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US Justice Dept Defends Right To Record Police 306

Posted by samzenpus
from the watching-the-watchers dept.
Fluffeh writes "In recent times, it seems many Police Departments believe that recording them doing their work is an act of war with police officers, destroying the tapes, phones or cameras while arresting the folks doing it. But in a surprising twist, the U.S. Justice Department has sent letter (PDF) to attorneys for the Baltimore Police Department — who have been quite heavy handed in enforcing their 'Don't record me bro!' mantra. The letter contains an awful lot of lawyer babble and lists many court cases and the like, although some sections are surprisingly clear: 'Policies should prohibit officers from destroying recording devices or cameras and deleting recordings or photographs under any circumstances. In addition to violating the First Amendment, police officers violate the core requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process clause when they irrevocably deprived individuals of their recordings without first providing notice and an opportunity to object.' There is a lot more and it certainly seems like a firm foothold in the right direction."
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US Justice Dept Defends Right To Record Police

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2012 @08:28PM (#40036097)

    How about instead, they advise the police if they are caught doing it again, said officers will be arrested by the FBI or similar, and put in federal prison. Seems that would be a good incentive.

  • Re:About time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @08:58PM (#40036365)

    When simply asking for a complaint form gets you arrested [youtube.com] in police departments all over the country, I'd say his description is pretty accurate.

    The Largest Street Gang in America [youtube.com]

  • Re:About time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoeMerchant (803320) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @11:20PM (#40037311) Homepage

    I've known an awful lot of "good" cops, but you're right, the good ones won't step up to do anything about the few "bad" ones that there are.

  • by 0111 1110 (518466) on Friday May 18, 2012 @01:31AM (#40038049)

    In my state the use of dashcam videos has been discontinued because it almost never helped the prosecution. 99% of the time it was solely benefiting the defense. Since it didn't help with convictions they just got rid of it. I guess their logic was why pay extra for something that only helps the other side. And it's not like the DA really wants to have to deal with corrupt, violent cops and false charges and all that other crap which he couldn't really pursue even if he wanted to because he relies on a close relationship with the police to get convictions. Or at least that's the logic I think. I think he would still get cooperation from the police because they want the convictions at least as much as the prosecutor himself does. The cops might start harassing him though.

  • Re:About time (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2012 @02:37AM (#40038341)

    The biggest issue is that Whistleblowing is so frowned upon. Breaking the blue code of silence is a quick way to become unemployable as a LEO.

    I always find it hilarious that the Police have those campaigns denouncing the whole "Snitches get stitches" mentality you see on the streets. They're just as guilty of it.

  • Re:About time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2012 @04:12AM (#40038777)

    I'm a police officer in England, and from my experience the fault is not with the officers. I'm not saying everyone is a saint - there are certainly some bad officers out there - but the problem in terms of revealing such behaviour mainly lies with the higher-ups. I'm biased, of course, but hear me out.

    When there are incidents involving officers violating the rights of suspects, the higher-ups don't want to hear about it. It looks bad on their report, and it makes the force look bad if/when it gets in the media. In fact, the organisation of the whole system makes it exceedingly difficult to be a whistle-blower. Reporting such things will make you very unpopular - it's tantamount to throwing your career prospects away. You can't talk to the press either, because it would jeopardise any legal proceedings that might occur in future. The whole "anonymous reporting" thing is a joke, too, because if it ever comes to trail you've got to take the stand as a witness anyway. I'm not saying it's right to ignore this stuff, but it's understandable.

    Now before you think it's all doom and gloom, there are a massive proportion of good officers out there. They avoid this stuff by never getting involved in the first place. Most officers don't beat up suspects, or attack innocent protesters. I'm all for increased CCTV on police because I've got nothing to hide. In fact, it'll provide the CPS with more evidence if a case goes to trial, and quickly dispel any claims of evidence planting or police brutality. Furthermore, it helps identify officers who are bent, because they're the ones who don't want you to film them. It's a win-win situation.

    So next time you see an officer arresting someone, film it and put it on YouTube. If they're one of the good guys, they'll thank you for it.

  • Re:About time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 0111 1110 (518466) on Friday May 18, 2012 @05:25AM (#40039087)

    Despite all that, despite the fact you'd be hurting your career and that your superiors don't want to hear it and all the rest, if you aren't willing to stand up for what is right, why be a police officer at all? What about the value of being able to look yourself in the mirror without shame?

    I'm a victim of police brutality here in the US and I thought back to all the portrayals of police officers that I saw in films and television. Whatever faults the characters might have, most of them had a strong sense of right and wrong. It's too bad that so few police officers seem to have that in real life.

    In my own experience the US has some of the worst police officers. They seem to hate pretty much anyone who is not a cop. They are often angry and have short tempers and get some kind of enjoyment out of hurting people. In other countries I've lived in the police seemed more just like regular guys. They didn't have that 'edge' to them that makes American cops seem so much like grown up bullies.

    I'm not sure how plea bargaining works in the UK, but I was advised by my attorney to lie to the judge under oath because the deal he made with the prosecutor required that I admit to all the charges against me. I had only minutes to decide and so I decided to make a false confession, but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I will always think at least somewhat less of myself for doing it. I felt terribly guilty about it because doing so violated my own sense of right and wrong. In order to stay out of prison for things I did not do I was persuaded to commit the real crime of perjury and admit to a violent crime that I did not commit.

    It's amazing to me the kinds of things that American cops do to hurt people on a regular basis and yet they don't seem to feel any guilt about it. I think they must dehumanize [wikipedia.org] us. Anyone who is not a cop they see as lesser beings. And maybe some cops just can't live with all of the horrible things they have done to people and that's why the police suicide rate is so high in the US. Not because of the things they've seen, but because of the things they've done. I think a lot of cops are true sociopaths who just do not feel guilt, but if you do feel guilt I would imagine that doing what you feel is right is far more important than getting a promotion by doing things you know are wrong. Despite what some people think, for anyone who is not a sociopath immune to feelings of guilt, integrity and honesty and always doing what you think is right have their own rewards.

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