Caution-think twice before videotaping a cop

July 25, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized 

One of the great things about our new digital world is the democratizing power that technology brings.  Now everyone can be a publisher of words or video.  Personal video cameras are everywhere including palm camcorders, flip cameras and most cell phones.

When they capture suspects fleeing a crime scene, the cops love them and are thrilled average citizens are video-happy.  But turn those cameras on the cops?  Well, not so much.

A 25 year old Maryland man is facing 16 years in prison for videotaping the cops who stopped him for speeding on his motorcycle.  He happened to be taping his ride with an attached helmet-cam.  He acknowledges speeding and swerving from lane to lane.  The cops gave him a ticket but the trouble started when he posted the video of the cop drawing his gun on YouTube.

After the cops saw the YouTube video, they raided the motorcyclist’s home, taking his computers into custody and charged him with a felony. In Maryland it is illegal to record a conversation unless both parties agree to it–so called two-party consent.  State laws vary on this.  It’s not the video that’s the issue, it’s the audio.  These laws were enacted to safeguard privacy but the motorcycle stop happened on a public roadway where there is no expectation of privacy.

It’s not the first time something like this has happened.  A Miami journalist named Carlos Miller runs the blog Photography is not a Crime. He has tracked nearly a dozen arrests in the past three years of people videotaping cops doing their jobs.

It’s strange that cops are quick to offer dashboard video when it suits them but are fearful of citizens shooting video of them.  Government agencies and police are recording average citizens more and more.  It doesn’t make any sense that they can record us but we cannot record them when they are in public spaces.

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