*You can hardly go anywhere these days in a public setting without being videotaped. It happens in grocery stores, restaurants and even on busy street intersections equipped with video surveillance.
Most of these video cameras are either controlled by or accessed by local law enforcement agencies. Nobody asked your permission, and if they did put it to a municipal vote local residents agreed to give up some of their privacy for the greater good of security for the masses.
But some law enforcement departments don’t want to reciprocate. They want to have the right to record you, but they don’t want you to have the right to record them. State legislators are trying to get laws passed to make it illegal for anyone to record police in the line of duty. Previously they focused on changing laws to make it easier to prosecute protesters, but that was unsuccessful after James Fields used his car to ram protesters in Charlottesville 2017 killing Heather Heyer, public opinion changed in favor of protesters. Fields later was convicted of murder and is serving time.
Just since May, protesters and the media have recorded countless incidents of police bullying, beating and the unlawful use of deadly force against unarmed citizens. In some cases cops involved in these incidents later were found to have lied on reports after videos revealed what really happened. And that’s just since May after a teenage girl used her cell phone to record the modern-day lynching of George Floyd’s during Memorial Day weekend. Many millions of people have viewed Floyd’s murder video. His death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer while other cops either helped to restrain Floyd who was unarmed or they stood guard while he was killed has been the spark for thousands of protests in the United States and around the world!
That Floyd video also helped other cases of unjustified use of deadly force by police come to public attention, including Breonna Taylor’s shooting death in Kentucky, Daniel Prude’s death in New York, Trayford Pellerin in Louisiana, Elijah McClain’s death in Colorado and Jacob Blake’s shooting in Wisconsin just to five. The way bully, liar, killer cops treat Black people in America and those protesting against injustices done to us, isn’t new. People being able to watch it on video has brought more attention to the issue. Now law enforcement wants to use state wire-tapping laws to curb your right to record them.
These wire-tapping laws were created to protect the personal privacy of citizens when it comes to their personal interactions. Some states have what’s called a one-party consent law to record. That one person can be a part of the conversation and is the person recording it or they know they are being recorded. Or the conversation could be overheard in a public setting – such as a speech being made – and someone records it. Other states have a two-party consent law whereby the person recording and the person being recorded both must consent to being recorded.
Law enforcement in those two-party states claim they didn’t give their permission to be recorded, therefore making it illegal. That’s why some cops try to scare you during traffic stops or during protests by telling you to stop recording them. Or when you’re a concerned citizen who is recording cops who stop others they might tell you it’s against the law to record them. But when someone is acting as public servants conducting police business in the line of duty they cannot revoke their permission to be recorded. When they tell you it’s illegal, they are lying. It’s your right to record them. Keep doing it!
The real reason they don’t want you to record them is because – just like when you turn on the lights in a dark room and roaches scatter – these bully, liar, killer cops don’t want anyone to see what they’re doing when nobody is watching!
Some people even have been arrested for what’s being called interference of police duties or whatever name they attach to it. And while nobody wants to get arrested – especially when you had no illegal intent – the charges won’t hold up in court. It’s your right to record. And frankly, your willingness to stand up to the underbelly of law enforcement is necessary. We need each other to keep shining a light in the darkness.
Some politicians and law enforcement officers and their union representatives routinely label protesters as terrorists to instill fear in the general population and to (1) influence others not to exercise their right to protest and (2) to intimidate the general populace when it comes to voting to keep certain people in control. Don’t let people push you around. Know your rights and exercise your rights! Applied knowledge is power!
Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex. Email her at [email protected] with your comments, questions and speaking inquiries.