Sunday, November 27, 2011

One More Post on Sousveillance Laws and Multiple States Where It Is Being Applied by Law Enforcement

This is a somewhat broader article, with a bit more of a scholarly bent.

I'm finding this topic fascinating, and I hope in the context of grass roots politics, and Arab Spring and the new and expanding role of social media in politics, that you will too.

Let me remind you that on comments made on this blog, it was asserted that closed circuit cameras make us less 'free'.  Is that not also true of private cameras of all kinds?  IS this potentially an invasion of privacy?  That may be true of private individuals, but I don't believe that should be true in any situation where a crime may be taking place, or where public or private law enforcement (ie security guards, etc.) are enforcing any authority (real or imagined) on others.

I found the description, mid-post, about Anthony Graber to be of particular interest in this context.  If it is correct - which is presumably documented by the video - that this police officer was in an unmarked car, and not in uniform, and that he exited his vehicle screaming and waving his gun.......... wouldn't this be EXACTLY the kind of situation where one of our gun nuts might wrongly shoot a policeman?  Would the error on the part of the cop in properly identifying himself justify killing or injuring him?

Or are we all safer, and more free, by having that cop held accountable through a video recording?

And I'm still not finding any connection to Obama politics anywhere in this, so far...

That........and I couldn't resist the title of this second post, from Gizmodo: Are cameras the new guns?

Are Cameras the New Guns?

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.
Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.
The legal justification for arresting the "shooter" rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where "no expectation of privacy exists" (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.
Massachusetts attorney June Jensen represented Simon Glik who was arrested for such a recording. She explained, "[T]he statute has been misconstrued by Boston police. You could go to the Boston Common and snap pictures and record if you want." Legal scholar and professor Jonathan Turley agrees, "The police are basing this claim on a ridiculous reading of the two-party consent surveillance law - requiring all parties to consent to being taped. I have written in the area of surveillance law and can say that this is utter nonsense."
The courts, however, disagree. A few weeks ago, an Illinois judge rejected a motion to dismiss an eavesdropping charge against Christopher Drew, who recorded his own arrest for selling one-dollar artwork on the streets of Chicago. Although the misdemeanor charges of not having a peddler's license and peddling in a prohibited area were dropped, Drew is being prosecuted for illegal recording, a Class I felony punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.
In 2001, when Michael Hyde was arrested for criminally violating the state's electronic surveillance law - aka recording a police encounter - the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld his conviction 4-2. In dissent, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall stated, "Citizens have a particularly important role to play when the official conduct at issue is that of the police. Their role cannot be performed if citizens must fear criminal reprisals…." (Note: In some states it is the audio alone that makes the recording illegal.)
The selection of "shooters" targeted for prosecution do, indeed, suggest a pattern of either reprisal or an attempt to intimidate.
Glik captured a police action on his cellphone to document what he considered to be excessive force. He was not only arrested, his phone was also seized.
On his website Drew wrote, "Myself and three other artists who documented my actions tried for two months to get the police to arrest me for selling art downtown so we could test the Chicago peddlers license law. The police hesitated for two months because they knew it would mean a federal court case. With this felony charge they are trying to avoid this test and ruin me financially and stain my credibility."
Hyde used his recording to file a harassment complaint against the police. After doing so, he was criminally charged.
In short, recordings that are flattering to the police - an officer kissing a baby or rescuing a dog - will almost certainly not result in prosecution even if they are done without all-party consent. The only people who seem prone to prosecution are those who embarrass or confront the police, or who somehow challenge the law. If true, then the prosecutions are a form of social control to discourage criticism of the police or simple dissent.
A recent arrest in Maryland is both typical and disturbing.
On March 5, 24-year-old Anthony John Graber III's motorcycle was pulled over for speeding. He is currently facing criminal charges for a video he recorded on his helmet-mounted camera during the traffic stop.
The case is disturbing because:
1) Graber was not arrested immediately. Ten days after the encounter, he posted some of he material to YouTube, and it embarrassed Trooper J. D. Uhler. The trooper, who was in plainclothes and an unmarked car, jumped out waving a gun and screaming. Only later did Uhler identify himself as a police officer. When the YouTube video was discovered the police got a warrant against Graber, searched his parents' house (where he presumably lives), seized equipment, and charged him with a violation of wiretapping law.
2) Baltimore criminal defense attorney Steven D. Silverman said he had never heard of the Maryland wiretap law being used in this manner. In other words, Maryland has joined the expanding trend of criminalizing the act of recording police abuse. Silverman surmises, "It's more [about] ‘contempt of cop' than the violation of the wiretapping law."
3) Police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley is defending the pursuit of charges against Graber, denying that it is "some capricious retribution" and citing as justification the particularly egregious nature of Graber's traffic offenses. Oddly, however, the offenses were not so egregious as to cause his arrest before the video appeared.
Almost without exception, police officials have staunchly supported the arresting officers. This argues strongly against the idea that some rogue officers are overreacting or that a few cops have something to hide. "Arrest those who record the police" appears to be official policy, and it's backed by the courts.
Carlos Miller at the Photography Is Not A Crime website offers an explanation: "For the second time in less than a month, a police officer was convicted from evidence obtained from a videotape. The first officer to be convicted was New York City Police Officer Patrick Pogan, who would never have stood trial had it not been for a video posted on Youtube showing him body slamming a bicyclist before charging him with assault on an officer. The second officer to be convicted was Ottawa Hills (Ohio) Police Officer Thomas White, who shot a motorcyclist in the back after a traffic stop, permanently paralyzing the 24-year-old man."
When the police act as though cameras were the equivalent of guns pointed at them, there is a sense in which they are correct. Cameras have become the most effective weapon that ordinary people have to protect against and to expose police abuse. And the police want it to stop.
Happily, even as the practice of arresting "shooters" expands, there are signs of effective backlash. At least one Pennsylvania jurisdiction has reaffirmed the right to video in public places. As part of a settlement with ACLU attorneys who represented an arrested "shooter," the police in Spring City and East Vincent Township adopted a written policy allowing the recording of on-duty policemen.
As journalist Radley Balko declares, "State legislatures should consider passing laws explicitly making it legal to record on-duty law enforcement officials."
Wendy McElroy is the author of several books on anarchism and feminism. She maintains the iconoclastic website as well as an active blog at


  1. FYI
    If anyone wants to read about the Illinois law, simply Google, "Illinois evesdropping bill + 1994 amendment".

  2. Aw, come on now. Don't just read about it, read the law.

    Let's start with this:


    Senate Sponsors
    Sen. John J. Millner

    House Sponsors
    (Rep. Chapin Rose )

    from here:

    Wow! Look at that - if you follow the links, it turns out the two sponsors, Rose and Millner? Both are Republicans!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Who was that a few comments back that was making statements linking this to Obama and the 'corrupt democratic Chicago machine'?

    I'm waiting for your apology for your statements being so very wrong.

    There were no results for the votes cast; probably too long ago for this website.

    Anyone want to take bets here that votes were probably primarily along conservative lines supporting this?

    I'm sure if I need to go as far as contacting the IL legislature, I CAN find out the votes....but for now I think the politics of both of the sponsors is sufficient.

  3. Excellent Article:

    More people are waking up to the NEW... POLICE STATE!

    It is bad enough that one has a 1st Amendment that is "Supposed" to guarantee the Lawful Assembly and ability to state your Grievances.

    With the TSA doing Road Blocks, TSA at Schools, Police downloading your Smart Phones (without a Warrant) Bio-Metric Scanning you during traffic stops.

    They have tried to get DNA during stops too. FBI and CIA all over Social Mediums. Facial Recognition Software to RAT on a Friend when you Logon to PROVE a Photo belongs with that ID.

    Phone App's to Homeland Security to destroy someones life by placing them on DHS's Terror List all because they "Looked or Acted weird"

    Yes, Welcome to the POLICE STATE, Martial Law IS COMING.

    Planned Internet Kill Switch, REAL ID. National Health Card ID, Internet ID. Yes, Soon you will see the Gestapo asking for your Papers to travel soon, That's IF you have a Permit to so do.

    Strengthened Patriot Act to Data-Mine John-Q Public. Had not Hitler burned up. I bet he'd be rolling in his grave with an Erection.

    1984 Time Warp.
    Obey Obey Obey Obey Obey Obey
    Don't Question Authority.
    Big Brother is WATCHING YOU!
    Conform, Unity to the HIVE.

  4. Welcome Maj.Wm.Martin to the Mikeb blog.

    Um....I don't think we've become quite that procrustean just yet.

    The important thing is that we push back, not that there is never anything against which we have to push back.

  5. Don't be fooled by party politics regarding this and all other issues regarding privacy and our other rights. Both parties are taking us to the same place in different busses. Bush pushed for the patriot act and Obama kept it, enough said.

  6. I have to agree with bertly. This issue was one of the big straws that broke the camel's back for me as far as my being enamored with Obama. The other was the war policy, of course. Oh, and let's not forget Guantanamo.

    No, I'm afraid Obama is as powerless as Bush when it comes to running the country, it's what George Carlin said.

    One difference, not that it helps much, is that I think Obama wants to do better. That's the Democratic part of it. Bush and Cheney were happy to play the game for self-aggrandizement and for the enrichment of their friends.

    But, like I said in the end it's the same bullshit.

  7. Mikeb302000,

    Having observed politics since the Carter administration, my assessment of our two major parties is that the Democrats are incompetent, while the Republicans are evil. There are exceptions, and even the worst of each can have moments of humanity, but as a general rule, it stands.

  8. Another point of agreement between me and Greg.

    "Democrats are incompetent, while the Republicans are evil."