Should Citizens Go to Prison for Filming Police Misconduct?
Friday, July 29, 2011
Miami Beach policeman Pointing Gun at Narces Benoit
Recording law enforcement in the act of breaking the law can itself be an unlawful violation, as some states have taken the side of police against citizens filming instances of brutality or misconduct.
At least 12 states have made it illegal to record any on-duty police officer by requiring all parties being filmed to give their consent. Since officers never give such consent, pulling out a cell phone and recording police displaying excessive force can lead to jail time. The rationale for such laws is that filming police can obstruct their duties.
Recent events demonstrate the need for citizens to capture police when they get out of hand. In May, Miami Beach officers riddled a suspect’s car with more than 100 bullets, killing him, and then went after bystanders who were recording the event. Police confiscated and smashed witnesses’ cell phones, but later denied doing any such thing. One resident, Narces Benoit, managed to smuggle his recording out of the area by putting his phone’s memory card in his mouth. He then turned it over to the media, leaving police officials without answers when the footage made the local news.
15 Years in Prison for Taping the Cops? How Eavesdropping Laws Are Taking Away Our Best Defense Against Police Brutality (by Rania Khalek, AlterNet)
Memory Card in Mouth Saves Police Shooting Video (by Suzanne Choney, msnbc.com)
The War on Cameras (by Radley Balko, Reason)
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