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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Law Enforcement: Tape Us, Go to Prison

Law Enforcement: Tape Us, Go to Prison by Jason Mick - May 16, 2011

Newark, New Jersey police detained Khaliah Fitchette for video taping them while they "dealt" with a drunk man on a bus. The police department in the city is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for a broad array of civil rights violations, including police brutality and corruption. (Source: Amanda Brown Murphy/ACLU-NJ) A motorcyclist was charged for wiretapping after posting video of an encounter with a plain clothes police officer. The officer did not immediately identifying himself -- the incident initially appeared like an armed robbery attempt. Police hope to imprison citizens who video tape or photograph them in the act of beating people or racially profiling. PDs pushing measures are also some of the "dirtiest", are under DOJ investigation. Anyone who works retail knows that you can and probably are being videotaped. And if you do something wrong, like steal something, you can bet you'll eventually be caught and those tapes will be used against you. Unfortunately, some police officers across the United States seem to think that they should be above the level of accountability of the average citizen. In response to a slew of cell phone and webcam photos and videos catching cops in brutality, racial profiling, and other unsavory acts, police have begun arresting and filing charges against those who video tape them.

I. Law-Abiding Teen Learns is Detained

Khaliah Fitchette was a law-abiding teen who never got in trouble and always got good grades. Imagine her surprise when she ended up in handcuffs for a seemingly responsible act.
When two police officers boarded a city bus she was riding in Newark, New Jersey, Ms. Fitchette pulled out her cell phone and began taping the cops. The cops were working to remove a drunken man. The young lady recalls, "One of the officers told me to turn off my phone, because I was recording them. I said no. And then she grabbed me and pulled me off the bus to the cop car, which was behind the bus." She was handcuffed and subjected to the same indignities as your average drug dealer or car thief. The next two hours she sat in the back of the car as the police played with her phone deleting the video. At the end of two hours, she was released. Outraged, the young lady and her parents later filed suit against the Newark Police Department with the help of the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU is a civil rights advocacy organization whose famous slogan is "freedom can't protect itself." Deborah Jacobs, director of the ACLU chapter, states in an interview with National Public Radio, "All of us, as we walk around, have to understand that we could be filmed, we could be taped. But police officers above all others should be subject to this kind of filming because we have a duty to hold them accountable as powerful public servants." Shaken, Ms. Fitchette says she would be wary to ever tape a police officer again. She states, "It would have to be important enough to get myself in trouble for, I guess." The Department has refused to respond to requests for comment about the suit. Ironically if anyone needs to be videotaped on the job, it would seem to be the Newark PD. The Department has a reputation for being among the "dirtiest" police departments in the region. The U.S. Department of Justice recently launched a misconduct investigation into the actions of the Newark PD, following 418 serious alleged civil rights violations (including 261 that resulted in Internal Affairs reports) over a period of two-and-a-half years.

II. Cop Brandishes Firearm at Citizen, Citizen Charged for Releasing Video

The New Jersey incident is not alone, though. Other states on the East Coast are also cracking down on citizens taping cops. Maryland resident Anthony Graber was riding his motorcycle when a plain-clothes cop pulled him over. The cop was driving an unmarked car and did not immediately announce himself as a police officer. Instead he drew his firearm menacingly and ordered Mr. Graber "Get off the motorcycle!" A few seconds later he finally established his identity, stating, "Get off the motorcycle, State Police." Police officers are supposed to immediately announce that they are law enforcement. Based on the officer's initial statements and lack of any sort of identification, Mr. Graber might have believed him to be an armed robber. Things might have gone very differently had Mr. Graber been armed. Mr. Graber had been recording the encounter from a helmet cam and when he arrived home he posted it [video] to YouTube. Soon after he was hit with charges that he violated the state's wiretapping statute as he taped the officer's voice without consent. The charges were eventually dropped, but not before Mr. Graber was further harassed.

III. Clashes Between Camera Wielders, Police Rise

Unfortunately these incidents are not isolated. Across the country there's growing debate over whether to outlaw video taping police. Some cities like Chicago have made it a 15-year felony -- one step below murder -- to tape a police officer. Coincidentally, Chicago has one of the worst reputations for police brutality. Some police argue that citizens recording cops are being responsible and that cops should behave with integrity when on the job. States Tom Nolan, a former Boston police officer who now teaches criminal justice at Boston University, states: There's always going to be a pocket of police officers who are resistant to change. But I think the vast majority of police have been acclimated to the reality that what they're doing is likely being recorded at any given time. The police will get the message when municipal governments and police departments have got to write out substantial settlement checks. Standing by itself, that video camera in the hands of some teenager is not going to constitute sufficient grounds for a lawful arrest. Mr. Nolan says that the state of Massachusetts teaches cops that unless the video camera is also somehow being used in a criminal offense (like child pornography) that police should not arrest or otherwise harass citizens for video taping them. He says Massachusetts’s cops expect to be videotaped and strive to behave responsibly. Other active cops, though, argue that they should be able to arrest and imprison citizens who record them in the act. States Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, "They [police officers] need to move quickly, in split seconds, without giving a lot of thought to what the adverse consequences for them might be. We feel that anything that's going to have a chilling effect on an officer moving — an apprehension that he's being videotaped and may be made to look bad — could cost him or some citizen their life or some serious bodily harm." The Fraternal Order of Police has, across the country, pushed for tough laws that would imprison those taping the police. They argue this prohibition should even be in effect if police invade a person's house (individuals have been arrested for photographing police officers coming into their house). Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, states in previous comments that his organization "absolutely supports" throwing those who tape police officers behind bars. He complains that citizens monitoring police activities for wrongdoing might "affect how an officer does his job on the street." In related news, police in recent months have carried out a number of bungled raids across the country, brutalizing homeowners only to find that they had fingered the wrong person do to sloppy investigation. Typically these raids stemmed from child pornography investigations. In recent months several states have also authorized police to begin seizing citizens' cell phones. And officers in at least nine states are now authorized to invade your property without warrant and plant tracking devices on your vehicles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i might be wrong here but i think thes cops take an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States Of America when they are my opinion these police officers shouldnt be fired for violating someones rights but instead they should be thrown in prison.