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Encounters with Police

The following is one item from an omnibus blog post by David Brin:

But first the big news. Exactly as I predicted, a federal court has stepped in with the most important decision and precedent of our times, one that will make a more crucial difference to our role as citizens than anything since the Civil Rights Act: Citizens may now record their encounters with police.

This is so important that I will quote directly the first two paragraphs of the ruling just laid down by Torruella, Lipez, and Howard, Circuit Judges in the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals:

“Simon Glik was arrested for using his cell phone's digital video camera to film several police officers arresting a young man on the Boston Common. The charges against Glik, which included violation of Massachusetts's wiretap statute and two other state-law offenses, were subsequently judged baseless and were dismissed. Glik then brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that his arrest for filming the officers constituted a violation of his rights under the First and Fourth Amendments.

“In this interlocutory appeal, the defendant police officers challenge an order of the district court denying them qualified immunity on Glik's constitutional claims. We conclude, based on the facts alleged, that Glik was exercising clearly established First Amendment rights in filming the officers in a public space, and that his clearly-established Fourth Amendment rights were violated by his arrest without probable cause. We therefore affirm.”

I’ve said it before, I am no cop-hater. I admire our skilled professional protectors and I’ve helped them in many ways, over the years, from consulting with many agencies all the way down to relieving Sheriff deputies from routine traffic duties during San Diego’s 2007 wild fires (as a CERT-trained volunteer). I consider the current “war against professionalism” - including hatred of science and our civil servants - to be a travesty and I note the historic rise in professional standards among those doing a very taxing and challenging job on our city streets, dealing with provocations that any other generation of cops - reacting according to hormonal human nature would have handled with a billy club upside the head!


Nevertheless, this is not a fight that our hardworking public protectors can be allowed to win, at any level, in any way, shape or form. The only recourse of a citizen, when pressed or shackled or condemned by authority , is the truth. We must have access to it, especially when it concerns our potential for exoneration. Purely, universally and always. It is human nature that they’ll want to evade the accountability of our cameras.

They must be taught - simply and firmly - to get used to it.

Remember this news. It was important.

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