Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thin edge

This is another "thin edge of the wedge" story but its going our way for a change.
One of the unintended side-effects of cases like the Robert DziekaƄski tasering has been that police are increasingly hostile toward anyone near them with camera -- we saw lots of this during the G20 protests, when people had their camera memory cards wiped.
Now a circuit court judge in Maryland has dismissed the "wiretapping" charges that an ambitious prosecutor tried to bring against a motorist who posted a video on YouTube of a policeman giving him a ticket.
Not so fast, said the judge:
Judge Emory A. Pitt Jr. had to decide whether police performing their duties have an expectation of privacy in public space. Pitt ruled that police can have no such expectation in their public, on-the-job communications.
Pitt wrote: "Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation. 'Sed quis custodiet ipsos cutodes' ("Who watches the watchmen?”)."
Graber was also charged with possessing a “device primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of oral communications" -- referring to the video camera on his helmet. The judge disagreed with the prosecutor that the helmet cam was illegal, and concluded the state's argument would render illegal “almost every cell phone, Blackberry, and every similar device, not to mention dictation equipment and other types of recording devices."

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