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Growing Number of Prosecutions for Videotaping the Police (go.com)
398 points by mikecane on July 20, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 114 comments



There's just something massively wrong with "public servants" claiming they can't be photographed while performing a public service.

Bullshit. There would be no complaints if some of them weren't incriminating abusive cops.

Notice how many of the cases against photographing are in potential (or blatant) police-abuse situations. The public and the government should be applauding citizens for helping to maintain control, not punishing.


they should just turn around and hit them with:

- if you have nothing to hide, why do you care about being videotaped?

- we want you to be videotaped for your own protections...so that a scumbag citizen doesn't sue the department by making things up.


I agree completely. Taping and photographing policemen actions during service is a GOOD thing. Helps to control police abuse.


Yes, there would be complaints. Once they adjust to the video taping they will forget the tapes are there and act as they would anyway. The big difference comes because the douches would get caught sooner, as everyone would know a complaint would actually have merit.

The cynic in me worries that it would work out this way instead tho: As video of the cops being douches becomes commonplace, people just come to accept it, and it becomes difficult to file a complaint because the official response would be "oh cops are just douches, you shouldn't have gone outside if you cared". Worse, the public attitude would be the same, therefore not voting for, or even voting against, rules holding cops accountable.


I fear that as well, but if there's enough pressure, the "always on tape" mentality might win out, and good cops could get the recognition they deserve, as well as significantly more evidence (and more accurate - witnesses are pretty bad) for many crimes. If nothing else, it's better than the alternative; when it's your word vs a cop, who's going to be trusted? Disallowing this would encourage abusers.

Honestly, I see this as a publicly-run oversight committee. It should be hard to be a cop - a lot of power and respect goes with the title (typically). And if there are fewer abusers, that's likely to increase.


exactly...like that cop video that surfaced a little while ago of a cop freeing a dog that got caught on the fence and then when he went to his car he found it sitting in his seat.

it got that department a ton of positive publicity

right now the only times you hear about cops is when they do the bad stuff.


On the other hand, the plethora of police abuse videos is causing them to have much less impact. How many riots have we seen like the Rodney King incident? Even the response to the BART incident last year was relatively quiet. The issue around the individual's right to photograph the cops has garnered more attention.


Funny how "If you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to fear" only works when the authorities are recording what you say and do and not when you do the same to them.


And yet if someone records me in a public space, I wouldn't have a legal-leg to stand on if I tried to get them jailed / fined / whatever for doing so. Funny.


There is a huge difference between being monitored whilst performing your duty that you're being paid for by taxpayers and being spied upon in your own private life.



When its your word against that of a policeman, you've not got much hope. It pisses the police off when you introduce evidence which takes that advantage away from them. All of a sudden they can no longer fall back to lying to defend themselves.


The ACLU should make these cases a priority. I'd join again if they did.


Why'd you leave the ACLU?


The most recent time, because they sent me a deluge of junkmail. They seemed to have morphed into a marketing organization that also did some legal work. Maybe the problem was that I gave them more than the normal amount of money; maybe the more you give them the more mail they send you.


Actually this is a huge problem that regularly deters me (and my parents) from donating more. 95% of organizations view a single donation as an all-access pass to send junk mail, emails, and in many cases even phone calls with "updates" and requests for more money.

Sometimes I want to be able to say to organizations: "I would love to support your cause, but not if it means I have to deal with all your crap afterwards!"


Indeed. I'm on a small, limited fixed budget and I've found that the amount I can afford to donate to most non-profits is smaller than the amount they'll spend soliciting me afterwords before they give up.

I think that's just going to leave me donating money to my alma mater, which actually has to worry about it's overall budget (in a lot of non-profits someone's making serious money sending out all that stuff, e.g. the NRA's PR firm has outright captured it in a weird twist on public choice regulatory capture).


Many political organizations do this. The NRA will even call your house in the middle of dinner.

Is it ever possible to donate anonymously?


I sent them $50 two years ago, and I got swamped by mail. Definitely off putting.


The Maryland law is different from the law in other states. The article text reads, "A dozen states require all parties to consent before a recording is made if there is a 'reasonable expectation of privacy."" First of all, it's very dubious that a state law enforcement officer would consider himself to have an expectation of privacy while interacting with citizens in public places. Fortunately, most states have a more reasonable body of law (like mine) and allow any party to an interaction to record the interaction without permission of the other parties (which is also the rule of federal law on taping interstate telephone conversations, absent a more restrictive rule of state law). It's outrageous that members of the public can be prosecuted for recording the public activities of law enforcement officers. It is also unusual for such a prosecution to be possible.

After edit: Another HN thread a while back recommended the book Arrest-Proof Yourself: An Ex-Cop Reveals How Easy It Is for Anyone to Get Arrested, How Even a Single Arrest Could Ruin Your Life, and What to Do If the Police Get in Your Face

http://www.amazon.com/Arrest-Proof-Yourself-Ex-Cop-Reveals-A...

which I greatly enjoyed reading and which my son is reading this week. There is a lot of good information there about how and why to stay out of trouble with the police.


"Hat tip to him." (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1371363)

You're welcome; I'm very glad to learn that someone with your background believes it to be good (I don't have any formal legal or law enforcement background).


The UK equivalent:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jul/21/police-search...

According to the Terrorism Act you aren't allowed to take pictures of police if the pictures might be of use to a terrorist - which seems to have been translated into a blanket ban on taking any pictures.


I really hope that Maryland removes their law against recording public officials and adds a law against recording obnoxious public stunts. This particular case is a really bad example of the “war on photography” because the motorcyclist is not an innocent photographer but a traffic provocateur.

Like many, I've followed Radley Balko's articles for some time and have a growing sense of paranoia/constitutional outrage regarding false arrest. I think there are a couple of interesting phenomena here. Some folks may not like the two ideas below but I offer them as a conversation starter for understanding what is happening instead of just venting outrage (which is cool too).

1.) Growing ubiquity of recording equipment formerly thought of as "surveillance equipment.” In the not distant past, very small cameras were specialty equipment only available to certain people. In that time, the common thinking was that a person should have some highly-motivated intent for using such stuff because it was very expensive and if you weren't in law enforcement or a PI, then your use was probably not for good.

2.) Law is complex and large, so law enforcement uses some heuristic of propriety instead of actual laws. My impression is that law enforcement people contain a large but not all-encompassing menu of crimes and use some form of pattern matching to compare the behavior of other humans to this menu. Since it is inefficient to compare every rule to each encounter with other people, law enforcement people use the general feeling they get from an encounter to first signal that something is "wrong" and then guide them to a particular item from the crime menu or reach into the foggier area of laws off their personal menu.

Fitting idea 1 with idea 2, it makes sense that there would be an unofficial "war on recording" by law enforcement as the propriety value of the law heuristic is driven in part by cultural values which in turn are slowly influenced by technology. In this case, technology change has occurred more quickly than many people’s sense of probity.


This case isn't about a traffic provocateur; it's about a traffic provocateur being charged with wiretapping laws for taping his police encounter.

To be more exact, the problem is that instead of facing a speeding ticket or (at most) a misdemeanor traffic violation, he's going to have to fight a charge that could carry 16 years of imprisonment.


I'm friends with Carlos Miller who is mentioned in this article. He runs a blog "Photography Is Not a Crime" which has won him several awards. You'd be surprised how many people are getting harassed by cops after they document their encounters with them (outside of the prosecutions).


I wish I had ten upvotes for this. Or a hundred.

I love devil's advocate, so I'll say this just as a way of keeping things in perspective: not a lot of folks would want people videotaping everything they did at work and putting it on YouTube (along with criticisms) I know it would drive me nuts.

Society as a whole is going to have to go through some major contortions as people get their heads wrapped around the idea that everything -- and I mean everything -- is going to be digitized and recorded. Cops are pushing back first, but I expect lots more professions to have problems with this as well. A huge shift is going to be that most folks are going to learn exactly what policing is all about. Overall I think this is going to be good, but hell if I'd want to have to live through the changes if I were a policeman.


not a lot of folks would want people videotaping everything they did at work

Did you know if you get a Top Secret clearance, you have to have anything related to your work release reviewed for the rest of your life? Being awarded privileges by the government comes with additional responsibility. Videotaping the police is the same as monitoring people who work with classified information; it's just part of the job. If someone is uncomfortable with that s/he should find a different job.


I was thinking that the law may only apply to audio recordings as security cameras without such recordings are able to record without breaking the law. So the reality is they are already subject to the similar levels of monitoring.

PS: If that's the case it seems like cop/cam might be a marketable product.


> you have to have anything related to your work release reviewed for the rest of your life

I'm not sure that this is true.


I don't know about that, but you do see notices all the time that say things like,

"Use of this or any other DoD interest computing system constitutes consent to monitoring at all times. . . information placed in this system is not subject to any expectation of privacy."

It just comes with the territory. Some jobs are more private, some are more public. Bank tellers, customer service reps, talk show hosts, members of Congress. They all get recorded routinely while working, and for different reasons.

Seems to me police interactions are a natural thing to make part of the public record.


That's true of any job: if it's their hardware they can do what they want with it. Tons of jobs have similar monitoring policies.


Unlike bank tellers, customer service reps, and cops, talk show hosts and members of Congress often seek those careers largely because of the public attention involved, not in spite of it.


I can confirm it. Anything you want to release that is even tangentially related to cleared work needs to go through the gov't first to vet it for classified info.


That's not true for life and not true just because you have a TS. It is true for certain compartmentalized programs and their ilk, but a GENSER TS does not bear this responsibility. It merely acknowledges that you've had a NAC and an SSBI performed - nothing more.


> not a lot of folks would want people videotaping everything they did at work

Not a lot of folks carry lethal weapons as part of their job. Not a lot of folks can land you in jail as part of their job. As the ones authorized to use violence and lethal force in order to do their jobs, they should be subject to additional scrutiny.


I think we all, given a few minutes of reflection, would be glad that we're not judged on a 30 second edited video highlights reel of the worst decisions we've ever made. Particularly not one which stripped the context out of the video.

That said, I'm much less concerned about videotaping cops on the street and more concerned with VPI -- videotaped police interrogations. Unlike videotaping cops on the street, they'd mostly be to the benefit of poor & minority suspects rather than tech-savvy twentysomethings who enjoy protesting as a lifestyle. The imposition on the cops is minimal (since the interrogation is theoretically under their control) and the justice gains are huge, and this can be compellingly sold to the cops as in their best interests. (You'll clear more cases with less court time because routine videos of lying perps will cause most of them to take the freaking deal like you want them to.)


You know, I want every cop to wear a video recorder. I want this for accountability reasons, both as a protection to the ops, and as a protection to me. Of course I too don't want to be judged on a 30 second edited video, so I demand the right of "turnabout is fair play" and have me and others video tape the same cop at the same time. If the videos don't match, there is some 'splainin' to do.


I hadn't thought about videotaping interrogations. Interesting.

Perhaps the question is: what parts of police activity shouldn't be videotaped and published, and why? Undercover busts maybe. You can't spend five years growing a policeman into what looks like a drug dealer only to have him outed on YouTube in ten seconds. Or do we get rid of all undercover police work?

Need to think about that some more.


Stop making the consumption of drugs illegal, and it's no longer necessary to have a policeman that looks like a drug dealer.


Even if you make drugs legal, we still need undercover operations to deal with criminal organisations. What about the groups that kill people for money, or extort 'protection money', or groups that rob banks? Unless you want to make murder, arson and theft legal, you need to go undercover in these groups.


Two things:

1. I'm not saying that drugs themselves have to be legal. I think our current policy of punishing drug use is the bad thing. If drugs are to be illegal, the sensible thing is to punish production and sale. Then you can develop a dynamic where a user who wants to get clean can get some kind of reward for turning in a dealer. Then dealing becomes less attractive because there's a higher likelihood of being caught. Rehab the users, punish the providers makes more sense to me than Just punish everyone.

2. The original point was the idea that it might be a bad idea to video tape undercover officers. I think we've managed to stray from that a bit. I don't think we should concern ourselves with worrying about such video taping: either the criminal organization already cares about such things and can get that information readily, or they don't care and getting video taped once isn't going to change anything. Getting outed as an undercover agent pretty much destroys your chance to do that again, anyways, regardless of the presence of video taping (which I wouldn't expect to actually happen much in practice in these kinds of cases).


It's impossible even in principle to distinguish users from dealers. Users are constantly selling or giving drugs to each other, whether for a small profit, for mutual convenience, or to be friendly. They can't just introduce new people to their dealers because dealers don't want to meet lots of new people. If you put a bounty on dealers, people who are really just users will constantly be caught up and punished.

That is what happens today. Professional informants are paid to buy drugs and get the seller arrested for dealing. But because it's not that easy to find real dealers, they more often convince other users to sell to them. Someone who doesn't normally deal gets hit with a dealing charge.

As to the matter of videotaping undercover drug cops: this is really nothing to worry about. Drug dealers are not video taping their transactions. Citizen videotaping is something people do when they don't think they are doing anything wrong and they want evidence of possible police wrongdoing.


Then dealing becomes less attractive because there's a higher likelihood of being caught.

When there's no legal repercussion for turning in your dealer, only the most marginal and violent types will bother to be drug dealers, raising the price and violence of drug dealing, I would expect.


>What about the groups that kill people for money, or extort 'protection money', or groups that rob banks? Unless you want to make murder, arson and theft legal, you need to go undercover in these groups.

You watch too many movies. Such groups are extraordinarily rare, and it's even rarer that they'd be around long enough to actually infiltrate. The only real examples are organized crime, and almost universally a "man inside" is not an undercover cop, but a former member who's changed sides.


On-going investigations, like on-going military operations and the like, should be kept secret until they're finished. But they should be recorded and documented all the same. (And there should be limits so you can't say that a 50-year-old operation is 'on-going' or some such nonsense.)


Videotaping police interrogations is routine in my state, just as private citizens recording their own activities and interactions with other people (with or without the consent of the other parties in the interaction) is routine. The practice of routinely videotaping police interrogations in my jurisdiction seems to help considerably with the administration of criminal justice.


I think the issue is that at some point those videos are destroyed, and the only thing left from the interrogation is the police officers' notes and/or memory (and that of the suspect and/or their lawyer).


I wish all cars came with black boxes and 360-degree video coverage so that we could voluntarily supply this information. People lie when they get into a fender bender. (Note: if you live in a neighborhood where people key cars, either stop parking like a douche or you need to move to a better neighborhood. If people feel free to vandalize in a place, they'll also do other crime.)

I'd pay $300 for a device I could just forget about until I needed it. If I recall correctly, video cameras without sound do not violate most wiretapping laws.


I started sketching notes for this a couple years back. Some stupid parking lot altercation where someone started lying.. With the costs of flash and cameras becoming so inexpensive and the amount of wireless access around (GSM or Wifi) I was thinking you Tivo style record like 2 to 8 hours of video just with a circular buffer then if a triggering event happens (hazard button pressed, the record button pressed, a crash is detected, air bags deploy, the alarm triggers.. there are others) you store the video from the circular buffer and store live recorded until told not to. Then when you can contact the internet via wifi or possibly gsm, start off loading the video to some server. It seems like onstar already has most of the hard stuff done, they just need some dvr type stuff. 2 cameras in a dome light like area could pretty much cover 270 to maybe a full 360 degree view of the car. I'd guess it's like $1000, just from some past experiences, which isn't terribly unreasonable.

On the server there are 2 ways to access the video, the owner's password or a law enforcement key that could be accessed with proper court documents.

The other thing I was thinking, it's clearly an owner protection device but if you had some sort of encoded radio signal like they use to change the traffic signal lights. All of the cars in an area could be used to help when there is an Amber alert or some major crime was happening.

For a moving violation like that, why does a gun need to be drawn? Was there a threat of violence or just stupidity? The motorcyclist stopped on his own, right?


For a moving violation like that, why does a gun need to be drawn? Was there a threat of violence or just stupidity? The motorcyclist stopped on his own, right?

I'm a mild-mannered introvert. I have a rust belt near-midwest accent and the benefit of an east-coast Ivy League education. Yet, I have had traffic cops escalate levels of hostility on me even though I am doing my level best to be polite and cooperative. I've also noted that some policemen like to arbitrarily order you around, even when you aren't causing trouble. I've read something about problem steroid use in police causing mood disorders and excess aggression, and this seems to fit very well. I also suspect that this is also connected with my having long hair and being non-white.


If there's going to be a camera in my car, it's going to be under my control, not remotely accessible by a third party who may or may not be police on a legitimate investigation.


All of the cars in an area could be used to help when there is an Amber alert or some major crime was happening.

I'm envisioning huge video walls like in The Dark Knight...


I had a teenage girl rear-end my car and total it back in the 90s. I was pulling out on to a 4-lane road at night in an underpowered car, she was 1/3 mile away. She dropped her cell phone about the time I pulled out, so she never even saw me, even though I was in her lane for ten seconds or more.

She slammed into me at about 65. I was doing maybe 30. It was a hell of a wreck. Thank the stars nobody got hurt.

At the time she was very apologetic, humbled, and embarrassed. She was crying -- it was quite a sight. The trooper wrote her up, and I gently made sure the trooper noted that she said this was her fault.

Three months later when the court date came, it was a different girl. By then she had convinced herself that we were at fault -- she was not speeding or doing anything wrong, we had pulled out in front of her without giving her time to slow down

I honestly think she didn't feel like she was lying. Memory is just a funny thing.

I wish we had one of the cams you're talking about. Seems like there is a tremendous need for them (hint! hint!)


Something similar happened to me. Get into a situation with a hot-headed cop, a cute shaken looking young woman, and things might not be so favorable for impartial justice. (She was trying to pass me on the right, when I was already in the right lane, by driving over the demarcated roadside parking spaces.)

Better if I don't think about it too much.


I honestly think she didn't feel like she was lying. Memory is just a funny thing.

She may not have been, at least as far as she knew. Memory is a funny thing.

Memories are malleable when they're active -- when the event has just happened, and each time it's recalled thereafter. They can be expanded or changed if new information is prevented, especially when it comes authority figures... such as alternate theories from parents in denial that their little girl could be so careless. Each time a memory is recalled is an opportunity for it to change, and surely she remembered it many many times over those three months.

Another thing is that as memories change, they tend to become more ordinary ('schematic', in psychology lingo). Dropping your cell phone and plowing into a car is not a normal thing, but people get cut off all the time. It's easy to imagine something like that happening, so it's natural that the memory would change to fit a scenario like that.

It's not directly related, but to give you an idea of how radically memories can be changed, this is a video talking about a study where they created a memory from scratch. It's called the 'lost in the mall' study, and it's a fairly famous study in memory research: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQr_IJvYzbA


Wiretapping laws only apply to places and scenarios where one could have a reasonable assumption of privacy. As long as you're not driving through my bedroom, you're all right with me.


Not true in Illinois, where they explicitly made it illegal to tape cops. Although in all fairness the state laws on wiretapping are designed to protect the guilty (e.g. only the Feds can secretly legally wiretap anyone in the state).


I'm operating under the optimistic assumption that the Illinois statues will eventually be found unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court.


One hopes so, but as you stated it ("Wiretapping laws only apply...") this is demonstrably not true. Case law in Massachusetts is also unambiguous in twisting the "on it's face" potentially reasonable law into a law like that in Illinois (the MA courts are fond of this sort of thing). It remains to be seen what the Maryland courts do, especially since this case happened about the same time as a notable police brutality incident where it was only a citizen's video that allowed the truth to prevail.

And I've seen enough authority friendly atrocities, ones that don't break down neatly along 4-1-4 "conservative"-"Kennedy"-"liberal" lines, that I'm not even close to 100% sure the Supremes will do the right thing, assuming they even deign to hear such a case.

(On the other hand, the two cases I was most thinking of, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudson_v._Michigan and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelo_v._City_of_New_London do break down that neatly ... except the sides flip. I would cite http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McConnell_v._Federal_Election_C... but I don't even want to start to break down who voted how.)


You're absolutely right. My broad generalization was terrible legal advice, especially for those in Massachusetts.

That said, anyone who takes legal advice from a photographer/developer on an internet forum deserves what they get.


Ah, you raise a good point, as far as I know the Illinois state law hasn't passed state judicial scrutiny, although it surely will have a chance at that in the near future (unless the prosecutors of one particular case punt). Whereas in Massachusetts it is settled law and the only recourse is an appeal to the Federal courts.


Society as a whole is going to have to go through some major contortions as people get their heads wrapped around the idea that everything -- and I mean everything -- is going to be digitized and recorded.

That is precisely one of the things that give me the shivers about the society today. I understand Mr. Graber's motivation. I also agree wholeheartedly that the "reasonable expectation of privacy" rule has to be applied consistently, i.e. if a police officer can videotape me over the course of his or her work, then I should be allowed to videotape that officer.

That said, what gives me the shivers is that our expectations of privacy, in general, seem to be sliding down a slippery slope of justified surveillance. The first time I read "1984", I was still in school (not even university yet) and it etched itself onto my mind precisely because it's so damn plausible. Everyone would love to think it's impossible because "we would never stand for it", but things keep changing slowly.

A commonplace example is your workplace, where your employer can monitor all your activities on their computers (and I mean all, not just network communication), record your business phone calls or videotape you. Also, it has become commonplace to have to do a drug test when applying for a job.

Another example is the highway toll system here in Santiago, Chile. Certain highways require you to have a device installed in your car to transit them. Instead of waiting in line at a toll booth, your device communicates with a gate under which your car passes and your billed monthly. Every gate also has cameras to record cases of infractions, when a car without the device passes under the gate.

Sure, there are laws and rules that control how all this information can be used. Yet it keeps creeping me out to think that this information is available to multitude of people. Now that information of all sorts can be shared easily and readily on a global scale, it seems even scarier. Now you can be embarrassed, humiliated, falsely accused or harassed literally in front of the whole world.

What creeps me out even more is that our expectations of privacy seem to be eroding slowly. If we're so indifferent to being under surveillance in public or at work because it makes it easier to prove who's right and who's wrong, why does it seem so implausible that in some future we would accept the same things in our homes? After all, wouldn't it help cut down on domestic violence and child abuse?

I hope I'm not coming across as a borderline paranoid nutjob, but I just felt the need to address the issue.


> I also agree wholeheartedly that the "reasonable expectation of privacy" rule has to be applied consistently, i.e. if a police officer can videotape me over the course of his or her work, then I should be allowed to videotape that officer.

The rules for recording police should not be symmetrical. Anyone should be allowed to record police, but the police should not be allowed to record without good cause.

Recording police serves the same function as the press, the right to bear arms, and the right to due process and a jury trial: it keeps the government under the control of the people. The police recording the public serves the opposite end, it enables the police (government) to control the people.

An analogous situation is recording legislative hearings. We expect to be able to watch our politicians pass laws in the legislature. We want to keep an eye on them. But we don't allow the government to install cameras in our workplaces.


The problem we have here is that new technologies generally reach an equilibrium at some point. The fallacy is to assume that present technology trends always continue.

In the 50s they thought the future would be nuclear everything.

In the 30s they thought the future would be flying everything.

At the turn of the century they thought the future would be electric everything.

During the industrial revolution they thought the future would be steam everything.

Only this time we think the future will be information everything.


Actually, electric everything has arrived.


I'm still waiting for my car to plug into the wall :\

At least they're on their way towards actual production. Again.


Yes, our cars are still seldom moved by electricity. But there are still lots and lots of electric gadget in a modern car.


Is it possible that the difference between 1984 and the world into which we could be moving is that Big Brother recorded all motions and activities of the citizenry, but the reverse wasn't true?

Perhaps that's where balance lies.


It's not paranoia... it's justified. The problem is - there is no clear solution. Technology is going to advance.... and it's a fact of life that there are going to, one way or the other, be cheap, high-res, always-on recording devices all over the place, public and private, for some reason or other. I'm not talking conspiracy theory or anything here..... just that the technology is only going get cheaper and cheaper, and the world more and more networked - so we need to make some decisions as a society as to how we're gong to deal with that on all kinds of fronts - personal privacy being one.


Don't sound like a nut-job to me.

It's insane the degree to which people are willing to record and distribute every little bit of their lives. And by insane, I don't mean a good thing.

The techno-wonks will tell you that it's all evolving to some kind of wonderful singularity nirvana.

But do we really want to become The Borg? Because either we either fiercely keep our lives and thoughts private and personal, or we share everything. Right now there's middle ground, but it's eroding quickly.

Seriously. I don't think most people have a clue to how they are giving up their personalities and inner lives or what impact this is going to have on the world.

It's like boiling the frog. Each year we share more and more -- first blogs, then tweets, then FB status updates, then location-aware tweets. Soon it will be lifetime webcams that you wear. Each little step folks come out and try to say something like "gee! It's getting hot in here! The water is going to boil!" but then they get shot down with a variation of 1) it's just a small change, and 2) it does more good than harm.

Water's going to boil soon, folks. Hope you like it that way. 'Cause there is no stopping it.

(It's like if we all got super-powers over the space of 50 years. People think super-powers would rock, but in reality the world would go into the shitter. People would be flying all over the place, knocking of banks, etc. It would be a catastrophe. But it would happen so slowly that there wouldn't really be a moment that you could point your finger at and say there! There is the place where we crossed the line. It's always little good, little bad, works for some folks, sucks for others, etc)

It may be a great thing that we're moving towards. But it's not going to be human.


I think you're exaggerating a bit here. First off, the frog thing is a myth. If you ever actually try to boil a frog you will find that no matter how slowly you do it, it eventually gets uncomfortable and jumps out.

Stupid people do stupid things. Always have and always will. The difference now is just the scale and how far their stupidity can travel.

If you get off on worrying a more interesting thing to worry about is what role governments are going to play. The more technologically we advanced the less we need them. Of course they don't like this at all. Today we've been saved because they (a) haven't fully grasp what e.g. the internet means and (b) where they have, they haven't been "tech savvy" enough to do anything about it. Both of these will change in time. What's going to happen when they decide to try and roll everything back a few notches after we've all gotten used to the convenience?

Personally I think it will work out in the end because it always has so far (and I can't do much about it in any case) but my scenario has more potential for trouble than yours I think.


Honestly I believe we don't even have any alternatives. We are becoming Borg (or something Borg-like) because that's what we're dreaming of since the dawn of time - think of all the illusions of becoming one with God, universe and each other we conjured up for ourselves.

The mere idea of omnipotent God is enough for us to labor until we manage to create one. And I believe it will be achieved through Brain Computer Interfaces and massive networking. We won't be able to retain our individuality if our population keeps on increasing - something will have to give. Also I believe this will be a golden age of Man.

However I won't be one of the first to get BCI and I will also resist sharing my privacy with total strangers as long as humanely possible. Why? Because nobody can be trusted and I enjoy being unknown.


It may not be human, but I think if you think it's inevitable then you have a responsibility to try and make it as humane as possible. From my perspective, intelligence enhancement and some cognitive re-architecture to remove the bad parts of human psyche can lead to bad places, but only if we allow the non-augmented people to dictate silly rules and regulations. I also don't think we can draw a very strong parallel to the Borg. (They are too imperfect, mere sci-fi creations. :) I don't want to downplay the potential risks, since there are numerous ones, but come on:

> Water's going to boil soon, folks. Hope you like it that way. 'Cause there is no stopping it.

If you really believe that, then are you just waving your arms and one day you can point back at this post and say "See? I saw it coming."? It still baffles me how much people accept things that are bad (for example, death) with no hope of changing them.


I suggest watching the movie The Final Cut with Robin Williams. It considers a world where parents pay to have organic PVRs implanted into their unborn children's brains. Every waking moment or dream is recorded, and the children are told when they reach 21 years old. The ostensible purpose of the implants is for video eulogies.


Humanity has always been in a state of transition in the last million years or so. You mean to say we can't call the next iteration of humans 'Homo Singularitus'?


Hey, I walk down the street and there are private security cameras. I don't feel put upon. The cops are being paid to do a job. WE are their employers. If WE want to tape them, we damn well should be able to -- hell, not "able" to, it's our RIGHT. FYI: I'm in NYC, where the cops are notorious for refusing to give their names or shield numbers and have perfected a jig to move around and prevent people from reading their shield IDs. And also, during protests, they're outright covering them up with tape.

EDIT for a bad sentence structure. And then a typo.


not a lot of folks would want people videotaping everything they did at work and putting it on YouTube

It comes down to reasonable expectation of privacy. If anyone is doing work in a public place, it doesn't matter if they are police officers or trash collectors, they don't have any expectation of privacy.

The 1984 comparisons are bogus. 1984 was about total surveillance as one of many tools of a totalitarian regime. The cameras in 1984 weren't just out in public, they were in everyone's homes.

If you want to do anything privately, do it in a reasonably private place. Problem solved.


If not for the liberal use of cameras the world would never have heard of Neda in Iran. The US is effectively on a path to making it illegal to spread truth... maybe it is just a small sliver of truth. But I would rather be judged on that small sliver of truth than end up in a situation where it is my word against a police officer.

It's an interesting question though.


Being a police officer is a tough job. It should be a tough job, it comes with a huge amount of responsibility and an enormous capacity for abuse of power.

As it turns out though, there is an easy way to avoid the difficulties of police work, and that is choosing a different career.


I used to think Steve "wearable PC" Mann was a crackpot, but his sousveillance [1] argument is making more and more sense.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sousveillance


Funny you should say that, I've always thought of him as being ahead of his time. When I read snowcrash I immediately linked the 'gargoyle' character with Steve Mann.


Doesn't this mean a defense attorney could get publicly recorded video or audio evidence thrown out on the grounds that it was illegal wiretapping?


Why can't they separate the audio?


wow 16 years for filimng a police officer who is handing him a ticket! and that guy is in armed forces, good luck with keeping morale of your troops high.


16 years is about what he'd get if he killed the officer instead!


no in that case they would execute him by a firing squad and tweet about it (sick)


My experience with the legal system has been limited to a handful of vehicular violations and one tour of jury duty. But from that limited perspective, I cannot see why the justice system should minimize useful facts.

Apart from the laws that protect other rights incompatible with perfect knowledge.... As a maxim, justice should never hide from evidence.


Isn't there some kind of law that citizens have right to record public servant on duty?

In Poland you can record policeman on duty (provided that he does not work under cover at the time). Also police cannot routinely record you during for example being pulled over to check your driving licence.

That said practice is that policemen routinely record citizens on such occasions and try to make life miserable for the people who record them by even arresting them on false pretenses.


If they're in a public place the police should be just like anyone else when it comes to taking photos or videos. The Ian Tomlinson case is the best example I can think of which demonstrates why videoing police activities can serve an important civic purpose. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Ian_Tomlinson


Was the camera obscured - as it appears to be? In which case I can kinda see the issue they have (i.e. unaware of being filmed). That seems different from most of the other cases where the filming was pretty overt.

Still; it is an extremely bad reaction even so.

The thing that shocked me most was.... he drew his gun. Are things really that bad that a traffic stop requires a drawn weapon? Jesus :(


I saw an interview with with Mr. Graber on the local news - the camera was in clear view of the officer. A pic of the helmet he was wearing at the time can be found in this article...

http://carlosmiller.com/2010/04/16/maryland-motorcyclist-spe...


Oh blimey :D ok then I retract that comment!


edit: danhood found a pic of the camera + helmet, and it fits compared to the video (IMO). Not obscured at all (also IMO). Go give them the points :)

----- original comment below -----

Obscured: probably. It's a helmet-camera, so it's likely small, and may not appear as such at first glance.

But still. One's behavior should not change when being recorded, especially not a cop.


More police are killed during routine traffic stops than during any other activity in the US. So yes things are sadly that bad.

The last time I was pulled over for a traffic violation the officer refused to shake my hand because he needed it free to be able to draw his weapon(or so he claimed).


A statistic I'd be much more interested in seeing would be police fatalities by incident type normalized by the number of incidents

I feel like traffic stops are also a disproportionately high number of police actions.


Yes, which means if they do something that seems outrageously silly because it only would matter the 0.0001% of the time they pull over a psycho, they're actually protecting themselves. It's like wearing a helmet -- you do it all the time for the one time you crash.


You also tend to show your badge, so you don't appear like just an angry person who cut you off and jumped out of their car with a gun. (have not heard audio for it, it's possible they said something, but it didn't look like it, nor was there really time to say anything of consequence prior to the gun coming out)

Depending on the area, yes, go for your gun. But don't lead into a situation with it - I'd be willing to bet it makes things worse, and it certainly comes off as hugely off-scale.


Yeah, I watched the video after posting that comment, and yeah, I agree the way he jumped out with a gun made him look like a crazy stickup man or something.

I don't agree with this dude getting prosecuted for releasing the video tape, either -- just saying, it's a dangerous job, and cops aren't perfect but sometimes they're right to be careful.


I think this would be a good distinction that we don't have in our current black and white ("private" or "public") perception of the privacy. It is one thing to be knowingly recorded (even if without consent) and quite another to be secretly recorded. The law doesn't seem to care but there are definitely situations where this distinction is important.


I'm surprised that no one bad mentioned this: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-hc298/show.

HC RES 298 is directly related to this issue. If you have a congressman on the House Judiciary Committee, you should be chewing his ear off on the phone, by email, or better still in person!


That bill carries no legal weight; it's an opinion, not a law.



Why being able to tape the cops matters. One of the most popular posts on a prior blog I did: http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/02/12/steroid-rage-vi...


An employer is allowed to monitor and record employees at the place of work. Applying to police - public is allowed to monitor and record police on public property.


Are there any states with laws in place to explicitly protect citizens from this kind of abuse?


Never talk to police. Let a criminal lawyer or some competent authority do the talking for you.


Small thing I was noticing, that at least one of the comments to an article[1] makes reference to. The police officer outside of uniform pulled a gun on a man on a bike. In states where citizens are allowed to have equivalent force against an attacker, that police officer could have been shot because he was, as seen in the video, "some dude that jumps out of a car, pulls a gun and says nothing of his being a cop". He is very fortunate, however unwise in that situation. I do hope he learns from it and is removed if this sort of habit is found again.

[1] http://carlosmiller.com/2010/04/16/maryland-motorcyclist-spe...


These prosecutions aren't just wrong, they're un-American. How police and prosecutors sworn to uphold the law can abuse it to this extent boggles the mind.


The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, so it unfortunately looks very American. (If "American" refers to the US alone.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_incarceration_rat...


Indeed. The US laws at various levels are riddled with outdated laws, some centuries old, which can often be conservative enough to do the Taliban proud. At their discretion, the police can decide to enforce one of these on you, which gives them arbitrary power to oppress anyone who pisses them off enough.


Good grief - that's almost 1%. I thought the UK rate was rather high but that's about five times more!


The cops in all these cases should be charged with treason.


Great article. But for Reddit, not HN.


Two years ago this would have been the top comment.




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