Monday, June 21, 2010

Crime to report on the cops

The Wash. Post reports:
In early March, Anthony Graber, a 25-year-old staff sergeant for the Maryland Air National Guard, was humming a tune while riding his two-year-old Honda motorcycle down Interstate 95, not far from his home north of Baltimore. On top of his helmet was a camera he often used to record his journeys. The camera was rolling when an unmarked gray sedan cut him off as he stopped behind several other cars along Exit 80. ...

A week later, on March 10, Graber posted his video of the encounter on YouTube. What followed wasn't a furor over the police officer's behavior but over Graber's use of a camera to capture the entire episode.

On April 8, Graber was awakened by six officers raiding his parents' home in Abingdon, Md., where he lived with his wife and two young children. He learned later that prosecutors had obtained a grand jury indictment alleging he had violated state wiretap laws by recording the trooper without his consent.
Here is the Maryland wiretap law:
§ 10-402.
(a) Except as otherwise specifically provided in this subtitle it is unlawful for any person to:

(1) Wilfully intercept, endeavor to intercept, or procure any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept, any wire, oral, or electronic communication;

(2) Wilfully disclose, or endeavor to disclose, to any other person the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication in violation of this subtitle; or ...
The law is critisized here and elsewhere.

It should be obvious that this is a wiretap law, and someone wearing a video camera on his head is not doing an "intercept". He is also not "wilfully" violating the law.

It also should be unambiguously legal to videorecord a cop making an arrest or issuing a citation in a public. Posting the recording on YouTube ought to be a free speech right. Many cops now have their own videorecorder to document their actions, including all Maryland state troopers. This motorcyclist has a legitimate complaint against Maryland police procedure, and the only way that he can make his point is to post the video.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Maybe a worse problem is that a cop who'd object to being videorecorded in the line of duty might also be a cop who'd misuse his/her "emblems and emoluments of office" to seek revenge later. I agree, we need a clear and unambiguous standard that public servants (at the level of basic field officers, at least) should be fully exposed to YouTube. Obviously, this would not mean that any citizen can interrupt any officer anywhere, just that we can videorecord exposed field activity.