Thursday, October 22, 2009

Arpaio's New Tool is a Joke

What a joke. Sheriff Arpaio had been hyping a "new tool" that he would use to counter those who document/videotape the stops during the immigration sweeps. Specifically it was said that this new tool would be used by "his deputies to overcome safety and security concerns of deputies being videotaped and interfered with during the course of their duties." (Source.) We were waiting to see what it would be. Something to block the camera? Arrests of observers? What would it be?

Well, the first day of the sweeps last weekend, we found out. MCSO is countering the videotaping by videotaping themselves! Bam! Take that copwatchers!

Seriously, this is really the "new tool". According to their press release that day,
Starting today, Sheriff’s deputies will utilize special teams to video tape deputies’ contact with the public to preserve an accurate account of any incident and to assist deputies during law enforcement operations.
The Sheriff stated that he understands and respects citizen’s first amendment rights. However, he also understands those rights need to be balanced by the possibility of danger to his deputies when they are distracted by these agitators approaching while they are trying to focus on their already difficult duties.

I, along with others I've talked to, suspect that they may have had a different "new tool" but realized it was unconstitutional, and so they came out with this really silly solution to their "safety and security concerns". In what way exactly does having an officer (or posse member?) videotape officers solve their concerns about officers getting videotaped and allegedly interfered with? How does it balance the possibility of danger to deputies when they are distracted by "agitators"?

This partially explains their logic:
"I too will now have people videotaping our deputies," he said. "We won't edit the tape the way they do." (Source).

This seems to be the only specific reason they've given for doing this; that they won't edit the tape. Yeah, the problem is the editing. Because the people who put their footage on youtube (seen here) edited out the parts in which the cops were nice. Right.

This really doesn't address what is implied by their reference of safety and security concerns. In fact, there really were no safety and security concerns in the legal sense. Copwatchers stay a safe distance away, the officers know what we're doing, there is absolutely no interference except when an officer himself chooses to interfere with his own investigation by going to harass the observers. As I have pointed out in the past, the officers themselves cause most of the problems they wish to blame copwatchers for. And I find it interesting that they are putting officers (or posse members) in charge of filming each stop- which means that person filming is not out there arresting people.

Overall, the filming by MCSO of MCSO is good news to copwatchers. We are out there partly to gain footage that can be used to stop the harassment of migrants, the racial profiling, and any other abuses, but mostly to prevent it. It is possible that the additional cameras around will help to accomplish this. We have no illusions that the MCSO would allow any of their footage to be used against them, however. Therefore we will continue to do what we've been doing.

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