows.” I guess being unarmed and shot in the back is warranted. Maybe just maybe knowledge of those cameras will cause officers to operate to a higher standard. I’m glad those cameras are out there. Call it checks and balances, police should police and not be judge jury and executioner.

skydog

October 22nd, 2010
7:10 am

Larry,
At the time of an incident, how will you know if the video person is out for profit or not? Why don`t you and Bob do some field work for us? Tonite, when you see a cop has someone pulled over, pull up behind them and start video taping. When they tell you to leave just tell um you are within your rights! Whip out you pocket Constitution.
When ya`ll get out of the emerengcy room, report back.

Bob,
While you were graduating from high school in 1966 from Tehran, IRAN,(that`s what his bio says) I was doing all I could do as a white 14 year old to help keep piece down in Albany, Ga.
Tell us your contibutions of pushing back in the streets during this period?

We will be awaiting ya`lls reports and will understand if they are garbled sounding.

Mongo

October 22nd, 2010
7:13 am

Of course police don’t want to be recorded breaking the law. Who would? Police have literally gotten away with murder for decades because jurors foolishly take he word of police as the gospel, when the truth is that they lie as much as anyone else. Why else would police be as afraid of cameras as they are of citizen oversight committees?

Bad cop, no donut.

skydog

October 22nd, 2010
7:22 am

OK Browncoat. You can be a part of our “rights team”.
Let us know how your first taping goes. Cobb county has these units that wear all black, face mask, with automatic weapons. Start there.

I agree we have the right, but if the cops don`t agree you get beaten, everytime.

devildawg

October 22nd, 2010
7:30 am

Kinda wish someone could have videoed that poor boy from Pace University who got shot to death outside a night club because two officers gave two different orders and this kid got blown away in his car, and then laid on the ground bleeding to death while paramedics looked over the cops and others. When witnesses asked if they could perform CPR, guns were pointed at them and they were threatened. Cops, ex-cops, all the same, murderers.

Drew S

October 22nd, 2010
7:37 am

What about all the states that are passing laws saying you can’t film a police officer?

DJ Sniper

October 22nd, 2010
7:46 am

It’s a shame that law enforecement agencies are more worried about citizens recording the misdeeds of dirty cops instead of weeding out those dirty cops from the force. That would be too much like right.

Uphold Law

October 22nd, 2010
7:51 am

If the officers aren’t doing anything wrong, what are they worried about? The comment about “circumstances that lead up to the unfortunate captured event” should also apply to the citizens that are recorded by cops and that tape used as evidence. What cops do IS OUR BUSINESS. They work for us. They don’t seem to want to be checked up on. This is a problem.

Bravesfan79

October 22nd, 2010
7:52 am

BIG props to the Oakland transit worker that killed that worthless black thug! He had already raped one little girl, i guess God decided to take him out before he raped more innocent kids.

Ben

October 22nd, 2010
7:54 am

I’m with you Bob, the cops shouldn’t get a pass because of who they are or the position that they hold. Fortunately, technology has become available and affordable enough to allow the documenting of abuses that would not in the past have seen the light of day.

mike

October 22nd, 2010
8:14 am

Great comments Bravesfan79. I see you love to represent your family and your race on these blogs. With that black man being murdered by the police, it just increases your opportunities to go out and continue raping as your people have done since yall have been in this country. The next time I read some female has been raped I will know that you have been out doing what you do best.

carlosgvv

October 22nd, 2010
8:17 am

This is not as easy or simple as it sounds. On the one hand, we live in a free Country and certainly have the right to use cameras whenever we want. On the other hand, the Police are overworked, underpaid and the only thing between us and the streets. If the Police come to beleive the people they are sworn to serve are out to get them, what next?

ShonuffBS

October 22nd, 2010
8:21 am

@Rob and Larry

That’s a bunch of BULL and you both. The two of you are nothing more than apologists for those who abuse their authority, too often against communities whom you personally take joy from seeing abused..let’s just keep it real, as well as look at the total lack of logic in what you and other people who think like you say and believe. I wish I would have had a camera when a dirty cop harassed my wife after he pulled her over as she trailed behind me to return a rental car after being out on state work. Oh.. we happened to be passing through the “wrong neighborhood” out in Douglas County. Guess we looked “out of place”. The charge that the cop tried to trump up and situation he tried to create. And I watched to whole thing transpire right before my eyes.

Most people don’t think to pull out a camera and start filming until something actually jumps off. Larry…a lot of you so called cops out here are bogus and you know it. I have a relative right now who will be filiing a police misconduct lawsuit because his shoulder was broken in two places because a “cop” saw it fit to slam him to the ground while handcuffed (no resistance, no actual crime committed), and it was caught on mounted street cameras in broad daylight. The bottom line is, some communities you have no respect for and know that the dept. and SYSTEM will play this silly little game that you do with that silly logic to create legal loopholes and get the dirtbags off; this is nothing new. No different than the unidentifies APD “cop” who saw it fit to retrieve and brandish it last night. What in the hell is an off duty police officer riding around with an AR-15 in his car for anyway? He operated above the law, that’s why. The people are sick of it.

skydog

October 22nd, 2010
8:31 am

Alrighty Bens in!

Ben,

Cobb has been taken and I`m asuming Bob will cover Cartersville. You can tape tonite in Gwennitte Co. or Bankhead Hwy? Maybe you should take Gwennitte.

Dang, maybe all you libertarians need is an ol hippy to get ya`ll organized.
Thanks in part to Bob, who wasted 6.2 million chasing one BJ, I am laid off and available.

.

Patriot

October 22nd, 2010
8:32 am

The problems of violent cops killing and harming innocents will only get worse as more and more military come back from our illegal and immoral wars in the middle east. Too many of these returning folks end up in law enforcement where their skills at killing are just no appropriate. Just another unintended consequence of being an empire.

Keep up the filming folks. Maybe the truth will finally get the general public to wake up to our new reality.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

October 22nd, 2010
8:40 am

Well argued. Any responsible judge should construe an instruction to “turn off a camera” as evidence of wrong doing by the gendarme, and as a perfect defense against any allegation of non-cooperation or similar “pile on” charges.

Ted Striker

October 22nd, 2010
8:41 am

Cops film non-law enforcement citizens without receiving their consent. Citizens can do the same. No harm, no foul. There are plenty of great police officers however most of them aren’t lawyers…and some of them will need one if they try to step on the first amendment.

skydog

October 22nd, 2010
8:49 am

Good point Patriot. We got some kids back from Iraq to work with us in construction.
They reminded me of little G. Gordon Liddys.

They could and did tell us daily about every nut and bolt for automatic wepons, but they didn`t know a brick from a screw driver and we hired what we thought were the most qualified.
One guy was also a Blackwater SS during Katrena. I wasn`t aware Blackwater was used during Katerna, but they were.
None lasted over 3 months. Office jobs, not digging ditches.

skydog

October 22nd, 2010
8:54 am

Ted will present his tape tonite showing us how “good cops” react when he pulls up with cameras rolling. Got insurance Ted?

skydog

October 22nd, 2010
9:14 am

Lets do a poll.
If you try and video a cop making a traffic stop, much less a more serious arrest, how many times will you succeed?

100% of the time they are going to tell you to leave.
If you stand your ground what percentage of the time are they going to beat you up?

I think I know the answer, but I will be waiting for our street reporters to report back with actual results.

nelson

October 22nd, 2010
9:51 am

I have to agree, these citizen videos of police activities is alright. They show only one segment of the action, if all the activity leading up to the video was shown, it may be entirely different.

That being said, the law uses hidden cameras all the time in sting operations. The stings that film child predators entrering houses for nefarious activities is recorded, names, date, time and place. It does not end there, it gets aired on NBC,ABC and CBS. All prime time, with commercials and the whloe nine yards. Camera crews, setups, takedowns and on and on.

The law has little to complain about. And many times it does not end the predators, one, I remember had been caught in a sting a few weeks prior and he was back at it.

Mike

October 22nd, 2010
9:53 am

The cameras did not help the man in Morrow GA at the Cracker Barrel .

pat

October 22nd, 2010
10:36 am

Cops have for far to long operated with out any scrutiny and any victim of police abuse was left with only his word against the police person’s word which has always been a losing propostion.
Police activity should always be filmed and available to the public. After all we are their employers and we have a right to know what’s going on.
Most police officers are good, decent folk who do their jobs with the best of intentions. But for the bad ones, that badge allows them unchecked power in many cases. The bad ones need to be delt with, not protected by the brotherhood. Filming is our way of protecting us from the bad apples.

DebbieDoRight

October 22nd, 2010
11:09 am

Unfortunatly Bob, the cameras rarely show what led up to the incident in the first place. Usually the circumstances that lead up to the unfortunate “captured” event, certainly warrant what follows.

Yeah right. I wish someone would’ve had a videotape going when the Atlanta cops blew away Kathryn Johnstone with what?…….45 bullets compared to her two measly shots that she shot at them, (because she probably thought she was being burglarized) and missed!! What circumstances lead up to that “illegal” no knock warrant and infringement of her rights? what circumstances lead them to “make up” (lie) (plant) about finding drugs at her house? Tell me of the circumstances that made them CONTINUE to lie until one of them broke down because of their conscious? I’ll wait………..

Common Man

October 22nd, 2010
11:14 am

I guess if cops are so adverse to being filmed, they should turn off their dash cams. I recently saw where cameras are now being beta tested on police headgear like sunglasses for use as of “mobile dash cam” to record encounters as seen through the eyes of the officer. As the saying goes…what is good for the goose…

Not My Real Name

October 22nd, 2010
11:48 am

Cops believe they are above scrutiny and the public must bow to them. WRONG !

I once had a plain clothes detective cut me off on 285 and then force me to pull over because of his arrogance in an unmarked car. That SOB told me he’d take me out in the woods and shoot me. “Nobody will find smarta$$”. That pig is probably still on the job, and hiding from American cell phone cameras.

Video every police action you see.

Michael

October 22nd, 2010
12:53 pm

Majority of officers and their supervisors have no issue with being videotaped. Most of us are getting videoed by our departments anyway. I have a saying “recording makes good officers better and bad officers go away. Progressive departments will get rid of those among us that stain the badge.

Officers, as a whole, are not murderers. We are in a light that others do not experience. So, when one of us messes up the media makes sure that it is made known. Over and over and…
The vast majority of us hold ourselves to a higher standard and work hard to make us all safe…sworn and civilian alike. When we are attacked, it is no wonder that we band together to protect one another. But don’t think for a second that we won’t weed out those that do not deserve the badge.

Dan

October 22nd, 2010
1:30 pm

Cameras help cops more than hurt, just remember when something is posted, you need to get the whole story, the camera only captures some of it, and 99 out of 100 times the arrestee is at fault

seabeau

October 22nd, 2010
2:35 pm

skydog!!! If you are be so stupid as to throw rocks at untrained national guard troops with LOADED GUNS you need to get your tail shot.

ShonuffBS

October 22nd, 2010
2:47 pm

Yeah, the camera only “captures some of it” when it’s video to be used against rougue officerts. HOWEVER, it captures ALL of it when the officers are using it against you.

I have accepted my failings as one who is not as dicerning as the professional video journalist deployed by my local police dept. GTFOOH. Who’s foolin’ who?

Hillbilly Deluxe

October 22nd, 2010
2:58 pm

as experts in the trial testified he mistakenly thought he was pulling his taser, not his firearm.

If somebody thinks they’re tazing somebody, when they’re actually shooting them, maybe they aren’t qualified to be in law enforcement.

G W Bush

October 22nd, 2010
4:14 pm

Most of my friends were too smart to be cops or soldiers.

skydog

October 22nd, 2010
4:28 pm

Yeah seabeau,

19 year old girls CAN sling a rock at breath taking speeds.

67 shots.

ghostwriter

October 22nd, 2010
7:25 pm

Bob,
You’re 100% right on this. About 25 years ago a deranged man (more like a town drunk) known for years by a group of Houston, Texas police officers pulled out a knife and brandished it about while the officers laughed at him (they were familiar with his history). After about 5 minutes, they shot and killed him; no warning, no leg shot, no night sticks. His elderly mother died from grief less than a week later. Were they in danger? Technically yes. Was there another solution? Again, yes. The bottom line was that they knew they could do what they wanted with impunity.

ghostwriter

October 22nd, 2010
7:29 pm

Bravesfan79,
Too bad there wasn’t a similary conscientious cop around at the time to take out Strom Thurmond for the same offense.

Chris Sanchez

October 23rd, 2010
10:18 am

Curious why so many folks have an issue with video of the police, employees of the public by the way, being video taped while on duty (our dime) doing what we are paying them to do.

Of course the video is one-sided, that is why we have courts. The same can be said of the video evidence presented against defendants in criminal cases. That is why there are discovery requirements and prosecutors are required to turn over evidence that may prove the innocence of someone charged with a crime.

Me thinks skydog protests too much! If a police officer objects to someone exercising their rights and beats them for it as a result of declining to stop recording then that is a case that will surely result in the officer losing his/her job at a minimum and possibly landing in jail. Let that happen to a few police officers and then let’s see how many are eager to beat up citizens who are legally exercising their rights.

I believe most of those in law enforcement are honest, decent folks just doing their job. I do not agree with skydog’s assertion that simply recording an officer in the act of doing their job will result in an altercation with that officer.

Larry’s point about using such video for profit is honorable but impractical. What about news organizations who record first responders daily. Think Channel 2 isn’t for-profit? If someone is fortunate enough to record video of a police officer (or any public servant for that matter) breaking the law why shouldn’t that person be able to it to make a buck?

Like it or not, police officers are public servants. If they are in a public place such as a public road then recording their actions is perfectly legal and any retaliation against it should be condemned. Further, any attempt by our politicians to pass legislation restricting the exercise of this right should be seen for what it is, government trying to protect their own at the expense of the people. Those politicians should have a hard time getting re-elected!

DK

October 23rd, 2010
11:28 am

@Chris Sanchez – Good post, with one exception. Videos are not “one-sided”, they simply are recording what’s transpiring, with no bias.

Also, to the posters who argue that officers shouldn’t be filmed because the camera adds no prior context, this too is irrelevant. Officers don’t want to be filmed because they know better than anyone what valuable evidence the camera can provide. That is why officers use them. Good cops and good public servants don’t mind being recorded as they have nothing to fear. Unfortunately, most law enforcement officers feel above the laws they enforce. They should be examples of the law, not exempt from it. Read these posts and you’ll see that too many among us want to excuse this type of behavior from these bad cops. Just wait till one of their families are mistreated and abused by one in authority and see how fast their tune will change.

Franklin

October 23rd, 2010
11:38 pm

In most towns, the losers or townies as they were called, ended up being the cops. They were not smart enough to get into college or were to effed up to do anything else. Sorry but that IS the way it happened when I was a kid. I would imagine that is still he case in a lot of towns today. As I recall they all had bad attitudes; I remember parking w/ a girl 1 night and her ex-boyfriend cop shows up and next thing u know, G & I are at the local precinct for 4 hours for nothing. Except we were in love and the damn loser cop ex-boyfriend couldn’t bear it. Thank God for the cameras!

Think B4 U Vote

October 24th, 2010
9:24 am

Why have We, the People, become the enemy of the government in nearly every circumstance?

What principles are guiding those that view us as the enemy? As the threat?

The only threat gaining in size every day is the government against you.

Think about that as you cast you vote next month. Which candidates are the ones willing to take a stand for your individual rights?

If you keep choosing wrong, there will be a heavy price to pay at some point.

barking frog

October 24th, 2010
10:36 am

People choose what the camera sees. Pictures out of
context, like words, can create false impressions. Still
filming police at work should not create a problem if
the filming does not interfere with the police work.

Wreck

October 24th, 2010
4:05 pm

Most of those in law enforcement are good, honest people, same as anyone without a badge.

Most that I talk to about people videotaping them could care less, other than the concern that things could be taken out of context, but most welcome the opportunity to have videotape evidence. For every legitimate complaint made against the police, there are hundreds that are outright BS. Most cops have much more to gain by being videotaped than not!

All this reported so-called “opposition” to videotaping does nothing more than rile people up who hate cops anyway.

ken R

October 24th, 2010
4:54 pm

Skydog, I remember Kent state very well and feel sorry that anyone got killed, that being said, I also remember the millions of dollare that these students were costing the taxpayers. If I remember correctly Kent State among other Colleges were being infiltrated by outsiders who belonged to subervisive groups that were inciting these riots and building takeovers.

I really remember very clearly that all this stopped when they got shot. Just sayin.

DK

October 24th, 2010
5:25 pm

@Wreck – I am a decorated veteran and current public servant. I don’t hate cops but have objections to some of the behavior in the law enforcement community that seems to have become institutionalized. A young man was murdered in New York a couple of days ago who had no record. His companion stated that he was killed when he attempted to comply with what he thought was the cop’s order. An unarmed woman was shot repeatedly in North Carolina late last week because she “made a threatening gesture” when confronted by THREE cops. No weapon and she was a woman. How much of a threat could she have been to three trained police officers.These are stories that would have been unheard of a generation ago but are now an everyday occurrence. Our cops now seem to have an “us against them” mentality which would be OK if the “them” were criminals. Unfortunately their “them” is anyone who isn’t a cop. These police wield power they derive from us and I damned well have the right to comment and decent when I see a problem. It’s a right I have because I’m an American and a right I put my life on the line to defend. Bob Barr was a federal prosecutor and U.S. Congressman who has also fought for the rights of all Americans so I doubt he can be considered someone who hates cops either. As I said, I want to hear your tune when one who wields the people’s power uses it to mistreat you or yours. Nice effort though to attempt to smear those that feel differently than you do.

DK

October 24th, 2010
5:33 pm

@barking frog – People who video tape something may choose what they video, but the camera still is just recording an actual event and no one maintains that it is a complete record of an event. BTW, the same thing can be said about the videos made by the cops. Do you maintain that they shouldn’t be considered either?

Steve

October 24th, 2010
10:58 pm

Photography is Not a Crime . . .