Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Harassment of Legal Observers at Sheriff's Sweep

Please view these videos from the last sweep.

We need to continue to observe and document these sweeps (even if doing just that doesn't accomplish much). They clearly don't like us doing it, more so now than ever, it seems. What are they trying to hide?

These officers cannot stop you from filming. They have no expectation of privacy!

Both officers claimed that they can take the video as evidence. If it is true that they can take your camera as evidence because you're filming their investigation, then wouldn't they want that evidence? Hey, free effortless evidence, right? In my years of copwatching, I have only heard this response from a cop once (at the time the cop claimed we couldn't film the other cop reading a suspect his Miranda rights. What kinda bullshit is that?). It is interesting that different MCSO cops in different locations used the same response.

If we were to assume that it is true that one cannot document an active investigation, is a traffic stop an active investigation? And if so, why have folks been able to document millions of traffic stops all over the country? The fact is that the police are public servants (supposedly) and have no expectation of privacy when they are performing their duties.

The next question is, can one film undercover officers? I have heard this response a few times in the past, but it never results in anything. If it is true that one cannot film undercovers then why does one cop say it, drop it, and the other cop doesn't bring it up until later on. Must not be that big of a deal, huh? The way he explains it is that the undercover officers wouldn't want people to take pictures of their face. Is that a legal issue?

Someone filming from across the street is not interfering with a stop or investigation. The police choose to bring their attention to the folks who are documenting, just as they have chosen many times to ignore folks with cameras.

While the filming may not actually stop the racial profiling and harassment of folks with brown skin, it does tend to put the police on the defensive, and often they start treating the "suspects" better when they're on film. It is important that the legal observing continue.

If you plan to document the police locally, please contact Phoenix Copwatch. They can provide you with information to help you observe and film safely and with minimum risk of arrest. phoenix_copwatch [at] yahoo [dot] com

Update: These incidents got some mainstream media coverage. MCSO YouTube Clip Sparks Outcry was rather sympathetic to the folks documenting, or maybe it just seems so because the MCSO representative was so inarticulate. This is one quote: "'The First Amendment, yeah, he does have the right to express and do what he needs to do but when asked by a law enforcement officer as he is conducting an official investigation, then he does cross the line,' said MCSO Detective Aaron Douglas." He's not even making a clear statement here. In addition he suggests that one option to deal with this problem is, as the article reports, "deputies may even start carrying video cameras so they can record incidents where people are videotaping them." What is that!? They'll film back, and that's the solution?

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