Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Smile! You're Arrested.

Did you know you can be arrested and sent to prison for videotaping a police officer, even if it's to protect yourself from false accusations?

Randy Radley Balko, a libertarian-minded columnist for Reason Magazine and who I like a lot, has a column today documenting some of the recent arrests for this "offense". He makes the excellent point that the police are public servants, and since we're the public, we should have the right to hold them accountable with videotape evidence of their actions:

Earlier this year, Iraq war veteran Elio Carrion was shot three times at near-point-blank range by San Bernardino, Calif., deputy Ivory Webb. Carrion was lying on the ground and was unarmed. Video of the arrest and shooting, however, was captured by bystander Jose Louis Valdez. Webb since has been fired from the police department and is on trial on charges of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm. The video is the key piece of evidence in his trial.

While it's possible that police and prosecutors would have believed Carrion's version of events over Webb's even without the video, it seems unlikely.

The price of liberty is constant vigilance. I'm glad people like Randy Radley Balko are out there watching for this kind of crap and keeping the rest of us informed. The article's well worth a read if you're concerned about infringements on civil liberties. Balko has his own site, The Agitator, where he blogs about such issues. It's well worth a bookmark.

(I don't know how in the heck I got "Randy" originally. Duh.)


Adam H said...

i met a guy who was new to athens awhile back who asked "you guys have cop watch here?"

me: "what's cop watch?"

him: "people take turns volunteering to follow around cops each night and recording/reporting everything they do. lowers corruption and abuse."

"holy shit, that's amazing! sounds awesome!"

"yeah but it's legal, and they (the cops) hate it, but they'll act legally too if people are watching."

i am not nearly as afraid of criminals as i am of abusers of power. it seems the police practically exist to generate money and assert state dominance. cops are predators who prey on those who don't know their rights, and their power needs to be restricted.

Jeff Hebert said...

I read an article on yesterday that mentioned a town where the citizens were getting trained on doing this too, Adam. I'm not sure, but I guess the laws vary from place to place? I need to forward the link on to Balko, maybe he'll know.