It’s funny that as often as I tell people to act natural in front of the camera, I never manage to do it myself.
Yesterday was no exception as I sat in front of a camera at in the studio in Miami to be interviewed on MSNBC about cops, cameras and the law.
It’s a little awkward sitting in a dark room having a conversation with a reporter you can’t even see, but is speaking into your ear as well as looking into a camera that you can’t really see either because it’s behind some type of screen.
Nevertheless, it’s good to get this issue out there as much as possible because the battle between cops and photographers is not going to slow down anytime soon.
On Tuesday, Popular Mechanics published a piece on the issue, calling for a federal law to protect photographers.
This is the sort of thing you might be tempted simply to toss in the crazy file. But, in fact, this is one of the comparatively few issues that could merit a new federal civil rights law. Under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, Congress is empowered to pass laws protecting civil rights against infringement by state and local officials, and that seems to be what’s happening here. A clear federal law would limit cases, like Maryland’s, in which local officials use their power to harass those who might keep an eye on them. Passing such a law would make us all safer.
Gizmodo, which posted an article on the subject last month, published another piece Wednesday to keep the issue fresh in the mind of its readers.
While police across the country have been using wiretapping laws to arrest people who videotape them in public, some police departments are resorting to equipping their officers with video cameras.
The latest police department to equip their officers with cameras is the Butler County Sheriff’s Office in Kansas, according to KSN.com.
Kansas is a one-party consent state, in case you’re wondering.
Sheriff Craig Murphy believes these cameras will protect his deputies from false accusations of police brutality.
“You know, from time to time, I get complaints that come across my desk about one of our officers maybe having a bad day,” says Murphy. “This video will be able to show everything.”
The deputies will be using Scorpion cameras that clip on to their uniforms which sell for just over $100 each, according to this website.
“That’s the beauty of this Scorpion (camera) is the price,” explains Murphy. “We can buy a lot of these and they are mobile. The cameras in the cars only capture what’s in front of them. These cameras go where we go.”
The Butler County Sheriff’s Office seems to have better business sense than the San Jose Police Department, which announced last year that they will equip their officers with head-mounted cameras that are produced by Taser Inc. that will cost almost $3,000 per officer at a total of $4 million-a-year to equip every officer.
Meanwhile, the Albuquerque Police Department has spent more than $50,000 to equip their officers with the Scorpion cameras as Photography is Not a Crime reader, First Amendment advocate and KOB-TV investigative reporter Jeremy Jojola informs us in the video below.
New Mexico is also a one-party state, but California is a two-party state, meaning that every San Jose police officer is committing a felony when recording people in public – if we were to use police logic.
I bet those Maryland state troopers and that nameless judge who signed the warrant to allow them to raid Anthony Graber’s home never thought it would become a national issue.
It has. And it doesn’t appear that public opinion is falling on their side.
Not only has USA Today, The Washington Post, NPR and ABC News reported on the case in which Graber is facing 16 years in prison for uploading a video of a plainclothes cop pulling a gun on him during a traffic stop, MSNBC will be reporting on it today.
I am scheduled to be interviewed on MSNBC at 11:30 a.m. at the local studio, which is not the same building I used to work before I parted ways with NBC Miami.
The reason I am getting so much attention in this case is because I was the only reporter to have interviewed Graber after his 26-hour stint in jail. By the time the rest of the media picked up on the story – around the time my story had received more than 400 comments – he was no longer publicly speaking on the case under the advice of his attorneys.
I’m not sure if the interview will be live or if it will be aired later in the afternoon, but I’m sure it will be aired several times throughout the day as they do with most stories.
On Monday, I was interviewed on KGO Radio ( 11 minutes into the show) in San Francisco, where the big story is the Oscar Grant case – a perfect example of why citizens should be allowed to videotape cops without fear of getting intimidated or arrested.
Had Bay Area Rapid Transit police confiscated everybody’s cell phone as they tried to do, we probably would have seen a completely different outcome in that case.
The KGO Radio segment also featured Rich Roberts from the International Union of Police Associations, one of the officers who penned the laughable response to the USA Today editorial.
Roberts, who happens to live in Sarasota, made the same lame arguments he made in the article. Almost word by word.
But then he finished the segment by saying he believed people should have the right to videotape cops.
So I guess he’s no different than many cops in the way he double-talks.
Also on a more local level, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last week that the Allegheny County district attorney’s office settled a federal lawsuit by agreeing to redistribe a memo to police departments explaining that it is not against the law to videotape a cops on duty.
Unfortunately, memos don’t seem to make a difference because an Oregon police chief who received a similar memo from the city attorney vowed that these arrests would continue.
All this media coverage was probably what prompted U.S. Congressman Ed Towns last week to introduce a resolution to protect citizens against these arrests.
From what I’ve learned, a resolution is merely a ceremonial gesture that doesn’t carry much legislative weight.
But nothing happens overnight in Congress. The fact that a Congressman even made the effort to address the issue is a move in the right direction.
However, now it’s up to us to keep the momentum going by reaching out to the rest of Congress.
The first step is to create a national database of where these incidents have taken place.
Radley Balko, senior editor of Reason Magazine, suggested we create a map as he did when we worked at the Cato Institute to address the epidemic of botched police raids.
The question is, should we just limit the map to where people have been charged with wiretapping charges for videotaping cops or should we include all photography harassment, including at the hands of security guards?
I prefer the latter, only because it will really demonstrate that this is a regular occurrence.
Let me know what you think and what we can do to get more Congressional attention.
The problem I have with religion is that it causes people to think they are superior to those outside their religion.
Take David Wood, for example, who believes the First Amendment only applies to Christian extremists.
Wood and a group of missionaries who call themselves Acts 17 Apologetics were arrested outside an Arab festival in Dearborn, Michigan last month for essentially expressing their First Amendment rights.
The above video proves that.
It shows Nabeel Qureshi, a former Muslim who converted into an Apologetic, standing outside the festival having a civil exchange with a group of Muslim youths while Wood and another member of the group videotape.
Suddenly, a group of cops come up and arrest them, charging them with that old standby they use when no laws have been broken, disorderly conduct.
The four arrested members have pleaded not guilty and will go to trial in September.
Naturally, the group is pretty pissed off. Especially since Dearborn Mayor John O’ Reilly issued a statement saying they were trying to disrupt the festival.
Whether that was their intention or not, the Muslim youths in the video do not seem disturbed by the group, only amused.
However, that wasn’t the case at last year’s festival when they angered some Muslims, which led to them getting accosted by a group of aggressive security guards who continually slapped at their cameras. The group did a good job on keeping at least two cameras rolling, ensuring multiple angles of the confrontation.
Wood believes they were persecuted on those two occasions because of their religion, which is a First Amendment violation in itself regardless of the cameras.
The problem is, Wood – who comes across as a smug asshole in his videos – has embarked on his own fear mongering persecution of Muslims, accusing them of being “good citizens in public, not so good citizens in private.”
In the video below, he comes out strongly against the construction of a controversial Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero, calling it an Islamic plot to take over New York City and turn it into another Mecca.
It’s the same kind of talk I hear from so-called libertarians who want to militarize our borders because they fear the Mexicans are going to take over the country and force us all to speak Spanish and eat burritos.
His extreme views and tactics have even marginalized other Christians, who accuse Wood and his group of being “antagonistic.”
Loon Watch, a site that focuses on exposing “anti-Muslim loons, wackos, and conspiracy theorists” has responded to each and every one of the allegations Wood makes in the video below here and here.
It also reports that Wood once admitted he spent time in a mental institute after trying to bludgeon his father with a hammer. Wood is also supposedly a former atheist who is a teaching fellow at Fordham University, a private Catholic university in New York, so go figure.
Regardless if Wood is an instigator, an asshole or an oedipal sociopath, the videos do not indicate he and the others were breaking the law. So yes, their First Amendment rights were violated.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment gives Wood the right to speak his ignorance, even if it spewing his hate for Muslims, whom he claims he loves on his website.
But it is hard to sympathize with him when his views contradict the essence of the First Amendment, which is tolerance for all religions, even if you think they’re all full of crap.