|Courts saying taping cops O.K.|
|Written by Mark Nichols|
Generally when citizens complain about surveillance, be it a drone in sky or a security camera in housing project, authorities usually respond with something like, “If you’re not doing anything illegal, what are you worried about?”. On the issue of citizens taping police in the course of their official duties, provided they don’t interfere, the courts are asking a similar question.
Cook County, Illinois was refused by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal to a lower court’s ruling that civilians have the right to film police in the course of their duties provided they do not interfere.
Fitchette says that when she pulled out a cell phone to record two Newark police officers aiding a man who collapsed on a bus she was trying to help a fellow rider. A passenger complained that the delay the collapsed man caused would make him late for work. So Fitchette was trying to record the incident as proof for the man’s boss.
Fitchette says she was dragged off the bus and handcuffed.
Her decision to record the officers in 2010 ended up sparking a major policy change in Newark. Now some officials are saying the change in Newark is likely to be copied around the state.
According to a the settlement, the Newark Police Department is one of the first police agencies in New Jersey to draft a written policy protecting a person’s right to film police officers in public.
"We are pleased that the Newark Police Department has adopted a policy that clearly articulates and respects the constitutional rights of citizens to record police activity," said Barbara Moses, a Seton Hall Law professor who worked on the suit.
According to the new policy, police officers are barred from preventing residents from recording them unless the recording somehow interferes with a law enforcement operation, or the person enters a restricted area.
Police officials have acknowledged that Fitchette was not impeding the officers’ attempts to aid the man who collapsed on the bus.
Implemented in November of 2011, the policy clearly defines scenarios in which police officers can and cannot interfere with a person’s right to record, an update Police Director Samuel DeMaio said was sorely needed.
"In my opinion, the officers really felt like they were doing the right thing," DeMaio told reporters with the Star Ledger.
"Now, we definitely have a policy in place for that and if someone did something like that again there would certainly be discipline."
None of the officers involved in the 2010 incident were disciplined.
But a sergeant who ordered the arresting officers to charge Fitchette with obstruction justice was fired last year after he was indicted on official misconduct charges in providing his friends with scalped tickets to a Miley Cyrus concert in 2007.
Court says taping cops ok
written by Scott E. Alexander, March 03, 2014