Why It’s Important for Us to Be Able to Photograph the Police

FOXNews.com – Straight Talk: Videotaping Police – Opinion Radley Balko has an op/ed piece up this morning talking about the importance of us being able to photograph the police.

He cites several examples of abuse by police including last month’s altercation between Brian Kelly and the Carlisle, PA police where Kelly spent 26 hours in jail after videotaping the police on a routine traffic stop, as well as a recent case involving Carlos Miller that I also reported on.

He also points to more serious abuse cases like the one of Eugene Siler, who was beaten and tortured by five sheriff’s in Tennessee. Fortunately for Siler his wife had surreptitiously switched on a tape recorder when this was going on.

Now I think most cops are honest cops. Some of my best friends are cops. There are cops in my family. Most cops are good cops. But there are bad cops too. And it is important that proper police training takes place so that police officers unequivocally *know* that they should not protest their being photographed in public. The courts have ruled on this already. It is an important first amendment right. And cops that get caught persecuting photographers? Well, they should get the book thrown at them.

It is important that we all as the new long tail photo journalists of the world retain this important right.

Balco says it best here:

“As noted, police are public servants, paid with taxpayer dollars. Not only that, but they’re given extraordinary power and authority we don’t give to other public servants: They’re armed; they can make arrests; they’re allowed to break the very laws they’re paid to enforce; they can use lethal force for reasons other than self-defense; and, of course, the police are permitted to videotape us
without our consent.

It’s critical that we retain the right to record, videotape or photograph the police while they’re on duty. Not only for symbolic reasons (when agents of the state can confiscate evidence of their own wrongdoing, you’re treading on seriously perilous ground), but as an important check on police excesses. In the age of YouTube, video of police misconduct captured by private citizens can have an enormous impact.”

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2 Comments

  1. CJPhoto says:

    I agree that this is an issue that needs to be looked at and pursued.

    People need to learn that image theif is not ok.

    You are never going to stop people doing it in private (much like MP3).

    Businesses however need to learn that if they do it, and use it in a way to make money (whether selling it directly or using it as a background photo in an advert), that they will get caught and there will be severe punishment.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well said, Tom.