Short But Sweet

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Connecticut State Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven) has introduced a short bill (PDF) that not only acknowledges the right of citizens to record on-duty police officers, it also provides for a civil action against police officers who violate that right.

That second part is important. A right doesn’t mean much if there are no consequences for government officials who ignore it. Witness this case in Florida, where an officer erroneously tries to say federal law prohibits citizen recordings of cops. Even in states where courts have thrown out criminal charges, a cop who doesn’t want to be recorded can still harass, threaten, and even arrest you. You may not be charged. But he won’t be punished, either.

This is the first proposed state law I’ve seen on this issue that includes an appropriate enforcement mechanism. It would be great to see Congress take up a similar bill, under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

CORRECTION: This post originally stated that the linked case above was in Maryland.

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41 Responses to “Short But Sweet”

  1. #1 |  OBTC | 

    It will be interesting to follow this bill and find out who/whom will try to kill it.

    And then the public ridicule can begin.

  2. #2 |  mglickman | 

    The link to the MD police arrest is actually pointing to an encounter in FL. Did you have another article in mind?

  3. #3 |  Radley Balko | 

    No, just poor reading comprehension on my part.

    Thanks — corrected the post.

  4. #4 |  Tweets that mention Short But Sweet | The Agitator -- | 

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by FoxArtCultTech, teaist net. teaist net said: Short But Sweet […]

  5. #5 |  Marty | 

    I’m waiting for the shitstorm to begin! good job on Looney’s part, though.

  6. #6 |  Mike | 

    Be it enacted, that the general statutes be amended to authorize a person to bring
    a civil action for damages against a police officer who has interfered
    with such person’s right to photograph or videotape an event if such
    person’s actions did not prevent or hinder the police officer performing
    his or her duties.

    Officer: They were videotaping me from 300 yards away. Knowing I could be sued for preventing them made me so nervous that it hindered my performing official duties. Therefore, the arrest was justified under the hindering loophole.

  7. #7 |  SJE | 

    Mike: at least with this law, you can go into court and force the officer to make his/her case. If it’s BS, not only will the officer lose, but the judge and jury are more likely to award higher damages to punish the cops. Currently, you have no recourse, except for “violation of civil rights,” which is almost impossible to prove.

  8. #8 |  Paddy Bear | 

    Though Sen. Looney may possibly have the worst name imaginable for a politician, his legislative actions are anything but crazy. It’s about time someone cleared up this whole police recording mess. Hopefully this thing goes through and sparks a trend throughout the country. Good work Senator, now work on this whole outsourcing mess:

  9. #9 |  Tim W | 

    I believe the Looney bill was an off shoot of the incident involving the Yale students in the night club blogged about on this site as I recall. New Haven PD messed with wrong people this time, seems to me.

  10. #10 |  Rob in CT | 

    Hmm. Thanks for posting about this, Radley. I’ll have to check and see if my Senator is supportive (and, particularly if she does not, make my preference known to her).

  11. #11 |  Dave Krueger | 

    That second part is important. A right doesn’t mean much if there are no consequences for government officials who ignore it.

    Yeah, I’ve noticed that with regard to all of our other rights.

  12. #12 |  Rob in CT | 

    Looney is Majority Leader, which hopefully means has has the pull to get this through (I have no idea, really, whether it will face serious opposition).

  13. #13 |  James D | 

    “Looney is Majority Leader, which hopefully means has has the pull to get this through (I have no idea, really, whether it will face serious opposition).”

    Not sure this is a D or R thing … seems both Rs and Ds want police union’s support so … I really hope it passes, but he could get opposition from all sides.

  14. #14 |  SamK | 

    if only this was a federal bill…

  15. #15 |  Mario | 


    And one final question: How long until we start hearing this?

  16. #16 |  Troy | 

    When is the last time Radley had enough hair to have it poof out of a ball cap? I’m thinking the 2nd term of the Reagen administration.

  17. #17 |  Matt I. | 

    This bill has ZERO chance of passing.

    To say otherwise is to just fool in yourself into thinking that it’s possible to ‘do something’ about the fundamental balance between the state/law enforcement and the common man in this country. I guarantee you that it’s not.

    I’m not trying to rain on your parade, but this is the reality that is present.

  18. #18 |  Rob in CT | 


    Agreed. I just meant that he’s not some freshman w/no clout. I wasn’t actually talking R or D (frankly, since this is CT we’re talking about, nearly all of ’em are Ds).

    Matt I.

    I hope you’re wrong.

  19. #19 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    And a man named Looney shall lead them. Color me shocked and impressed. Well done, Looney. Even if it is likely to get killed and robustly campaigned against by the Po-Pos.

    it also provides for a civil action against police officers who violate that right.

    I can think of a couple hundred other “rights” that should be protected thusly.

    Of course, we’ll have to wait and see if people can actually win in court.

  20. #20 |  don't even own a camera | 

    but my name is insignificant, thank you Mr. Looney, you’re one of the sane ones :)

  21. #21 |  perlhaqr | 

    That’s fucking glorious. I never thought I would find myself contemplating a campaign donation to a Connecticut Democrat. And yet, now I am.

  22. #22 |  Ben | 

    At the same time, Radley, the CT legislature is working to ban outdoor wood furnaces, which provide inexpensive, quickly renewable and carbon neutral heat for homes and businesses because some of the wealthy districts in the south-west part of the state don’t like them.

    There are already laws on the books to deal with people who create too much smoke, but now they’re looking to ban these furnaces. It’s ridiculous.

  23. #23 |  Joe | 

    Very good. An excellent start.

  24. #24 |  John Q. Galt | 

    Here’s video for the Florida case.

  25. #25 |  jeebus | 

    CT cops are notorious a-holes (wait, that was redundant) and I really hope this passes. There’s one in Norwalk, I won’t mention names, that was a loser and a bully all throughout grades K-12 and I seriously doubt that has changed with his ascent to badge and gun. I know another one in Stamford that used to smoke weed by the hefty bag and do lines like he was dancing in Tennessee (shout out to Balko!) and now he makes drug busts. Bah!

    I also agree with what James said above, this doesn’t really breakdown along R/D lines like many other issues. I know plenty of Fairfield County Republicans that are anti-cop and Democrats that are pro-union/pro-cop. This comes down to how deeply you believe in liberty and that seems to be based more on upbringing and culture then whether you believe Sarah Palin is a nut job* or not.

    (* yes, she is)

  26. #26 |  ktc2 | 

    @ #16 Troy

    I thought the same thing the other day, well not how long.

    Radley you should photoshop the hair off your crier.

  27. #27 |  Gideon Darrow | 

    More encouraging news:

    Now in Brooklyn, Homegrown Tobacco: Local, Rebellious and Tax Free

  28. #28 |  André | 

    More discouraging news:

    Jury Nullification Advocate Faces Indictment

  29. #29 |  John Q. Galt | 

    Arrest of a Free Stater this week for wiretapping.

  30. #30 |  Bergman | 

    Re: Mike, #6:

    Unfortunately, that argument could be used to justify literally ANYTHING.

    Officer: I knew that if I drew my sidearm and fired wildly into the crowd it would be ruled unjustified and I would be sued by those people, which made me feel so nervous and threatened, that I had no choice but to draw my sidearm and use it to defend myself against the people I felt threatened by.

  31. #31 |  Thoughts From the Interface of Science, Religion, Law and Culture | Connecticut News | Connecticut Breaking News Headlines | News Directory | 

    […] writes about a shining new law in Connecticut: Connecticut State Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven) has introduced […]

  32. #32 |  Joe | 

    So, all of you posters, would it be ok if I came to your job and recorded you non stop?

  33. #33 |  HeyJude | 

    So, it all comes down to how big of a coward each officer is.

    {The people were looking at me rule.}

    We’ll find out.

  34. #34 |  Bob Roberts | 

    Well Joe, since I don’t intimidate people, beat them up, falsely accuse them of crimes, plant evidence, solicit bribes, or otherwise break the law; yes, you are welcome to film me at work for as long as you can stay awake.

  35. #35 |  Jeremy | 

    If you work out in public space, anyone *can* record you non-stop. In many places, it already happens. Quit your whining, Joe.

  36. #36 |  Randall | 

    @Joe: Yes, if I have the authority to arrest, beat, and shoot people, then yes, you’d better believe somebody better be looking over my shoulder because if it’s just me and my buddies, with no real oversight, we’re going to just become thugs. Straight-up gangster thugs. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  37. #37 |  Will Digg | 

    It is about time someone in the legislature grew a set and stepped up to the plate on this overdue issue. More should follow in his footsteps and do the same for their voters.

    Joe, most of these posters jobs does not include playing bulldog to the public, shredding their rights then throwing what’s left in their face and shrugging it off with no accountability to worry about facing. So these posters doesn’t really have a need to be recorded non stop as you mentioned.

  38. #38 |  Protecting the Right to Record @ Opinionated @ CFE | 

    […] state senator in Connecticut has decided that this needs to stop and has filed an appropriate bill. It not only seeks to recognize the right of people to lawfully […]

  39. #39 |  Orrie | 

    @joe: No, you can’t come to my work and record what I do. But my bosses can, as they are my employer. And since the people of Connecticut are the employers of the police in that state, they have every right to monitor them. You can’t give anyone power, and expect them not to abuse it if it’s not kept in check. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either too idealistic, naive, or both.

  40. #40 |  AZbadfish | 

    While a nice idea, I’m sure as soon as whatever Police Union runs their police hears of this it will die

  41. #41 |  Who watches the Watchmen? | 

    […] a Connecticut state senator introduced a breathtakingly simple bill [PDF] which, if implemented, would, in my opinion, help correct the […]