Supreme Court Okays Filming Police
It seems everyday we hear stories emerge of overzealous police abusing their power over private citizens. Instances of over-militarized police trampling on the constitutional rights of Americans have become commonplace. With the frequency of camera phones, we see this happen right before our eyes. Numerous videos show police harm or murder our citizens and are not held accountable; this needs to change if we are to continue calling ourselves “The Land of the Free”.
Two days ago, Russell Brand was threatened with arrest for filming for his show The Trews outside of Fox News.
Security approaches Brand at 2:58:
Brand was filming because he was supposed to appear on Sean Hannity but was unexpectedly cancelled. Brand went to Fox Headquarters to film a segment outside the building when he was met by a couple of suits who told him he couldn’t film because the sidewalk was private property. Brand was asked by security:
Wanna get arrested?
There are so many ways to circumvent the First Amendment these days, to the point where certain sidewalks are protected property. Brand complied but broke away from security and entered the Fox building and tried to get a tour of the building but was denied, which is open to the public. Had he pressed further, the Fox security force would probably have been happy to make good on their arrest threat.
Others who film where they are not supposed to are not as lucky.
For example, last month Fred Marlow, 27, was standing on his front lawn in Gresham, OR, filming a SWAT team serve a search warrant for a drug offense at his neighbor’s house across the street. A SWAT officer dressed in military fatigues ordered him to go inside, to which Marlow replied:
It’s not past curfew, I’m allowed to be out here. I’m not doing nothing [sic] wrong.
An officer can be heard saying over loud speaker:
All neighbors stay inside and stay away from their windows.
Which is a cloaked way of saying not to film them. Marlow kept filming, wanting to keep eyes on the police to make sure no wrong-doing was committed. Needless to say, the police didn’t see it that way and arrested him for interfering with their investigation. Marlow claims he was assaulted but that was not caught on film. Marlow repeated that he was not doing anything illegal when the officer came toward him and started arresting him. Unfortunately, at this point the video camera is lowered when Marlow is being detained, but what is audible is the police shouting, “Stop resisting!” A term they seem to use as soon as people lower their cameras and try to stop the pain and aggression they are being put through for no discernible reason.
Marlow was charged with interfering with a police investigation and resisting arrest. Filming was not allowed on his OWN private property. The Supreme Court has ruled that citizens are within their legal rights to film the police. Not so, if police can find any charge to stick to the detained; it’s very dangerous to film an agitated cop these days.
During the Ferguson protests America watched as the protesters — and media personnel — were subjected to curfew, tear-gas, noise-makers, flash-bang grenades, and faced police in military uniforms standing in front of armored tanks when exercising their First Amendment rights. Hundreds, including several journalists, were arrested and cited for insignificant crimes, most were for failure to stand on the sidewalk. The police were none too happy with the media circus that descended upon their town as one officer pointed his gun at media members and shouted:
I will F—ing kill you! Get back! Get back!
As Rodney Dangerfield would say, “No respect, no respect at all!”
Even though deadly force is caught on camera, it doesn’t always mean charges will be brought against the officer(s) involved. John Crawford was shopping at a Walmart in Ohio, carrying around a BB gun he planned to buy for his son when another customer called 911 and lied to the operator, saying that Crawford was pointing it at people in a threatening manner. He can be seen on camera not threatening anyone and the exact moment the police rush in was also on the surveillance video. In the video of the incident, Crawford looks completely unaware that police have him in their cross-hairs until only seconds before he is shot. Watch that video here (GRAPHIC), and decide for yourself.
There are signs that more filming is leading to more accountability, such was the case in South Carolina when Levar Jones was stopped for a seat-belt violation as he pulled into a gas station, when Officer Sean Groubert pulled him over and asked for his license and registration. When Jones reached into his SUV, Groubert opened fire, discharging four times and hitting Jones in the hip. As Jones lay on the sidewalk, shocked by the incident, he asks:
Why did you shoot me?
The officer responded that he had jumped back into his SUV too suddenly; instantly putting the blame on Jones. However, a grand jury was not impressed with his response and decided to proceed with criminal charges. Groubert has been fired and is currently facing an aggravated assault case, which can carry up to a 20-year sentence. The fact he was even indicted is a bit of a rarity.
It seems the reason police don’t want you filming them is to protect their bad behavior. They want to stay out of jail just as much as anyone else and with the heightened focus, jail is becoming a more viable option.
On Oct. 17, Max Bickford was assaulted and detained for filming an officer arresting a man because the officer had allegedly kicked the man in the head. The officer sarcastically thanks the cameraman for his help, and then proceeds to take Bickford’s phone by force and breaks it. Bickford was released with no charges, and when he tried to file an incident report with the Boston PD for the officer’s misconduct was told the officer was within his rights if Bickford had filmed a crime being committed. Watch the video here.
Take the responsibility off the citizen.
All these unnecessary arrests could really be remedied by police wearing cameras on their uniforms as well as having them on the dashboards to not only absolve them from false charges of brutality, but also to curb unnecessary aggression perpetrated by police to protect the public they are supposed to serve. It is well-known that when people feel watched they behave better and cameras make unbiased witnesses.
Policing a country such as ours is no easy task, but arresting and even assaulting a citizen for filming is unconstitutional. If the police will not film their own actions, Americans must rely on the bravery of a Good Samaritan to stand by and film for those being arrested lawfully and unlawfully, so that there is a chance of accountability should something go wrong. Otherwise, we’re left at the mercy of a police force that can and does get away with unlawful activity simply because they are wearing the right clothing.