On at least a monthly basis, there is a new story of someone legally taking photographs or video who gets harassed by a law enforcement officer without any cause. In some cases, it’s someone innocently taking photographs of a public landmark. In others, it’s a citizen recording a police action of a questionable nature such as this beating of a suspect by a police officer in St. Louis. In all of these cases, the right to freely photograph or record in public should be a given and is often protected by law. Unfortunately, police officers looking to cover up bad behavior often work with district attorneys zealous for convictions to bury people under obscure wiretapping statutes, all for having the audacity to want their own record of events.
A state senator in Connecticut has decided that this needs to stop and has filed an appropriate bill. It not only seeks to recognize the right of people to lawfully record a police action without interfering, but also establish clear civil liability against any officer who would dare to violate said right. As Radley Balko points out, this is kind of a big deal. Officers can (and regularly do) intimidate, harass, threaten, and arrest anyone who refuses to comply with the unlawful order to stop recording because there is no consequence for it. Establishing liability will likely be a suitable deterrent to these kinds of bullying.
I, however, don’t think this goes far enough. (more…)