Thursday, October 13, 2011

Are Cameras the New Guns?

A growing concern has been the increased assertion by law enforcement that they have the ability to arrest people who are filming them, even in public places. This flies in the face all logic. Why should the police be able to film and tract someone for the purpose of collecting evidence to prosecute that individual, yet individuals are not allowed to similarly collect evidence that my exonerate them and/or demonstrate the use of abusive police tactics. This would seem to violate the First and Fourth Amendments of the US Constitution.

We supposedly live in a free society that is based on the rule of law where government is supposed to be transparent. The police should not have the ability to arbitrarily arrest members of the public for recording  police under the guise of "obstructing law enforcement". If police can arbitrarily arrest people for vague assertions of  "obstructing law enforcement" we now become a police state.

The title for this post "Are Cameras the New Guns?" came from Gizmodo.  I ran across this article in following links at the POI Factory which had several articles concerning increased tracking of people through GPS devices. My recent post OnStar and the Outer Limit reviews this concern. Below are (revised) excerpts of my comments at the POI factory.

In the article "Are Cameras the New Guns?" Gizmodo writes:  "In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer. .... The legal justification for arresting the "shooter" rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. ..."

To me, it is unfortunate that Gizmodo uses the word "illegal" as if the action of recording is actually illegal and second that Gizmodo has not challenged the supposed legality.  Furthermore, the issue before the public media seems to "privacy",  As I have previously expressed; privacy is "dead" and the arguments opposing the supposed "illegality" should be based on the First and Fourth Amendments.

Particularly egregious is the phrase "obstructing law enforcement". So it is legal for law enforcement to obtain evidence documenting your actions by recording you, but it is illegal for you to have evidence obtained by recording the police that might document your innocence and/or illegal police behavior?!?!?!

Below are some recent headlines highlighting the trend towards the US becoming a police state.

CA Governor Lets Police Search Your Smartphones At Traffic Stops

Guy Arrested, Threatened With 15 Years For Recording Traffic Stop In Illinois

Does The NYPD Really Think That Shooting Photos/Videos Of Protests Is 'Disorderly Conduct?'

Special Segment: Felony Eavesdropping

9th court of appeals rules it's okay for government to implant GPS on your car to track you without court order

Since posting I remembered this one.
Police Say They Can Detain Photographers If Their Photographs Have 'No Apparent Esthetic Value'

Law enforcement is necessary to protect society from those committing crimes. The police do not have a right, especially in public places, to criminalize people so that the police can "hide" their actions from the "sunshine" of transparent government. When the police can arrest you for filming their actions to "hide" the truth, then we have descended into a police state. In the movie "V" there is a very prophetic quote: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

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