Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse. Unless You’re in Law Enforcement.

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Part of a recurring theme. In addition to my prior post today, here’s a roundup of other photography/video stories in the news of late:

  • Earlier this month, Carlos Miller—who runs the Photography Is Not a Crime blog—was “banned” from Miami’s Metrorail system after guards from the firm hired to provide security for the system, and then Miami police officers, wrongly told him he wasn’t permitted to shoot video at the train station. Miller returned this week with his camera and a crew from HDNet TV. Things got violent.
  • The Washington Post catalogs a number of incidents in which police have arrested, harassed or detained photographers and cell phone videographers in jurisdictions where the law is quite clear on their right to record and photograph in public.
  • The New York Times photography blogger David Dunlap documents another incident.
  • Also from the Times, an incident in which a photographer was wrongly stopped by police from taking pictures at an Amtrak station. He was shooting for a photography contest sponsored by Amtrak.

The common thread in all of these stories is that the police were wrong on the law, and the photographers were right. If the photographers had been mistaken, they could be arrested and charged. Not knowing the law isn’t an excuse for breaking it. But when law enforcement officials don’t know the law, and wrongly prevent someone from photographing or recording, or even illegally detain and arrest someone, it’s a shrug and a sigh and we all move on.

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

26 Responses to “Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse. Unless You’re in Law Enforcement.”

  1. #1 |  Michael Pack | 

    I’ll make no excuse for the cops.For us ‘civians,how is it possible to live your daily life and never fracture some law.Drugs laws,gambling,lobsters,oysters,toilets,blood alcohol,sexting,and let’s not forget the tax code.Anyone driving or walking down the street can be stopped for something.

  2. #2 |  Thom | 

    I don’t know. Law enforcement enforces laws, and we obey them. If they are enforcing laws that don’t exist (yet), then they are obviously doing extra work. They should be commended for going above and beyond.

  3. #3 |  Mattocracy | 

    Ya know, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, ABC could have hours of news content every day if they only covered police abuse. But that isn’t Lindsey Lohan or a pretty white girl missing on vacation. Everytime some news anchor reports about some stupid celebrity they are inspiring police to hurt innocent people.

  4. #4 |  J.S. | 

    The security guard with the michael jackson’esque glove and beret is hilarious. This is a new comedy show on cable right?

    /sarc

  5. #5 |  Dave W. | 

    Sorry to “spam” the board with this, but I put up the policewoman vid I mentioned on the other thd:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LXefPoq6w0

  6. #6 |  SJE | 

    None of this will change until there are real, enforceable, consequences for security officials who break the law.

  7. #7 |  Dave Krueger | 

    And this is the way things will continue until the right case comes along at which time the courts will set us straight once and for all. And by “right case” I mean one where a family of five is accidentally killed on their way to Disneyland for the youngest child’s Make-A-Wish sponsored vacation to see Mickey Mouse before he dies of some incurable flesh eating virus. And how did this happen? I don’t know, but it will be pinned on someone with a camera who was trying to record the cops beating the crap out of a homeless gay guy who looked the wrong way at a cop coming out of a Crispy Cream doughnut shop.

    Photographing cops will be against the law from that point forward.

  8. #8 |  Will | 

    One thing I am not clear on is why or who gives these private security guards the right to detain anyone? In my view they are just another citizen who happens to be wearing a costume. Can anyone steer me to the law or laws that give these people the right to detain,lay hands on anyone, or arrest a person for whatever alleged crime they are supposing.

  9. #9 |  SJE | 

    Dave K: there is already more than enough videos out there, going at least back to Rodney King. What amazes me is that people still buy the police line. Then again, people buy horoscopes and Justin Bieber records.

  10. #10 |  230therapy | 

    Self-defense is allowed in most states against law enforcement officers acting outside the law.

  11. #11 |  JS | 

    Mattocracy “Ya know, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, ABC could have hours of news content every day if they only covered police abuse. But that isn’t Lindsey Lohan or a pretty white girl missing on vacation. Everytime some news anchor reports about some stupid celebrity they are inspiring police to hurt innocent people.”

    Thats the thing thats so frustrating. I was watching CNN one night and they were discussing a case of police abuse, a panel of four people. They all talked and made excuses but the one thing that was never mentioned, as if it were completely unimaginable, was that the police might be at fault. It was as if that option were not even humanly possible. Why do they do that? Why so much deference to the police? Are they so afraid of being accused of being soft on crime or supporting criminals? I honestly don’t get why there is almost a media blackout on police abuse.

  12. #12 |  Marty | 

    carlos miller is a badass- I love that guy.

  13. #13 |  Elemenope | 

    Self-defense is allowed in most states against law enforcement officers acting outside the law.

    Unfortunately not mine.

  14. #14 |  JS | 

    “The common thread in all of these stories is that the police were wrong on the law, and the photographers were right.”

    Or you could say that the common thread in all these was what we in the south have always known-the law is whatever the guys with the guns say it is.

  15. #15 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “Carlos miller is a badass- I love that guy.”

    Yeah, that’s cool that he clocked that wanna-be authority figure.
    You mess with a private citizen who’s bigger than you are
    and you just might catch a dose of reality–in this case
    a right cross.
    Showing tonight on “America’s Dumbest Rent-a-a-cops”
    Oh, wait, I forgot– you’re not allowed to call the one’s with badges dumb
    on TV.

  16. #16 |  SJE | 

    My concern is that Carlos is now going to be portrayed as the bad guy.

  17. #17 |  Aresen | 

    Elemenope | July 30th, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Self-defense is allowed in most states against law enforcement officers acting outside the law.

    Unfortunately not mine.

    Well in some states it is not allowed.

    In the rest of the states, it’s not allowed either.

  18. #18 |  Pee Ditty | 

    thom….LOL!

  19. #19 |  pc | 

    I was watching a video the other week where a guy on an electric bike was pulled over by the police (if I can find it again I’ll post the link). The guy in question has a history of videotaping police and standing up for his rights to do so. No joke, over 10 squad cars responded and over a dozen police stood around /trying to figure out what to charge the guy with./ When it takes over a dozen officers to figure out what you’ve done wrong, there’s a problem with the system.

  20. #20 |  Gaunilo | 

    From time to time the tree of liberty may need to be fertilized with the chattels of LEOs.

  21. #21 |  JS | 

    Thom “I don’t know. Law enforcement enforces laws, and we obey them. If they are enforcing laws that don’t exist (yet), then they are obviously doing extra work. They should be commended for going above and beyond.”

    Don’t worry lad, they’re sure to commend themselves.

  22. #22 |  BSK | 

    Aren’t law suits in order at this point? I do realize that one doesn’t explicitly have a “right” to video or photograph something, but, at the very least, we have a 4th Amendment right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure. Wouldn’t a citizen who is breaking no law being stopped by cops and having his private property taken away be the definition of unreasonable search and seizure?

  23. #23 |  Donald | 

    If someone was trying to film me wearing a stupid beret like that I’d probally hit them too. Which is why I don’t where stupid berets.

  24. #24 |  Toastrider | 

    Re: #10.

    Good luck on that one. More likely you’ll be tased and shot.

    Krueger’s comment is accurate. Until someone with enough juice to drag some of these idiots into court as defendants comes along, it’s gonna be wash, rinse, repeat.

    Me, I’m just bemused by how so many of them complain about not getting any respect from the community. They might want to clean up their own yards first.

  25. #25 |  Ignorance of the law a valid excuse for cops « Later On | 

    […] in Daily life, Government, Law at 8:33 am by LeisureGuy Radley Balko: Part of a recurring theme. In addition to my prior post today, here’s a roundup of other […]

  26. #26 |  Bergman | 

    Might not be just a shrug. There are laws on the books that qualified or even absolute immunity do not protect against. 18USC242 specifically criminalizes actions by government officials that infringe upon exercises of civil, statutory and constitutional rights. Since only rarely are such infringements the work of a lone individual official (calls for backup, etc), 18USC241 usually also applies (which makes violations of 242 one step more severe in punishments if done by a group rather than an individual).

    I’ve always wondered what would happen in the event of a citizen’s arrest for breaking that law…

Leave a Reply