More photog false arrests

By William R. Toler

The last time I checked, photography was not a crime. But a rash of arrests this year would seem to suggest otherwise.

Courtesy stockphotopro.com

We’ve already introduced you to the work of Carlos Miller who has documented an alarming number of incidents where people have been arrested, usually for videotaping or photographing the police or federal buildings.

The most recent case involved two reporters, including Reason.tv’s Jim Epstein. Their crime: having cameras at a public meeting of the DC Taxicab Commission. Contrary to most open meeting laws, the Commission bans videotaping because it has “found television cameras to be disruptive to meetings.”

It started when Pete Tucker from thefightback.org was approached by an officer and asked to turn off his camera. “I’m a reporter,” he pleaded with the officer. After refusing and repeating multiple times that he was a reporter and it was an open meeting, Tucker was arrested. Epstein followed toward the door, camera in hand. One lady asked him not to record her. “I don’t give you permission,” she said. Epstein was then arrested himself.

A number of cabbies, boycotted the meeting, protesting what they saw as an unlawful arrest.

The two men were charged with disorderly conduct and unlawful entry/remaining.

Writing for Forbes, E.D. Kain commented on the incident: “For the life of me, I can’t understand how this is either legal…or a smart thing to do.”

They were basically arrested for contempt of cop. The disorderly conduct charge was for refusing an unlawful order from an officer. How they were charged with unlawful entry to a public meeting still baffles me.

Next, we move north to Rochester, New York, where Emilly Good was arrested for recording officers…from her own yard.

At the begining of the video, Good is standing on the sidewalk, completely out of the way of the officers while they had a man handcuffed and were searching his person and car. The officer searching the suspect told the woman to go back inside her house. She said she would stay in her yard.

“I don’t feel safe with you standing behind me,” said the officer, identified as Mario Masic. He then walked up to her, shining his flashlight into the camera and warned her that if she did not obey his order, she would be arrested. Good stood her ground and was taken into custody, handing the camera off to someone nearby who continued to record the incident.

The original suspect was released as she was taken to jail.

In another post, Miller believes that a current court case could set precedent and (hopefully) end the debate of recording the police…or not.

Simon Glik was arrested in Boston four years ago for recording the police make an arrest in a public park. Miller reports Glik was charged with felony wiretapping, disturbing the peace and aiding the escape of a prisoner…who didn’t actually escape.

Although the charges were dropped, Glik sued for false arrest. The officers filed to dismiss on “qualified immunity.” As Miller points out, their motion ” is their way of claiming they had no idea videotaping cops in public was completely legal.”

Massachusetts law makes it illegal to secretly record another party without informing them As Miller points out, Glik was openly recording the officers, but “because the cops were busy beating up on a man, they did not notice Glick recording them, so they are arguing it was done in secret.”

The judge in the original case dismissed their motion, but the officers appealed. Depending on the new judge’s ruling, the future of recording officers could be in jeopardy. If the judge grants immunity, then officers would no longer have face or fear responsibility for unlawfully arresting individuals who commit no crimes.

With all of these cases, during a countersuit, the slighted individuals should sue the individual officers, to keep from sticking the taxpayers with the bill. Not only should the officers be charged with false arrest, but if any time was spent in jail or the back of a squad car then a charge of false imprisonment would be in order.

As for the qualified immunity excuse, what is it that we always hear from judges? Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Apparently that only applies to the commoners, not to those whose duty it is to enforce the multitude of laws that not even they can keep up with.

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