Cops gone wild, and no, you can’t videotape them

One of the writers for Reason Magazine that I like to follow is Radley Balko. His focus is mostly on, well, Cops acting like d-bags and other assorted lunacy when it comes to law enforcement.

Although his “best known” stuff concerns problems that the drug war has brought about, he’s lately been penning a bit on the issue of recording the cops that go wild, or even the cops that aren’t quite going wild – ’til they see you’re recording them.

I recommend reading Radley’s pieces for yourself to fully appreciate what’s going on, as I couldn’t do the discussion justice without effectively plagiarizing his work. However, the brouhaha is essentially that cops threaten, or actually do, arrest people for recording. Even worse, as evidenced in the third link, you had the assistant district attorney not only giving absolutely incorrect advice to the cop, but then the district attorney actually tried charging (before dropping the charges, of course) the guy making a recording.

To hell with absolute prosecutorial immunity – those bastards should be disbarred for being completely incompetent (at a minimum). Seriously, you would think a state supreme court ruling stating that recording police encounters doesn’t violate the law should be serious enough that it would warrant prosecutors knowing about it even before they take the job.

I haven’t heard about any cases arising in Michigan where police officers have arrested individuals for recording their interactions, but I figure it’d be nice for more people to realize that this kind of stuff goes on – not just that people are getting arrested for recording encounters with law enforcement, but getting arrested even when the law clearly states that it’s legal to do so. Michigan does have an exemption to it’s surveillance laws which allows that law enforcement may be recorded.

Maybe a litmus test issue for Judges, Sheriffs, and Prosecutors in the future?

By the way, here’s a Brigham Young University Law Review piece concerning the removal of absolute prosecutorial immunity.

3 comments for “Cops gone wild, and no, you can’t videotape them

  1. August 6, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I read the article, and it is one of several good ones by Balko. Bad cops are potentially more dangerous than criminals, because nobody really takes the side of criminals. You might recall, Jason, that many years ago you and I were threatened by a cop who didn’t approve of our legal repossession of vehicles. Normally when people threaten you, you have the police – and most civilized people – to turn to. But when a cop threatens, or worse, commits a crime, and superiors back him… well, that’s a dangerous precedent to say the least.

    • Jason Gillman Jr.
      August 6, 2010 at 7:38 pm

      Actually, this is JR that wrote the piece. I don’t think I was quite old enough to be old enough to be repo’ing cars when dad was doing that 😉 Never heard that a cop was threatening you two for repo’ing a vehicle tho. How did that turn out?

      I’ve seen some cases in the past on the net where cops have responded with “Well, there are bad apples in any organization…” to the criticism of cops doing stupid/illegal things. The thing is, that’s a horrible refutal. There’s a key difference between law enforcement and “any other organization” – cops can distinctly screw up your life.

      • August 9, 2010 at 6:23 pm

        Didn’t see the “Jr.” Good to see you’re contributing. Your Dad and I were in a small town and the cop said to a friend in a convenience store – loud enough for us to hear: “Remember the last time we had repo guys in town and we kicked the crap out of them and threw them in jail?” We left town quickly (by the time we found the address we needed this cop would have called the owner of the car anyhow, because we had asked him about him).

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