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Citizens Given Video Cameras To Monitor Police 434

Posted by kdawson
from the project-vigilant dept.
atommota writes "After years of complaints of police misconduct, the ACLU is giving free video cameras to some residents of high-crime neighborhoods in St. Louis, MO to help them monitor officers. The ACLU of Eastern Missouri launched the project Wednesday after television crews last year broadcast video of officers punching and kicking a suspect who led police on a car chase. 'The idea here is to level the playing field, so it's not just your word against the police's word,' said Brenda Jones, executive director of the ACLU chapter. The ACLU has worked closely with the police to make sure they are aware of this program. This is in stark contrast to the recent Pennsylvania arrest for felony wiretapping of a guy who was videotaping a police stop."
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Citizens Given Video Cameras To Monitor Police

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  • by ookabooka (731013) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:13PM (#19611389)
    What do you do if the cops say "Nothing for you to see here. Please move along."?
    • by ookabooka (731013) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:20PM (#19611479)
      While I do appreciate the funny mod, I was also being somewhat serious, if a cop has the authority to shoo you away from a "scene" and make sure you aren't taping him/her doing something, they can still get away with doing "bad things". I guess you just have to tape them covertly? I can also see all sorts of legal issues arising from this. . .good thing the ACLU is backing it up.
      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:31PM (#19611651) Journal

        if a cop has the authority to shoo you away from a "scene" and make sure you aren't taping him/her doing something, they can still get away with doing "bad things".
        My first thought was "well cops don't have the authority to shoo you away from a scene," then I realized I was wrong.

        Cops have the authority to disperse a 'crowd' so that they can maintain order. Failure to disperse = failure to obey a lawful order = arrest/taser/mace
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by CastrTroy (595695)
          However, most video cameras have a pretty strong zoom on them. Usually at least 10x. It's probably pretty easy to be quite far away from the scene and still get a good shot at what's going on.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by garcia (6573)
          I saw someone pulled over on Monday and because I happened to be going through the one lane they were now blocking with the traffic stop, I pulled into a nearby lot and watched it all occur.

          1. The officers were very rude and were completely intolerant of the individual's lack of English skills. I realize I live in a state where people find KQRS' resident racist Tom Bernard "entertaining", but the cops should at least be a little more understanding.

          2. They were obviously mocking the individuals that they
        • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Friday June 22, 2007 @05:26PM (#19614133)

          ...failure to obey a lawful order = arrest/taser/mace

          Hopefully not in that order.

      • by eln (21727) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:37PM (#19611739) Homepage
        Given that it is the ACLU, they may be hoping that some police department will sue so they can have a judgment in court stating that videotaping police in public is just as legal as videotaping anyone else in public.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by UseTheSource (66510)
          While I may have issue with the ACLU's selective view on the Bill of Rights (they refuse to acknowledge the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right), I must admit I give kudos to them for taking this up.

          While I'm sure most law enforcement officers are good people, there are too many jack-booted thugs among the ranks, who view the Bill of Rights as a nuisance and a hindrance and/or are control freaks on a trip.

          I find it extremely distasteful that the "felony wiretap" case was in my home state o
          • Actually, IIRC, the ACLU has come out and said that the since NRA defends the 2nd Amendment so conscientiously, they defer such cases to them. That's not at all the same thing as refusing to acknowledge it.

            While I'm sure most law enforcement officers are good people, there are too many jack-booted thugs among the ranks, who view the Bill of Rights as a nuisance and a hindrance and/or are control freaks on a trip.

            I agree with that sentiment 100% (both parts of it).

            What's interesting is that this case seems to be pitting two things the ACLU fights for against each other. Due process vs. privacy (of the cops). I think they're making the right call here, but I still find that conflict interesting. (Just to play devil's advocate: how would you like it if someone taped most of your workday?)

            • by rhakka (224319) on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:21PM (#19612439)
              Why guess?

              Here's what the ACLU says about it. [aclu.org]

              I don't see what's "selective" about that. While any particular person (including me) may disagree with the philosophy behind it, this is a very well reasoned stance... there is ambiguity in what the constitution says and means on this issue, the ACLU protects constitutional rights when such rights are clear.

              I'm pro-gun and pro-ACLU, just to name my own bias.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by aplusjimages (939458)

              Just to play devil's advocate: how would you like it if someone taped most of your workday?

              I've heard that most cops actually liked the idea of video cameras in their cars because it proved that they were good cops in most cases. If I had a job that involved me being accountable for something as serious as protecting and serving citizens, then I wouldn't mind being videotaped. In most cases I'm sure this will show most cops in good light, but we'll never see those videos on the evening news.

          • I'm always amused when people criticize the ACLU for their ambivalence towards the 2nd Amendment. Usually (not always), it comes from pro-NRA people. Though I do wish the ACLU pushed for gun rights too, my math says that championing 9/10 of the Bill of Rights is 900% as good as championing 1/10 of the Bill of Rights, as the NRA does. So the ACLU is only 9 times as faithful to the Bill of Rights as the NRA.

            The ACLU doesn't oppose gun rights, just as the NRA doesn't oppose the other 9 Amendments, but if

      • by WindBourne (631190) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:53PM (#19611995) Journal
        I had EXACTLY that occur back when I was 22 (sadly, that would be a LONG time ago) in Fort Collins, Co. I was a passenger in a 1 car crash. The driver was put in cuffs and a female cop started beating the driver. I stood a distance away but was telling her to stop. She told me to leave right then and there. I pointed out that would be leaving the scence of an accident, to which she replied yes, but that I was to be arrested one way or another. I chose for her to arrest me for "interfering with a lawful arrest". Once she had cuffs on me, she started to hit and kick at me. Once the 2'nd squad got there, she stopped. But of course, she had the 2 of us in cuffs, with me hoping mad. The interesting thing was that the DA dropped the charges for the interfering with a lawful arrest, but got me on some other items. Of course, had she not been beating on the driver, or had not arrested me in the first place, then the later items would never have occured. Sadly, last I heard, she and idiot (ernie telez) from FC were still working there.

        The cameras are needed.
        • by Buran (150348)
          I'm surprised you did not file a complaint against the officers involved. I know I would have. And I can't see what you did that was wrong. You were trying to stop someone from being assaulted. I guess in the Peoples' Republic of America, that's a felony now too.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by WindBourne (631190)
            1. First, We are talking 1982.
            2. Second, I use to work in the local hospital as EMT. The ED had had dealings with Telez and several other officers (1 person came in with multiple broken bones, bruises all over, etc and he was being transported from FC. jail to Larimer County jail by Telez; City Attorny laughed when told about it; oh, the prisoner was a simple thief, not a child molester).
            3. When I told the attorney, they laughed and said that nothing would happen. And I KNEW they were correct.

            When I hear ppl sa

          • by elrous0 (869638) *
            Yeah, because her fellow cops would believe you against her. They would rush that complaint right to their high priority "file 13."
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by elrous0 (869638) *
        I'd be a lot more worried about him shoving a nightstick up my ass and breaking the camera.
    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      What do you do if the cops say "Nothing for you to see here. Please move along."?

      Call the Black Panthers.

  • by Kainaw (676073) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:14PM (#19611397) Homepage Journal
    Pawn shops in high crime areas, such as St. Louis, have an overload of camcorders for sale dirt cheap!
  • I do believe... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Elemenope (905108) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:19PM (#19611465)

    ...that while the ACLU is absolutely right in this context, the practical upshot of this is that many more folks in that community will become victims of Police "misconduct" due to their conspicuous wielding of cameras. And while fighting the good fight and filming anyway is great in the best of all possible worlds, that world isn't this one, and police officers know how to hurt you in real ways, not to mention the system of, ahem, Justice they represent is heavily stacked against someone who has a legit beef re: a police officer.

    Besides, on a purely practical note, after the police finish beating the crap out of you and your friend(s), how hard is it for them to confiscate and destroy a recording device?

    • Re:I do believe... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Endymion (12816) <slashdot.org@tho ... t ['tno' in gap]> on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:27PM (#19611609) Homepage Journal
      While I agree that on a practical side, you are probably correct, I love that the issue is being forced. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better, and that bridge will have to be crossed eventually. (well, short of a miracle)

      By forcing the issue now, hopefully the issue can be brought to light and fixed, and the increase in police issues could hopefully be a temporary condition. By not doing it, things just stew longer and get worse. Hopefully, the sooner it is addressed, the shorter and milder the "dangerous increase in police issues" period could be.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Elemenope (905108)

        By forcing the issue now, hopefully the issue can be brought to light and fixed, and the increase in police issues could hopefully be a temporary condition. By not doing it, things just stew longer and get worse. Hopefully, the sooner it is addressed, the shorter and milder the "dangerous increase in police issues" period could be.

        I couldn't agree more. My only thing is, I've been at protests that have ended up in arrests (and been arrested at same) and those were tame in comparison to the sorts of inc

        • by Endymion (12816)
          I guess my point is that, for this country to truly support freedom, this confrontation will have to happen eventually.

          Traditionally, this is through a violent revolution or coup or similar. Civil War is about the worst possible solution, though, and if we can avoid it with some smaller conflicts now, that would be better for everybody.

          Unfortunately, I don't think it will work - too many people are apologists for the police and the powers-that-be, too many people are profiting from the current situation, an
          • by giorgiofr (887762)

            Civil War is about the worst possible solution
            Oh really? Care to elaborate? Would you prefer an all-out war against an invading force? Thermonuclear holocaust, anyone? Besides, shooting cops in the streets IS civil war. Your policemen are still people of your nationality.
            • by Endymion (12816)
              A) It's "worst" in the sense that any all-out war is bad. Many many many people on all sides die.

              B) Where, exactly, am I advocating shooting cops? I specifically said that filming them as a good alternative solution to try for now.

              C) Yes, there is a mini-war going on in the streets. You could say I'm suggesting that a diplomatic solution could be found, and at least tried, before just jumping on the Bush-style "just bomb them back to the stone age" method.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by WarDog07 (743376)
      Besides, on a purely practical note, after the police finish beating the crap out of you and your friend(s), how hard is it for them to confiscate and destroy a recording device?

      Because who knows who out there that they didn't see is also recording?

      I just wonder how many of these tapes that make into court will show the incident from beginning to end, or only the part that shows what the person who recorded it wants you to see... just like the evening news. Like with a lot of stores CCTV systems, when it co

      • by Dan Ost (415913)
        Even if the tape isn't there to prosecute the offender, it is likely that it will still prevent some number of offenses (would you trust your boss to hide evidence for you?).

        That sounds like a win to me.
    • Besides, on a purely practical note, after the police finish beating the crap out of you and your friend(s), how hard is it for them to confiscate and destroy a recording device?

      That's easy. But that assumes that the recording device (camcorder, cellphone, whatever), isn't also transmitting the data elsewhere. A wi-fi enabled camera-phone would pretty much nullify that option.

    • I think you have a valid concern, but one of the few things more powerful in this world than the police/justice system is free communications. Once a few videos like this start appearing on the Internet, showing people who look like police officers beating people up, or better yet showing identifiable officers, then the higher authorities will have to take action, and it will have to be quick, obvious and decisive. Being seen to defend or condone this sort of behaviour is enough to get powerful people unele

  • by no_pets (881013) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:19PM (#19611475)
    I can see this now, similar to police cars having cameras mounted in them, new cars begin to offer mounted cameras as optional equipment. Perhaps this would be more useful than a DVD player in the backseat.
    • cars begin to offer mounted cameras as optional equipment. Perhaps this would be more useful than a DVD player in the backseat.
      That's been available for years... as an alternative to a rear view mirror, for backing up large minivans (ah!) and so on.
  • Cue the appearance of dodgy police videos on Youtube... with the Simpsons "Bad Cops, Bad Cops" soundtrack...
  • ACLU (Score:2, Insightful)

    This is why I am a member of the ACLU. I hope this project can expand all over the nation.
    • They can hate it all they want, but they serve us, not the other way around. We tell them what to do, not the other way around. If, as a society, we want to tape the police, then they must accept it.
  • by TheBearBear (1103771) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:23PM (#19611535)
    As opposed to monitoring the criminals in their neighborhood? They're as much a plague on civil liberties as big brother.
    • by brunascle (994197) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:25PM (#19611565)
      i think the point is that criminals are already being monitored, but no one's monitoring the cops.
      • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:49PM (#19611935)
        if the criminals were being monitored, then they wouldn't be able to commit all the crimes and then the area wouldn't be described as 'high crime' areas now would they.

        Besides, who are the ACLU giving these cameras to? Law-abiding citizens who live in these areas and are worried that the local scroats might have their civil liberties abused whilst they were committing vandalism, burglary and violent crimes against the person?

      • Police are not everywhere and can not (thankfully) watch everyone. If the crime rate goes down, we require less police officers.
        • But lower crime will definitely NOT lead to less police officers actually being out there.
          More crime = need more officers to combat this threat!
          Less crime = need more officers to keep it this way!
      • by Endymion (12816)
        ...and and even better point is that the police are the criminals in some cases. Which are exactly the cases this is intended to address.
  • by xplenumx (703804) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:26PM (#19611593)
    In addition to reporting any misbehavior by the police, I hope that the ACLU has enough integrity to also publicly commend any officer that is recorded acting responsibility in a difficult situation. A little positive reinforcement can go a long ways.
    • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:43PM (#19611819) Journal
      Agreed, too few people give positive feeback, they only like to complain.

      I hope they also keep the cameras running to catch any criminals. They're the ones who terrorize neighborhoods and then scare possible witnesses into keeping silent.
    • by heresyoftruth (705115) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:48PM (#19611909) Homepage Journal
      In addition to reporting any misbehavior by the police, I hope that the ACLU has enough integrity to also publicly commend any officer that is recorded acting responsibility in a difficult situation. A little positive reinforcement can go a long ways.

      I don't agree. I am a nurse. I have seen other nurses out there that steal narcotics, make dangerous medical decisions, etc. Those nurses suck, and make the rest of us look bad. I don't think I should be commended for doing my job right just because there are those out there that do it badly. I am not a cop, and couldn't speak for them, but if someone tried to commend me for doing the right thing, I would be a bit disgusted. That's like saying, "Thanks for giving your patients those pain meds, instead of stealing them." or the cop equivalent, "Thanks for making that arrest without beating that guy to death." People should not be commended for doing what they are required to do by the job, and what should be a socially accepted standard of moral ethics.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shabbs (11692)
        Thanks for making that arrest without beating that guy to death.
        Almost. More like:

        "Thanks for making that arrest without beating that guy to death as he repeatedly tried to stab you and kill and bite you and spit on you and kick you while you made the arrest."

        There's doing your job, and then there's doing your job under horribly abusive conditions.

        Cheers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pendersempai (625351)
      Sort of like how prosecutors and police officers should publicly commend any citizens who do not break the law? It's not their job.
    • by rhakka (224319) on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:29PM (#19612555)
      Funny, I thought their job was to act responsibly in difficult situations?

      I will, and have, thanked officers personally for doing good work, because I appreciate it. But it's pretty ridiculous to even insinuate that an organization with a serious focus should waste its time and resources thanking people for doing their jobs.

      That would be the job of the police department itself, to recognize its own employees that do exemplary work, and reward them, not the ACLU's job, right? The ACLU's job is to make sure they do not abuse the additional power (and thus, additional responsibility) that has been accorded to them by the people they have power over.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:27PM (#19611611) Homepage
    What about privacy? Not of the police but of the person being stopped, questioned or possibly arrested?

    With other folks taking the suspect's picture it is going to become common for these photos to make their way onto the web and into TV news. So you now have even worse situations with "Look who got arrested today!!!" even when no arrest was made.

    Think about it - you are stopped by the police for going through a yellow light. No ticket issued, just a warning. Next day you find your very recognizable picture on some web page and half your co-workers think it is very funny. Of course the caption on the picture makes it seem like you are being hauled off to jail. Funny? Not when you have a public-facing job and people now believe you are "some kind of criminal." Even if all you do is work in a shoe store you are going to get canned if you spend more time explaining the picture than selling shoes.

    If you are a public figure how much do you think a picture of you being questioned by the police would be worth? To tabloid newspapers? To your opposing candidates in an election? Think these pictures won't be sold because "oh these are ACLU cameras" - think again.

    The only way this makes sense is with an underlying assumption that all police officers are violent thugs that need to be monitored constantly. If that is even remotely the case there are other ways of dealing with that problem than getting photographs and video of people being stopped or questioned by the police.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shihar (153932)
      All police officers DO need to be monitored constantly. I would be completely for mandating that every single police officer has a shoulder mounted camera that is always one when they are on the job. When you give someone the level of authority that a police officer gets, you also need to increase the monitoring. If you get wrongly abused by a police officer, most people are rightly terrified to do anything about it. Openly monitoring the people with the authority to use force is the only method of prev
    • Think about it - you are stopped by the police for going through a yellow light. No ticket issued, just a warning.

      Worse than that...if you are seen talking to the police for any reason.
      You are a witness at a traffic accident. One of your helpful neighbors is filming the scene, with you face to face with the cop. The video shows up the next day. Depending on how it was shot and edited, it could look quite bad.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BlackCobra43 (596714)
      ...so basically you'd want to prevent the widespread use of video cameras, ACLU or otherwise?... a bit too late for that my friend, most police cruisers come with a dashboard camera....a good number of stoplights have cameras....if you live in the UK, the damn street corners have cameras. They're already everywhere.
  • This is a great idea, though unfortunately this would be illegal in many states, including Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Not only would the tape be inadmissible, but you might end up in jail for surreptitious recording. It's happened...
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:37PM (#19611745) Homepage Journal
    The charges in the Pennsylvania case referenced in the posting have been withdrawn [cumberlink.com].


    From the article:

    "When police are audio- and video-recording traffic stops with notice to the subjects, similar actions by citizens, even if done in secret, will not result in criminal charges."

    The fact that this made the national news doesn't surprise me. This is Pennsylvania where our new state motto is:

    Doing our best to become the next New Jersey.

  • Anybody Else (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Friday June 22, 2007 @02:46PM (#19611863)
    If it were anybody other than the ACLU doing this, I'd be more in favor of it. I simply don't trust the ACLU to have my interests best in mind, nor have implemented it in an even, fair, or unbiased manner.

    This might even be an attempt to antagonize and create incidents with the police over the whole video taping issue, rather than a valid method of checks and balances. It wouldn't be the first time the ACLU has done such things.

    Nor was the incident cited in TFA the first time a citizen has gotten in trouble for video taping police against their wishes. Just a couple of years ago a man, in his home, on his property, using installed surveillance cameras covering his property, got arrested when he taped officers coming to his door. That's simply wrong!

    Of course, if you can manage to get away with the actual taping at the time, anyone with a video camera and YouTube can make their case without the ACLU at all.

    • To turn what some of our pro-oppression friends would like to say on its head: If the police have nothing to hide, then why should they mind being taped?

      Seriously, we all know that police brutality goes on. What we don't know is how much. Well, this is a way to find out. If these images end up on YouTube, great. They may be ugly, but this isn't something you sweep under the rug. Let's get it out there and get it stopped. If this does that, then it's a good thing.
    • Re:Anybody Else (Score:4, Interesting)

      by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:16PM (#19612353)
      Ummm, the ACLU pays more attention to your rights than YOU do! When most of the nitwits in this country were gleefully handing over their civil liberties via the Patriot Act, the ACLU was our champion. They're the ones who defend transgressions against us when YOU would be too blinded by snap judgment to see the indignity. When government wants to take away rights, it won't be in a landmark case against a nun. It will be against the terrorist, murderer or child molester. This is the organization that defended one of its biggest deriders in Rush Limbaugh simply because they view encroachments on our rights through an agnostic lens. Now, if you can cite an example to validate your distrust...
  • You attempt to "police the police".
    You are a defender of the U.S. Constitution.
    You are a lone individual.

    http://www.welfarestate.com/pamphlet/ [welfarestate.com]

    In other words, this program to record the police seems like a good way to get on the FBI's watchlist.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I support this move because I hope it will prove more officers to be in the right than in the wrong. Working as a STL city cop is a wretched job. The low pay and low respect goes without saying. The police officers work in incredibly dangerous parts of the city and are in real danger to their lives. A crackhead will not hesitate to take an officers life. If an officer takes physical action to protect him/herself then I think the public should understand that. However, if the officer(s) abuse power (ra
  • I can see it now . . . a brand new show in the time slot right after Cops. "America's Dirtiest Police Videos"

    In my opinion, this has as much of a chance of protecting citizen rights as it does to hinder legit police activities and responses to emergencies. Cops start paying more attention to the cameras and neglect the crime/crimals they were called to investigate and put themselves and others at risk.

    I'm all for accountability, but does the ACLU also provide similar equipment to folks so they can mon

  • There is a trial going on right now where a police officer shot an off-duty airman named Elio Carrion. Carrion was shot three times, but he managed to survive. Anyway, a man across the street got the shooting on tape, and it pretty clearly shows Carrion complying with instructions to get up off the ground when the officer shoots him. There's some pretty good coverage of the case here: http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_6200154 [dailybulletin.com]

    The officer's defense has been that he thought Carrion was reaching for a wea
  • This kind of "watching the watchers" project has been the work of the WITNESS [witness.org] project for several years.
  • by HerculesMO (693085) on Friday June 22, 2007 @03:56PM (#19612913)
    http://witness.org/ [witness.org]

    It's tailored more to finding local stories that impact you and report on them as an amateur, but has also been lent in the same way the ACLU is working now.

    I am a big fan of the police, but dirty cops make me sick to my stomach. If they have nothing to hide, they shouldn't worry about the cameras.
  • by jpellino (202698) on Friday June 22, 2007 @04:06PM (#19613041)
    Police issued huuuuuuge magnets.

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