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Copout

I've always been a bit of a supporter of the police. I have respect for cops, and the job they do, and am most often willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when there is some kind of disagreement. I've been willing to go on the record supporting them on several occasions.

But there's one area where I have to stand against the general expressed desires of the cops. And that's on the matter of people videotaping police officers performing their duties.

The latest incident to bring up this subject is in Oregon, where a man had his video camera taken away after videotaping police stop and question two men on the street.

As far as I am concerned, a police officer on duty and performing his or her duties has absolutely no right or expectation of privacy, and should behave as if they might be on film at any moment.

I can see certain exceptions, such as when the officers are changing clothes, in the bathroom, or acting undercover, but those are about it.

Of all the people who can assert some kind of claim to privacy, police officers acting in the public's name, with the people's authority, have about the weakest.

This strikes me as common sense, but it's astonishing how rarely common sense actually intersects with legal reality. For example, Barack Obama has exactly one achievement in his years and years of public service that I can give him full credit for -- the passage of a law in Illinois that required all police interrogations of suspects in capital crimes be videotaped.

My first thought was "how the hell was this not standard procedure?" My second thought was "how the hell can the police unions oppose this measure?" But they did, and Obama was crucial in getting this measure passed, and I laud him for doing that.

Likewise, I simply can't imagine how a police officer could, with a straight face, insist that he or she had a right to "privacy" while on the streets, in uniform, while interacting with suspected drug dealers.

But they are, and it's long overdue that our laws bring a bit of reality to the folks in blue.


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Comments (13)

Agreed.Hadn't hear... (Below threshold)
Clint:

Agreed.

Hadn't heard this about Obama -- nice to know there's something I agree with him on.

I agree that the police hav... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

I agree that the police have no expectation of privacy while conducting their duties in public. However, they should at least be afforded the benefit of context. Many, if not most of the amateur videos put out for public consumption only tell one side of the story, with the assumption that the suspect is an average citizen and hapless victim of "the man." As the story gains steam, the police become the suspects while the perp is elevated to sainthood.

I suppose the solution would be responsible journalism. Unfortunately, this seems oxymoronic.

To this day, I believe Rodney King got exactly what he deserved, and that the police acted appropriately, when considered in context.

Jay Tea,If they to... (Below threshold)
Pilgrim:

Jay Tea,

If they took that man's camera they were way, way out of bounds. The police have no more protection of image in public than any other citizen.

One more thing....any cop w... (Below threshold)
Pilgrim:

One more thing....any cop who DOESN'T videotape a confession or an interview in a capital crime (or any felony for that matter) is nuts.

I can't imagine why it took legislation to get them to do this.

Jeff Blogworthy hits... (Below threshold)
docjim505:

Jeff Blogworthy hits the nail on the head. I agree that police officers should have no expectation of privacy while in the performance of their public duties, but I can understand why, in the wake of the Rodney King debacle, they are very sensitive in this matter.

You are absolutely correct ... (Below threshold)
kbiel Author Profile Page:

You are absolutely correct that no one, neither civilian or cop has a expectation of privacy when out in public. I watched the video and while I think the officers probably had good reason to search the two men, they certainly had no reason to confiscate the camera.

OT, it's about time that we conservatives give credit to Obama for the whole breadth of his legislative accomplishment(s). Thank you Jay Tea for opening the flood gates.

Before I praise O! over tha... (Below threshold)
Jamie:

Before I praise O! over that small victory, I would like to know, from a legal standpoint, whether requiring videotaped interrogations made word-of-mouth information that was NOT videotaped null and void, and whether there was some requirement of consent to videotape that put an undue burden on the police force.

For example, if an eyewitness fingered a perpetrator in a capitol crime, and that statement led to an arrest, would the arrest be deemed improper if the statement of the eyewitness wasn't on videotape?

Between the opposition of the police unions and the support of Barry, I detect an odor of sorts around this legislation, and it could be one of those laws that creates many more problems than it solves.

That said, the confiscation of the camera in the video was beyond the pale. These jerks shouldn't be entrusted with a badge of any sort beyond "Ask me about the new McSandwich!"

Wow! Obama actually did so... (Below threshold)
K:

Wow! Obama actually did something! And it's something I approve of!!!

That being said, I do have a few comments.

1) I understand concerns about context. Perhaps the best defense against citizen watchdogs taking footage (discage? ram-age? bit-age?) out of context for their own ends is for the police to have their own videotape running at all times. (Just what has been recommended in the wake of the Gibson/Palin interview.)

2) I'd love to know if there are any teeth in the law. Sure, interrogations are supposed to be videotaped. What if they're not? What if, as happened in a case I'm connected with, the police "lose" the record? What then? "Oops, we screwed up. Thank God we still have our written notes!"

I wonder how common this... (Below threshold)
MF:

I wonder how common this is in other states.

In order to protect the police and the citizen being interrogated this seems like a best practice. I am concerned about thugs that would videotape and alter the tapes to make it 'appear' to present certain information when in fact it could provide a totally false impression.
Several methods/records should be retained.
for example: I know some places they record all discussions and transactions even phone calls in the police facilities.

Jay-I am a career prosecuto... (Below threshold)
David:

Jay-I am a career prosecutor who teaches cops on a regular basis. I tell them that the video-camera is their best friend. Any interaction between the cops and the public is fraught with potential danger-both personal and professional and the camera doesn't lie. Look how many cop killings have been caught on video leading to easy prosecutions. Imaging the false claims that could be made by a male cops simple detention of a female driver at night. I have been a fan of these since the "get-go" and have encouraged funding to put them in every cop car and anyplace where there is interaction with defendants or suspects. They are "killer" evidence in drunk-driving cases because no matter how hard they try-a drunk cannot act sober (believe me, I tried as a college student. I with you on this one as I am on most of your well-reasoned posts-that's why Wizbang is my favorite site for rational thought no matter how it cuts-best wishes!

Why of course police should... (Below threshold)
Thomas Jackson:

Why of course police shouldn't object to anyone video taping them. I mean how would you feel about someone standing over yourt shoulder video taping you during your work day? Why would someone do this? Wouldn't it make you feel all warm and comfortable.


Grow up people. If you wouldn't accept this kind of treatment why do you think others would?

Thomas, two points:<p... (Below threshold)

Thomas, two points:

1) I already do work under those conditions, as do a lot of other people. My employer has security cameras all over our workplace.

2) I'm not a cop. The career I have chosen doesn't grant some special level of status, of authority, of power over the general public. And I happen to agree with the old Stan Lee saw -- "with great power comes great responsibility."

There is a tradeoff for most everything. In this case, the rights of the police officer -- NOT the individual, but the agent of society -- are bought with increased scrutiny and a sacrifice of certain individual rights WHEN THAT INDIVIDUAL IS NOT ACTING AS AN INDIVIDUAL, BUT AS AN AGENT OF SOCIETY.

We, collectively, have given that officer his or her power. We, collectively, have the right AND the duty to make certain that power is not abused, and to keep tabs of how it is used.

J.

Many, if not most ... (Below threshold)
Many, if not most of the amateur videos put out for public consumption only tell one side of the story, with the assumption that the suspect is an average citizen and hapless victim of "the man."

Right, and I suspect this is why Obama supported the measure, not because of its merits, but because it happens to coincide with his far-left politics.




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