Sorting out rights, limits of video

Thursday, June 21, 2012

With Rodney King's passing this week, it's appropriate to take a look at how the widespread use of video has changed our lives.

You will recall it was King who was videotaped as Los Angeles police beat him, then implored citizens, "Can we all get along?" when riots broke out after the police officers were acquitted. We've heard that such police beatings were not uncommon at the conclusion of high-speed chases in LA, but that stopped with the King case and the widespread use of video, not to mention YouTube.

The police were also involved in a Nebraska case taken up by the American Civil Liberties Union in a letter sent to Nebraska sheriffs and police chiefs.

According to the ACLU, 19-year-old Caitlin Hoer was arrested at a New Year's Eve party for "obstructing an officer" and her cell phone was confiscated after she recorded officers arresting her friends for underage drinking. She was given a breathalyzer test -- which recorded zero alcohol -- and charges were later dropped and her cellphone returned.

"I know police have hard jobs, but I have the right to take pictures when I'm worried about how my friends are being treated by police," she said. "Getting arrested was embarrassing, my reputation in the community was tarnished and it seemed like it was just retaliation for me standing up for my rights," Hoer said.

But what about when the tables are turned, the government is videotaping us?

U.S. Rep Adrian Smith is cosponsoring a bill which would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from conducting aerial surveillance of agricultural land when enforcing the Clean Water Act unless the agency had already obtained voluntary written consent, provided public notice or received court-ordered certification of reasonable suspicion.

The EPA admitted, only after the fact, that it was using small planes -- not drones -- to monitor runoff from feedlots, among other things.

What's the balance?

On the one hand, your mother was right; don't do anything you wouldn't want everyone to see you doing.

On the other, no one should be expected to give up all rights to privacy, whether on the job or on ones' own time.

Asking the EPA to give notice and have specific and justifiable reasons for spying from the air is only reasonable.

Confiscating video cameras and arresting law-abiding citizens who are recording law enforcement in action are not.

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  • someone please explain to me, the difference between individuals recording with cam corders and cell phone cameras (which most approve of), and having cameras in public areas (traffic cams, etc.) which most, apparently do not approve of.

    -- Posted by doodle bug on Thu, Jun 21, 2012, at 1:20 PM
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    One is a private citizen, the other is Big Brother.

    -- Posted by Mickel on Thu, Jun 21, 2012, at 2:09 PM
  • i see your point but dont necessarily agree. are you saying that the gov't, in my illustration, doesnt have the same right as a private citizen? and, Mickel, i have read many of your responses in the past few months and generally agree with your viewpoint. we may disagree on this one.

    -- Posted by doodle bug on Thu, Jun 21, 2012, at 4:09 PM
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    doodle...I believe the balance should always err on the side of the individual.

    The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were clear about recognizing and protecting the freedoms of the individual. Nowhere, and rightly so might I add, do the founding documents mention that these rights are given by the government. The rights are given by the Creator and the government is directed to maintain, and not curtail those rights.

    Government is made up of individuals who must enjoy these rights; but government as an entity can hardly enjoy these rights as a collective. To usurp the rights of the individual for the collective is to redirect our system of government from a constitutional republic to that of socialism.

    If government gives us our rights, then these rights may be taken away, with no reason that would be logical to you or I. It is right and good that the government be under scrutiny by the people who make up its citizens. It is with accountability and great care that the government should make the same examination of the citizens which it governs.

    Err on the side of the individual. At least, IMHO.

    -- Posted by Mickel on Fri, Jun 22, 2012, at 9:08 PM
  • The "law-abiding citizen" title confuses me in this context, so perhaps someone more familiar with the case and law in general can clarify things for me. I was under the impression that a minor caught at a party where there is underage drinking could still get in trouble-, much like being in a car with open containers of alcohol- regardless of the results of a breathalyzer. It seems rather odd for a person to be in a position to record the "poor" treatment of underage drinkers by officers, while not being at the place where said drinking occurred, or involved in the get-together in any way. Some clarification would be appreciated.

    -- Posted by bjo on Mon, Jun 25, 2012, at 11:03 AM
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