Police Brutality is Legal; Photographing It ISN’T
This seems to be some people’s “reasoning.” The infamous Rodney King beating by the LAPD would have been their little secret if the entire incident hadn’t been videotaped from somebody’s apartment window. At the time, there were jokes going around that the L.A. city council wanted a 3-day waiting period before you could buy a video camera.
These days it’s not even a joke. There are already a few state and local laws prohibiting citizens from videotaping police officers during an arrest. Leonard Pitts, Jr. writes about it in this column, Give Thanks to Citizens With Cameras.
He tells about a woman in Rochester, NY who was arrested for videotaping a traffic stop from her own yard. In Miami Beach, a man was arrested, beaten by police and had his cell phone stomped on — how convenient — after he recorded an officer-involved shooting.
The recent pepper spraying incident art UC Davis would have been nothing more than a rumor if the incident hadn’t been captured on a cell phone. Same with the police execution of an unarmed handcuffed suspect on an Oakland BART train (New Year’s Day 2009.) The executioner, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, is already out of jail after serving a shorter sentence than most people would get for shoplifting. But if the murder hadn’t been caught by somebody’s cell phone, the police would have come up with an official story that the murder victim — Oscar Grant — had fallen and hit his head; pulled a gun and had to be shot; or something.
About ten years ago (give or take), the San Francisco Police Department filed a libel suit against a woman whose only “crime” was giving a sworn statement about what she had witnessed during an arrest.
Just as you don’t need a weather man to tell which way the wind blows, you don’t need a court ruling to know that these laws against videotaping police officers are clearly unconstitutional. Every one of these laws should be suspended immediately by the federal government until the courts can come to the obvious conclusion.