If You See Something, Film Something II: Recording Police is a Dangerous but Necessary Thing to Do
With the proliferation of cell phones with high definition still picture and video capabilities, more and more people are taking pictures and videoing police activities they’re witnessing. From MSN:
“Your First Amendment rights can be terminated,” yells the Chicago police officer, caught on video right before arresting two journalists outside a Chicago hospital. One, an NBC News photographer, was led away in handcuffs essentially for taking pictures in a public place. He was released only minutes later, but the damage was done. Chicago cops suffered an embarrassing “caught on tape” moment, and civil rights experts who say cops are unfairly cracking down on citizens with cameras had their iconic moment.” (Check out the video linked in that passage, it’s an eye-opener)
The cops don’t like it one damned bit that more and more people are videoing their activities. Because increasingly, cops are becoming more and more violent and criminal. With the ability to video an incident and immediately download it to the internet, the cell phone has become a powerful tool in documenting the abuses of power that cops are perpetrating. From the same article:
“The National Press Photographers Association claims it has documented 70 such arrests since September and, in May, called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to focus attention on the issue.”
Eric Holder isn’t going to do a damned thing about the increasing numbers of people being arrested for exercising their first amendment rights. And it is a first amendment issue, the courts have upheld over and over the right of a citizen to photograph or video anything they see happening in a public space. No, Holder isn’t going to do anything about this because it’s what Leviathan WANTS to happen. The more arrests, the more intimidation of the public. The more intimidation, the less likely the general populace will document the abuses they see. More from the article:
“The First Amendment has come under assault on the streets of America,” the photography association said in a letter to Holder that was also signed by several other interest groups. “Police have arrested dozens of journalists and activists simply for attempting to document political protests in public spaces.”
It’s not only clashes between protesters and police at political protests that are being documented, sometimes it’s downright assault or murder of innocent people. Do a YouTube search for “murder by cop” and hundreds of videos pop up. And this trend is only going to accelerate as the police become more militarized and increasingly see the public as the enemy, not what they get paid to “protect and serve”. Check out the graph below from David Packman and his National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project:
The graph shows that you are nearly six times more likely to be killed and nearly three times more likely to be sexually assaulted by police than someone in the general population. Assaults are neck and neck with the general population. It’s no wonder that more and more people are seeing the police as an entity that should be avoided at all costs instead of people that they can go to for help. I know that I personally stay as far away from them as possible.
I think that sometime in the near future, the ability we have to take pictures and video of police activities is going to be severely curtailed, first amendment be damned. Already, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland have used anti-wiretapping laws to arrest and prosecute people who’ve videotaped police. These efforts are going to spread as more and more people pull out their phones to record their encounters with the police. And I hope more people do just that.
I think I’m going to start a new personal project. I’ve got a smart phone with HD video capability and I think I’ll record the cops every time I see them, not just when they’re doing something I don’t agree with. Start a YouTube channel and post the videos on it. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if everyone did that? That every time the police were at an event or performing a traffic stop they were being constantly video’d by everyone around them? I can think of two scenarios that would result. One, it would keep them at bay, they wouldn’t be able to abuse people if they were constantly being videotaped. This is the more improbable reaction. Or two, it would quickly become illegal to video them with the resulting violence from them if they caught you. This is the more probable reaction given the rulers we have today.
It sure would be interesting finding out though.
Metropolitan Transit Authority police arrested a man for photographing them at Penn Station in New York City this afternoon – deleting his photo – before releasing him from a jail cell an hour later.
Clark Stoeckley was issued a summons charging him with “engaging in threatening behavior.”
“I was walking through Penn Station and I came across these MTA cops with semi-automatic weapons,” he said in a phone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.
“I stopped to take a photo and the cop came up to me and arrested me. I asked, ‘why am I being arrested?’
“’Because you’re a dick,’” the officer responded.
While in custody, Stoeckley asked the cop why he felt threatened by a cell phone when he was carrying a semi-automatic gun.
“‘Because it could have been a phone gun,’” the cop responded.
Having just been released from custody, Stoeckley was on his way home where he will attempt to recover the deleted image from his iPhone. I recommended PhotoRec, which helped me recover the footage that was deleted after Miami-Dade Police Major Nancy Perez arrested me during the Occupy Miami eviction.
Stoeckley, a 29-year-old artist, is notorious for driving the WikiLeaks Truck, a truck he painted to raise awareness for Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who is imprisoned for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Other than that, Stoeckley has no connection to Manning or WikiLeaks, the organization that has published or released to media all sorts of classified documents regarding the American wars overseas.
After Stoeckley was released this afternoon, he tweeted of his arrest, which prompted me to contact him for an interview. He sent me his number and when I called, the first thing I heard was a recorded message warning me that his phone was being monitored by the FBI.
The WikiLeaks Truck became a common fixture at Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street encampment.
At one point, police arrested him while distributing blankets to Occupy Wall Street activists when he refused to allow them to search the truck, an incident he caught on video.
When they impounded the truck, it ended up going missing.
Stoeckley had to get a judge to track it down. When he finally found it in an impound lot, a New York City police officer gave him a jump start because the battery had gone dead.
But when Stoeckley tried to video record the generous action, he was threatened with arrest for recording a public official on public property.