Glenn Reynolds on Recording Cops

Monday, September 5th, 2011

A strong op-ed from the Instapundit in the Examiner.

In an era when government feels free to record citizens whenever they’re out in public, government officials need to recognize that this recording business works both ways.  Want a surveillance society?  Be prepared to live in it.

Of course, the efforts to intimidate citizens via prosecutions and arrests are doomed to fail in the long run.  Pretty much every cellphone now is a video camera, a still camera, and an audio recorder.   There are even smartphone apps specifically designed for recording police encounters and uploading them to the Web so that confiscating the phone doesn’t do any good. Tiny video cameras abound nowadays, including cameras that fit in the frames of sunglasses for added inconspicuousness.  And they keep getting smaller and cheaper.

You can’t arrest everyone with a camera, especially when you don’t even know they’ve got a camera.  But that’s not really the issue.

Technology may be winning, but the real problem is that America has a class of government workers who believe that they are above citizen scrutiny, and who are prepared to abuse their powers to avoid that scrutiny.  The only solution for this is to punish offenders severely enough that others learn their lesson.

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28 Responses to “Glenn Reynolds on Recording Cops”

  1. #1 |  perlhaqr | 

    Damn right. Not that it’ll ever happen, but it’s a nice sentiment.

  2. #2 |  Fred Mangels | 

    And I agree with the writer’s conclusion that it should be a criminal offense for police or prosecutors to interfere with a citizen’s right to record the police.

  3. #3 |  Mannie | 

    The bigger problem is that our legislators, the best legislators money can buy, don’t give a rat’s patooie about their bosses, The Electorate. We allow them to routinely urinate on us. It should be trivially easy to pass a law making it a felony for cope to abuse Citizens.

    We’ll never see it. Shut up and eat your cake, serf.

  4. #4 |  Nate | 

    “The only solution for this is to punish offenders severely enough that others learn their lesson.”
    -Unfortunately, I can’t get behind the sentiment that individuals should be punished for the potential crimes of others. How about, punish them in such a way that they will never be able to do it again (i.e. a felony record that disqualifies one from police service). Making an example to others is just a fortunate side-effect.

  5. #5 |  PersonFromPorlock | 

    18 USC 242 (Deprivation of rights under color of law) already criminalises the behavior. But federal law enforcement is a tool of federal policy, and so far the policy is to support government, not the citizens.

  6. #6 |  CyniCAl | 

    Actually, within a Statist framework, there is no solution to the problem of State agents who believe they are above citizen scrutiny. As sovereign, the State reserves the power to do whatever it deems necessary for the preservation of its sovereignty, which is precisely the definition of sovereignty. This includes imbuing State agents with immunity from meaningful, effective citizen scrutiny.

    Until such time as a critical mass is achieved and individuals abandon the State, abuse of individuals by State agents will remain status quo. Will mass distribution of recording equipment be the catalyst? We’ll see. The State is rather clever at self-preservation.

  7. #7 |  SJE | 

    We shouldnt punish offenders merely for asserting bogus “no camera” laws, but anytime that a state agent uses its power to act improperly.

  8. #8 |  John P. | 

    Alot of police abuses would stop over night if courts would start punishing the actual offender instead of the taxpayers who fund those offenders.

    But that will never happen because judges fear the potential backlash once that floodgate is opened. A backlash that could range from departments unable to hire enough cops (not bad thing, actually) to the cops turning on them… which would be fun to watch.

    The only way we will ever reform LE in this country is to do so by cutting off the funds that feed this nightmare. And to do that we must punish those who control the pursestrings. The elected politicians.

    We need to start firing them, sending them home and telling them why. Once they see we are serious and their days are numbered if they don’t comply. This crap will dry up overnight.

    The only thing the politician understands is the election, once they start losing them en-mass over their support of the police state, they will cut this crap out.

  9. #9 |  Sam | 

    And that’s why Glenn Reynolds routinely backs the anti-authoritarian tea-party candidates most likely to deliver the policy outcomes he describes here.

  10. #10 |  Les | 

    I don’t get Reynolds. Here he is advocating for skepticism of the state, for less blanket authority for the state. But when it comes to foreign policy, it would seem that the state and its authority should be thoroughly relied upon, even called upon to commit inarguably immoral acts of mass destruction.

    Reynolds has advocated for the assassinations of Iranian atomic scientists and religious leaders. He has suggested a “more rubble, less trouble” approach in dealing with middle east countries that “threaten us.” He’s recommended the use of multiple nuclear bombs on North Korea if they “start anything.”

    He once wrote:

    If I were the Israelis, not only would I bomb Iran, but I’d do so in such a way as to create as much trouble for China, Russia, Europe and the United States as possible.

    So why should the state be limited and skeptically empowered when dealing with U.S. citizens, but given immense, destructive powers with few limitations when dealing with the citizens of other countries?

  11. #11 |  Law Prof | 

    So why should the state be limited and skeptically empowered when dealing with U.S. citizens, but given immense, destructive powers with few limitations when dealing with the citizens of other countries?

    Because it is the right thing to do.

  12. #12 |  Les | 

    Care to elaborate on that, Prof? Why is it the right thing to do? Why are the lives of non-U.S. citizens inherently less valuable than the lives of U.S. citizens?

  13. #13 |  Brandon | 

    PersonFromPorlock, I think that statute only applies in very limited circumstances – namely, some sort of discrimination. See the langauge about “on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race.” Also, and I don’t know this for sure, I would imagine qualified immunity is the primary burden that must be overcome.

  14. #14 |  SJE | 

    Re#11: the LEGAL answer is the Constitution constrains government actions upon “The People of the United States,” but does not legally constrain action abroad (except in requiring certain processes in declaring war, etc).

    Thus, it is LEGALLY correct. It is not, however, the RIGHT thing to do, nor in the interests of “The People” of the US. To put it another way: John Yoo might have concluded that torture is legal, but I still think that Cheney should be tried for war crimes and Yoo disciplined by the bar.

  15. #15 |  Les | 

    SJE, I agree with your 2nd paragraph wholeheartedly. But despite hearing it before, even from Ron Paul, I can’t find where the Constitution explicitly states that the government is only constrained in regards to its actions towards U.S. citizens. I’d appreciate it if you could point out where in the Constitution this idea originates. Thanks!

  16. #16 |  twency | 

    #10 Les “even called upon to commit inarguably immoral acts of mass destruction”

    Inarguably? I do not think that word means what you think it does.

  17. #17 |  supercat | 

    #5 | PersonFromPorlock | “18 USC 242 (Deprivation of rights under color of law) already criminalises the behavior.”

    Beyond that, state law already criminalizes robbery and kidnapping. Cop who detain people without legitimate cause are a robbers and/or kidnappers (depending upon the nature of the detentions); all that’s necessary is for prosecutors to recognize that.

  18. #18 |  Cornellian | 

    “The bigger problem is that our legislators, the best legislators money can buy, don’t give a rat’s patooie about their bosses, The Electorate.”

    They don’t because voters don’t vote against politicians for being too friendly to the police. Until that happens, politicians will continue to ignore the issue.

  19. #19 |  SJE | 

    #15 Les: Sorry, but this is outside my area, but the question arises as to who the “People” are that are mentioned in the Constitution. Clearly they constrain the government with respect to US citizens of “these” United States in ways that do not apply to foreigners in a war. What about others in the USA? Abroad? What about US citizens abroad? What is a citizen? At the time of founding, there was no “citizenship” process, so its hard to argue that the original intent included only “legal” citizens. At that time, slaves and women were denied various rights, and so they were not full citizens, but we would not deny such rights to women or black people today.

    There is a lot of contention as to the scope of those protections. IIRC, most rights apply to foreigners in the US. For example, it is generally agreed that a foreign terrorist has rights to counsel, process, etc if he is being tried in US court. Outside of the Constitution, most treaties require certain behavior to foreign nationals who are arrested.

    But, back to my main point: I don’t think that policy should be dictated by the bare minimum REQUIRED of the constitution.

  20. #20 |  SJE | 

    If Ron Paul wants to argue that the original intent of the constitution included only citizens, I would rejoin that the constitution only considered 13 colonies as states and so did not apply to Texas. Arguably, a legal immigrant in Maryland would have more rights than a natural born Texan.

  21. #21 |  Ariel | 

    Each amendment modifies what precedes in the Constitution. The whole purpose of amending versus just saying it means what I want it to mean when I need it to mean what I want it to mean until I don’t want it to mean that.

  22. #22 |  Les | 

    #16, twency, I was, uh, just testing you. And going for some alliteration at the same time.

    Okay, I probably should have replaced “inarguably” with “just plain” or “downright.” Yeah, “downright” works. That’s my kind of adverb.

  23. #23 |  Dave Krueger | 

    “The only solution for this is to punish offenders severely enough that others learn their lesson.”

    Hahahahahaha! Mind if I don’t hold my breath waiting for that?

  24. #24 |  PersonFromPorlock | 

    #13 | Brandon | September 5th, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    PersonFromPorlock, I think that statute only applies in very limited circumstances – namely, some sort of discrimination. See the langauge about “on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race.” Also, and I don’t know this for sure, I would imagine qualified immunity is the primary burden that must be overcome.

    Yeah, I boobed: I should have said 18 USC 241, ‘Conspiracy Against Rights’. And while 242 applies to acts “under color of law,” 241 doesn’t. Drat.

  25. #25 |  Dante | 

    From the article:
    “but the real problem is that America has a class of government workers who believe that they are above citizen scrutiny, and who are prepared to abuse their powers to avoid that scrutiny. The only solution for this is to punish offenders severely enough that others learn their lesson.”

    Bulls-eye!

  26. #26 |  Joe | 

    Well said and spot on.

  27. #27 |  JOR | 

    “Sorry, but this is outside my area, but the question arises as to who the “People” are that are mentioned in the Constitution.”

    Irrelevant. If the constitution said the US government was allowed to lock up American citizens completely at random and torture them until they confessed (to anything at all) and then summarily execute them, would that make it okay?

    The constitution does not determine moral permissibility. It’s just a document where the government gives itself permission to do certain things and not other things. Cute, but it has no more bearing on the morality of blowing people up than the Unabomber’s manifesto.

  28. #28 |  Glenn Reynolds: “You have a right to record the police” « News Xazri | 

    […] Glenn Reynolds: “You have a right to record the police” (Via The Agitator) […]

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