Less than a week after a Pennsylvania man posted a video showing a Lancaster cop refusing to take an accident report because the man insisted on his nephew recording the interaction, a story that was picked up by a national technology site as well as the local newspaper, another Lancaster police officer threatened to arrest the man on wiretapping charges, indicating a clear pattern of abuse of authority when it comes to the Constitutionally protected act of recording cops in public.
Fortunately, Paul Dejesus knew his rights and was not afraid to assert them, even after the cop gave up on the wiretapping threat and began threatening him with disorderly conduct, which is the usual catch-all charge for contempt of cop.
But Dejesus slapped that threat down by pointing out he was recording from his own yard.
But if he was recording from a public sidewalk, he still wouldn’t have been guilty of disorderly conduct in that state.
The incident began as Dejesus was in his yard with family enjoying a barbecue when he spotted several cop cars making a traffic stop.
He started recording, which prompted a cop to shine a flashlight into the camera, an increasing popular tactic used by cops, including on Miami Beach against me earlier this year, which led to Miami Beach Public Information Officer admitting the act was “immature.”
“I hope that video camera is not audio recording me because that is illegal,” the cop shouts out.
“No, it’s not,” Dejesus responds.
“Yes, it is,” the cop responds.
“No, it’s not, I know the law,” Dejesus says.
“You are not allowed to record my voice without my consent,” the cops says.
First of all, if the cop wouldn’t have opened his mouth, his voice would never have been recorded, but now that he did, he ended up making a fool of himself.
Pennsylvania is a two-party consent state, but as in other two-party consent states, the law wouldn’t apply when there is no expectation of privacy.
“You can either put it away or I will confiscate it,” the cop continues.
Dejesus tells him he would need a warrant.
The cop makes a couple more empty threats before going quiet, then piping up again with the disorderly conduct threat, which Dejesus slaps down.
Finally the cop just goes away and Dejesus is left to enjoy his barbecue with his family.
But now we’re left to see just how unprofessional that department operates.
Last week, after the cop refused to take Dejesus’ accident report, Dejesus called the department to complain, only to be told they have “a policy” in place that forbids them from being recorded in public.
When dozens of PINAC readers called to ask for that policy, they were hung up on. They also spent the bulk of the day deleting comments from their Facebook page questioning the legality of what turned out to be a non-existant policy.
Call the Lancaster Police Department at (717) 664-1180 or send them a message through here.
Or leave a comment on their Facebook page to see how quick they scramble to delete it.
Send stories, tips and videos to Carlos Miller.