Monday, August 27, 2012

Police v cameras in public spaces: A recurring conflict

In Austin, a West Point graduate, Iraq war vet and police accountability activist was arrested for the second time this year for recording police officers in the course of their duties. Reported the Austin Statesman ("Attorney: Man arrested second time for filming police officers," Aug. 27):
A man arrested on New Year’s Day for filming police officers was taken into custody a second time early Sunday, when he was taping officers detain an intoxicated man downtown, his attorney told reporters outside of Travis County Jail.

Antonio Buehler, 35, organizer of the Peaceful Streets Project, is facing a charge for interfering with public duty, his attorney, Joe James Sawyer, said Sunday afternoon. The lawyer said his client was detained about 2:30 a.m. Sunday on Sixth Street.

Austin police officials confirmed officers had arrested Buehler but did not release further information, saying they were reviewing the facts of the case. An official statement is expected to be released Monday. Sawyer called Buehler’s arrest a “deliberate action and part of a calculated effort to protect the officer who arrested him New Year’s Day.”

Buehler, an Army veteran, was arrested at about 1:15 a.m. New Year’s day and charged with harassment of a public servant after he stopped to take photographs of an arrest in Central Austin, according to court records. Police said Buehler interfered with her arrest. He filed a complaint against the arresting officers, who were cleared by an internal affairs investigation in July.
Recording police or anybody else in public should not be an arrestable offense, but some in law enforcement don't agree. In June in Dallas a motorcyclist was arrested essentially for contempt of cop after refusing to hand over video from a helmet cam. After he declined to give up the video, the deputy arrested him for allegedly having an obstructed license plate and the video was seized incident to arrest.

While Grits was on vacation, the New York Times ran an interview with the general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association on the subject of recording police. His advice, “For the general public, just be aware that this [being arrested for taking photos] may happen to you. Tell them, 'I’m on a public street, this is America, I can take pictures.'”

For those interested in more discussion of this topic, see a lengthy but informative 2010 policy forum from the CATO Institute on the subject of recording police during the performance of their duties:

Also, FWIW, the ACLU of New Jersey has created a cell phone app that will disappear from the cell phone screen while recording police encounters and automatically upload the video to an external server operated by the group. See also Seven Rules for Recording Police compiled by Steve Silverman from Reason magazine and a related video:


Anonymous said...


rodsmith said...

what a buch of two-faced nazi liers.

So it's perfetly legal under thier illegal rules to FILM us becasue it's in the PUBLIC. But when the camera is facing the other way. SUDDDENLY it's not legal.

Sorry fuckwads. i just think it's a pity he didn't have backup handy who could conduct a CITIZENS arrest of thier asses with a little gratutious excessive force to go along with it on thier heads.

Sorry as long as it's legal for you to film us ...we can and will film you. We will also use your system of immediate and excessive violence against those who are not part of your little clice AGAINST you...since you by your own actions are NOT part of ours!

The Comedian said...

"Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you buddy?" - Gordon Gekko to Bud Fox, Wall Street (1987)

"They (Islamic jihadists) hate our freedoms." - GW Bush

Anonymous said...

What if the police were arresting someone who didn't want to be videotaped by a private citizen? Would that change anyone's opinion? I heard that's what was happening here on this new arrest...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

3:06, isn't that the case in every perp walk the police stage for the benefit of the media? Defendants don't want to be photographed there, either, but it happens routinely. If it's happening in a public space, photographers get to record it. Twas ever thus.

Nadrich & Cohen LLP said...

Either way... One. Nine. Eight. Four. Exclamation Point.

John C. Key MD said...

Cops may not be your enemies but they definitely aren't your friends. Their resistance to photography proves that. Better watch out, people, freedom can't be taken for granted anymore, if it ever could

DEWEY said...

We are watching Big Brother. And Big Brother doesn't like it.

Anonymous said...

Looks like there might be a market for wireless backup of stills and video from mobile devices to PC or the cloud. Something like that was really handy in a Philadelphia police corruption case a couple of years ago:

Anonymous said...

Since the Austin PD was ordered to monitor Gritsforbreakfast while on duty, this goes out to those public servants who drew the short straw for today's piece.

Tell the Chief you discovered that today is the 2nd Annual - "National Film / Record / Document / Sketch a Public Servant Day" Celebrating, Memorializing & Documenting; The Good, preserving the criminal actions of The Bad & becomes the State's evidence when The Ugly is allowed. Send footage to YouTube, FaceBook, and more.

Note: 'Stringers' (paid ride-a-longs, former cops and their cousins with cameras) are encouraged to continue participating. No Public Servant is to be left out. From the Parking Meter Enforcement, Utility Meter Readers, Code Enforcement, Animal Control, Elected Officials, Mail Persons to every form of Law Enforcement should be considered for preservation.

*Remember, police train police. The Bad ones consider photographers as criminals defending criminals. The Good one's don't give a flying shit if you just stay back and film from a distance. They'll even autograph the film casings & ask you to come to court if needed. The criminals hate it when they get busted and will beat the shit out of those that don't possess self defense skills. One 'Stringer' suggests that we call 911 (get operators ext. in case of being disconnected) while documenting and don't tell them your exact location or what you are wearing to avoid getting chased down or worse.

Instead, if possible, film from the hip while talking and describe what you are witnessing to the dispatcher. Don’t be vague or exaggerate. Call the Local Media tips line and repeat. Rehearse how to remove your Simms card in case you have to protect it from criminals.

BTW. This national event was originally created in the 70's by the grandson of one of Texas' most famous Sheriff's. Thus, the ol cop haters mantra is voided. Photography is not a crime & the taxpayers are about to fork over as shit load of money to those of us that are falsely arrested & wrongfully convicted for engaging in the sport / hobby / profession. Taxpayers paying $80,000.00 per year, per incident, plus, plus will not become a presidential candidate issue unless we get it on 'all' of the debates' Q. & A forms. Contact CNN and get it done.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Since the Austin PD was ordered to monitor Gritsforbreakfast while on duty ..."

Hmmmm ... hadn't heard tell of such an order, but I'm disappointed the blog isn't required reading for the entire agency. Wouldn't want anybody to miss out. ;)

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, the "order" came down as a retaliation tactic in response to the GFB Post about your run in with the APD. Thus, indeed making GFB a reuired reading by a few in Austin parkinglots. I bet it's the first thing the Chief reads every single day.

Hint. Remember the Comment Section getting highjacked by officers on a daily basis for a week or so? I'll look for the link if you don't. Thanks.