Bearing in mind...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bearing in mind...

...that Long Island is not part of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, there was an interesting decision this week that is likely going to have an impact on how police conduct them­selves in the field.

In Glik v. Cunniffe, the court ruled that the United States Constitution protects the right of citizens to videotape police officers making an arrest.

The background

Simon Glik, a citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts while walking past the Boston Common one night in 2007, observed three officers arresting a young man. After hearing a witness say, "you are hurting him, stop," and concerned that the officers might be using excessive force, Glik began videotaping the activity on his cell' 'phone.

One of the officers asked Glik if he was record­ing audio, and when Glik replied in the affir­mative, the officer arrested him and charged him with violating the state's wiretap law.

After the charge1 was dismissed, Glik began a 1983 Civil Rights action, asserting that his free speech rights had been violated.

For their part, the officers asserted they were immune from the suit because they were act­ing in their official capacity.

The United States District Court in Massa­chu­setts sided with Glik, and the First Circuit up­held that decision, noting...

"Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be dis­seminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest."

There's a number of cops who aren't going to be pleased with the way this turned out.

I can think of three off-hand:

  1. Here in Suffolk County earlier this month: "News photographer arrested on Long Island for videotaping police"
  2. Upstate in June: "Rochester Woman Arrested After Videotaping Police From Her Own Front Yard"
  3. March in Nevada: "Police beating of Las Vegas man caught on tape"

It would seem that "lawful orders" issued by police don't much matter anymore... any police orders are to be obeyed, forthwith and without question.

Cartman: "Respect my authoritah!"

Used to be that no one would ever argue with a badge and a gun, but somewhere along the line that authority began to be abused.

I encountered it in Quogue one Sunday after­noon about seven years ago as we were taking the "back road" to the New Moon Café, and happened upon some sort of incident at the LIRR crossing across from the Wildlife Refuge.

To this day I don't know what occurred, only that two distressed teenage girls were seated by the LIRR tracks next to their bicycles, the police were there and a Quogue Fire Depart­ment vehicle was arriving.

Whatever it was, it looked like it was photo-worthy.

The younger of the two officers on the scene, didn't directly dispute that, he just prevented me from taking a photo by imposing himself several feet from me, between my lens and what may have been a news photo.

I asked him why he was doing this on a public thoroughfare, and his answer was very direct:

"I don't think it's right for you to be taking a photo of this, that's all."

O well, in that case....

I made note of his badge number, and continued on our way.

The next morning Lieutenant Chris Isola intercepted my path to see Chief Coughlan, and when I explained what I saw as the problem, he didn't see it that way.

"I don't know all the circumstances, but the officers were in charge of the scene and you made the right choice to leave."

And then I remembered... this was Quogue.

I thanked him for seeing me and returned home, carefully obeying all the traffic signs.

Note
  1. The police would've done better charging Glik with Mopery with Intent to Gawk.

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