Cop To Cameraman: 'If You're Invoking Your Rights, You Must Be Doing Something Wrong'

from the we'll-let-you-know-when-you-have-some-'rights'-you-can-use dept

The notion that certain rights are guaranteed to citizens is being proven false every day. For instance, you have the First Amendment right to film police officers and other public officials, but it often takes an official policy change (usually prompted by lawsuits) before these public servants will begrudgingly respect that right.

You also have certain rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, but even these aren’t innate. You can’t simply remain silent while detained or arrested. You have to invoke these rights (often repeatedly) or risk having your silence (things you didn’t say) used against you.

In the case of photographing police officers, you’ll notice that activists and others who are recording will invoke their rights repeatedly. In some cases, this forces those being recorded to back off and reconsider their attempts to shut down recordings or seize cameras. It doesn’t always work but it works often enough to show that these police officers know you have this right but won’t respect it unless you invoke it.

Techdirt reader timlash sends in this video of two citizens filming a sally port (where prisoners are shuttled in and out of the courthouse) in Jacksonville, Florida. As is to be expected, police officers show up and try to shut down the recording of a public building from a public sidewalk. But the most amazing part of the video is the police officer’s statement in response to the cameraman invoking his rights.

“You must be doing something wrong if you invoke your rights.”



That’s the prevailing attitude. Invoke your Fourth Amendment rights to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures and the government assumes you have something to hide. Invoke your Fifth Amendment rights and the government assumes you’ve committed a crime. Invoke your First Amendment right to record police officers and you’re told that you’re “obstructing” an investigation or creating a public disturbance.

You have rights as an American citizen. They just won’t be respected by default. And when you invoke them, you’ll be treated as an activist (at best) or a criminal (at worst). The land of freedom has tipped the balance away from the citizens and towards the government — because whether we’re fighting terrorism, drugs or illegal immigration, the respect of citizens’ rights impedes the progress of the nation’s many “warriors.”

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Comments on “Cop To Cameraman: 'If You're Invoking Your Rights, You Must Be Doing Something Wrong'”

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85 Comments
Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I am almost certain you are being sarcastic but just in case…

I could spend a day telling you everything you did wrong while you were doing nothing wrong.

Ask any police officer and they can tell you, hang around or follow someone/anyone long enough and they WILL make a mistake that gives them an excuse to harass you. The possibilities are endless and once the harassment starts they usually pressure you into saying something stupid or just getting you to make a mistake that only makes the problem worse for you…

With today’s technology I could most most people look suspicious with a few selective ‘reports’ on their daily activities. It would only be with a through review would you find out otherwise.

Chronno S. Triggersays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

Humans have an innate ability to recognise patterns even if those patterns don’t actually exist. The cop doesn’t even have to hang around long enough for you to make a mistake, you just have to do two things that the cop thinks add up to a bad thing. If you have nothing to hide* you still have plenty to fear.

*If you somehow do have nothing to hide, you are unique in the world. Everyone has stuff to hide even if they’ve done nothing wrong.

charliebrownsays:

No Photography?

After that certain date 13 years ago, there was an anti-terrorism ad campaign on television here in Australia that basically did the whole “see something, say something” along with a list of things that would be suspicious.

Now, one thing on the list was photographing things but the picture accompanying it showed somebody shoving their camera through a fence and taking pictures of some kind of compound. So obviously if you stick a camera through a fence to take a picture of, say, a food distribution plant, because, say, you might be making a blog on food trucks, you might be a terrorist.

AJsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“So, more like trademarks then? If you don’t fight for them, you deem them not valid and they are unregistered?”

Exactly! I don’t think it’s right, but that is how it is.

“Isn’t the point of rights that you have them by default, that you are protected by them even if you can’t protect yourself?”

Right again, but good luck convincing our Government as they have seem’ed to have made it a full time job trying to relieve us of our rights.

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Isn’t the point of rights that you have them by default, that you are protected by them even if you can’t protect yourself?”

I would actually say this the other way around. The point of government is to protect our inherent rights. That the government doesn’t do so doesn’t mean they aren’t rights.

This is why I referred to “liberty” rather than “rights” in my other comments. The concept of “rights” has become too confused with the concept of “privileges”.

rapnelsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually, because it’s been that type of ride, the privilege of life stops at the door. Once you have it the right to it is inalienable. That is until some fucker comes along and takes your head, obviously, and the other fuckers that will sacrifice yet more fuckers to die while tracking the original fucker down. The circle of trying to control your inalienable right to continue living, until you meet a fucker, nevertheless, ends in death. It’s kind of neat, actually.

Those that would strive to control the lives of others are, quite simply, doomed to die. Unfortunately their ideas don’t seem to die with them.

That One Guysays:

Re: Re: If you invoke your rights, either you must be doing something wrong...

Was going to say the same thing.

It would probably get you a beating(for ‘resisting arrest’ of course), or tossed in a cell, but the first thing that came to mind after reading the headline was the response of ‘Or maybe I’m invoking my rights because you are doing something wrong.’

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re: Sad...

“the other side is much stronger”

This is an illusion. The other side is not stronger, they are weaker by a longshot — which is why they do everything they can to maintain the illusion.

Our side (the people) have the numbers and the resources. If we stop allowing ourselves to be divided, they cannot stop us.

Davidsays:

Eliminating variables

Police work is safer when police has less variables to worry about. Being able to eliminate everyone or everything suspicious or worrisome means that you can do your work confidently, efficiently, and with minimal risk to yourself.

“Shoot first, ask later” is one popular way to minimize risk and turmoil. “Intimidate, if necessary and/or disable with excessive force” is another.

Photographers consequently severely interfere with the options of policemen of getting a situation under control.

That’s all perfectly understandable.

And because it is perfectly understandable, a Bill of Rights exists to point out explicitly where the Executive is not allowed to tread, even though the Constitution’s main text already lists the areas where the Executive is only allowed to tread.

Unfortunately, policemen don’t understand the costs associated with creating order in a country where laws are considered more than a joke. They want to cheat and not do the arduous and dangerous and responsible job they signed up for.

Uriel-238says:

Re: Re: kenichi tanaka et. al.

Never sure if they’re really pro-authority, Poe or trolls.

Even Niccol? di Bernardo dei Machiavelli recognized that necessary evils were still evil and only to be used as far as they were necessary, and no further.

And true sociopaths are pretty rare.

So I figure they’re trolling to be edgy, or, giving them the most credit, trying to play devil’s advocate to give us cerebral exercise.

scotts13says:

There IS a tiny gray area

If you listen carefully, the officer appears to be objecting to the fact that the interior of the building – as visible through the open doors – was being photographed. That may or may not have happened, but the possibility exists.

Just as you can photograph the outside of a house, but NOT use a telephoto lens to peer through the windows, this might have some validity.

There’s another remote possibility that such photographs would be useful for planning a break when prisoners are being transferred – which is why our local courthouse closes the doors behind the vehicle before this is done. Jacksonville doesn’t?

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re: There IS a tiny gray area

“Just as you can photograph the outside of a house, but NOT use a telephoto lens to peer through the windows, this might have some validity.”

Well, first, was a telephoto lens in use? Second, you can (at least in my state) use a telephoto lens (or binoculars, or a telescope, etc.) to peer through windows — you just have to be in a place you’re legally entitled to be when you do it.

scotts13says:

Re: Re: Re: Re: There IS a tiny gray area

“Well, first, was a telephoto lens in use? Second, you can (at least in my state) use a telephoto lens (or binoculars, or a telescope, etc.) to peer through windows — you just have to be in a place you’re legally entitled to be when you do it.”

The focal length of the lens is irrelevant; you could as easily come closer while still staying on public property, or crop the image. I’m pretty sure your locality has peeping tom laws that would prevent you from photographing the interior of a house, even if some view could be obtained in an otherwise legal manner. Ditto, the secure area inside a police station or courthouse.

I am somewhat unimpressed by shenanigans like this. I’m all for exercising ones rights to demonstrate and reinforce them, I’ve been stopped from photographing in public myself, and didn’t back down. But there’s little reason to photograph this particular area other than to force a reaction.

Michaelsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: There IS a tiny gray area

I’m pretty sure your locality has peeping tom laws that would prevent you from photographing the interior of a house, even if some view could be obtained in an otherwise legal manner.

Every peeping Tom law I have ever seen requires the “peeper” to be acting secretly. Standing on a sidewalk looking into a window usually does not apply. Can anyone provide the relevant law where this incident happen?

Ditto, the secure area inside a police station or courthouse

If the secure area inside a police station or courthouse is just on the other side of doors that they have propped open, I would recommend they tighten security procedures rather than trying to chase away people with cameras.

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: There IS a tiny gray area

” I’m pretty sure your locality has peeping tom laws that would prevent you from photographing the interior of a house, even if some view could be obtained in an otherwise legal manner.”

This made me actually look up the law in my area. The key part of violating the peeping tom laws is that the “peeper” must be doing so while attempting to be concealed. Standing on the sidewalk with binoculars, looking into an open window, would not violate the law.

A couple of court cases a few years back actually clarified all this a bit. You can photograph or look at anything that is visible from a place that you are entitled to be, as long as you aren’t trying to hide while doing it, using any equipment that is commonly available to the public (e.g., binoculars or telephoto lenses are fine, but sonar or infrared sensors are not).

This applies to public buildings, including law enforcement buildings, just as much as private property.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: There IS a tiny gray area

But there’s little reason to photograph this particular area other than to force a reaction.

The police are being forced to react nearly every time someone photographs or films them doing their job in public; by their overdeveloped sense of entitlement to act without being held to account.

naschsays:

Re: Re: There IS a tiny gray area

If you listen carefully, the officer appears to be objecting to the fact that the interior of the building – as visible through the open doors – was being photographed.

If that’s a security problem then they need to redesign something. Two sets of doors, or a curtain, or something. This was two guys out in the open obviously pointing cameras at the door. If they had had nefarious intent they would have been having a coffee with their hidden camera, or used a telephoto from down the street, or something. Relying on “please don’t take pictures” isn’t security.

Rekrulsays:

Re: Re: There IS a tiny gray area

If you listen carefully, the officer appears to be objecting to the fact that the interior of the building – as visible through the open doors – was being photographed. That may or may not have happened, but the possibility exists.

If they didn’t want the interior to be seen, maybe putting the door right on a public street wasn’t the best design decision. How about putting it in a fenced in area, or using two doors so that when the outer door is opened, all people see is an entranceway?

Caseysays:

I like Sgt. Richardson

Contrary to the youtube annotation, he wasn’t making a “veiled threat”, he was letting the photographer know what laws he is supposed to uphold.

now since neither photographer was arrested for something stupid, obviously there was nothing that he could do. Bravo for the photographers in standing up for themselves. and bravo for the police officer for not being a total jerk and arresting them for some asinine law that is on the books.

The police officer is right that it is a matter for the court to settle when a local ordinance/law doesn’t jibe with the state or federal law or the constitution.

The only issue that I have is the “You must be doing something wrong if you invoke your rights.” That was just plain wrong and the officer (and the other one in the cart) needs some corrective training about that.

kc

Uriel-238says:

Re: Asserting rights to make sure they're there when we need them.

Hear, hear.

We’re deep into an era where most folk are content to pretend their rights will be there when we need them, and dismiss occasions outside their immediate sphere when those rights are not respected.

The price of freedom and all that. And we’ve failed at being vigilant.

Gonnosukesays:

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having a fairly large number of interactions with police officers (never arrested or detained) and in my experience most of them actually do abide by the law. By that I mean, I have to invoke “I’m sorry officer but I don’t consent to searches” a dozen different ways and ask “Am I free to go?” in response to their non-answers before they finally give up and allow me to go about my business.

I guess I’ve been fortunate because even though I’ve nothing to hide, I’ve never had any police officer search my car or person after I denied consent. They’ve tried to trick me into giving consent (the “I’m just going to search you real quick to make sure you’re not carrying any weapons” sounds very official when they spring it on you) but if you stick to your scripts — and make no mistake — everyone needs to know the scripts, they usually give up and find an easier target. Most people are stupid, ignorant or naively compliant.

The odd thing is that when it’s over I have the impression the police have more respect for me than they did at the beginning of the encounter. They know it’s a game and they know the rules. They’re surprised when anyone who isn’t a cop knows them too.

TL;DR
Present your ID
Remain courteous
Don’t consent to searches
Ask the magic question “Am I free to go?”
Don’t be afraid to say nothing at all when asked a question or to ask “Am I free to go?” in response to any of their questions.
If you’re not free to go — stop talking.

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