Thursday, June 14, 2007

Glad I don't live in Pennsylvania

Brian D. Kelly was arrested on May 24th. He spent 24 hours in jail before his mother put her house up as collateral for a $2,500 bail payment. He will likely face a conviction with some sort of punishment including a possible criminal record. His crime? Videotaping a police officer during a routine traffic stop. Whole terrible story here.

What kind of special needs politician writes a law that forbids videotaping the police doing their duties in a public forum? Citizens entrust other citizens acting as police officers to enforce laws. Sometimes enforcing those laws will require deadly force. As public servants police officers, like politicians, should be required to maintain maximum transparency so that the public can rest assured that their employees are not violating fellow citizen's rights.

We know, from past abuses, that we cannot take the police officer's words that they are always acting in accordance with the laws. Sure, we can take most of them at their word most of the time, but human nature being what it is there will always be some corruption within departments just as there will always be mistakes. In order for the public to maintain trust in their servants, we need to be able to be free to record events and make them available in public forums. My guess is that more often than not we'd see police acting just fine in the line of duty. It is that rare occasion when something goes wrong that videos get hyped and seen by more eyes. Is that fair? Sure it is. It's the same burden other public officials live under be they politicians or celebrities.

To make this law even more absurd is hard to do, but the article does not this:
An exception to the wiretapping law allows police to film people during traffic stops, Mancke said.
So, police can turn their cameras on you, but you - their employers - cannot do the same to them? Bullocks. Pennsylvania voters should find out who wrote this bill and who voted for it and demand action. Who watches the watchers is an important civil liberties issue.

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