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posted by janrinok on Tuesday April 07 2015, @12:49PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the 'give-me-your-Bill'-said-the-officer dept.

In the light of the heated discussions about a certain bill signed in Indiana, here is a more refreshing news about a proposed bill in Colorado. The state of Colorado is considering a bill that outlines punishments for police officers who interfere with photographers. House Bill 15-1290 is titled "Concerning Prohibiting A Peace Officer From Interfering With A Person Lawfully Recording A Peace Officer-Involved Incident".

The bill states that if a person is lawfully documenting a police officer and then has their imagery seized or destroyed without a warrant, they are entitled to $15,000 for actual damages plus attorney fees and costs. The bill also would be applied when a police officer intentionally interferes with a person's ability to capture images.

It seems the bill came up as a result of the number of news reports about police officers telling people "Give me your camera", or taking the data away.

The story is covered further in The Denver channel and PetaPixel.

Related Stories

Right to Record Police Activities in Public Advances in U.S. District Court Win 13 comments

The Boston Globe has a story out about a ruling in US District court this week that narrows the scope of a 50-year old Massachusetts law that restricted recording of police and other government officials.

The law, and similar ones still in effect in 10 other states, was implemented long before the advent of now ubiquitous cell phones. It and similar laws criminalized recordings made of police and public officials in public even in performance of their duties, as felonies and have caught large numbers of individuals, activists, and journalists doing the same thing they always do in their net. (Most states are covered already by rulings which find such recording legal on first amendment grounds.)

But a ruling issued Monday by US District Court Judge Patti Saris found, "On the core constitutional issue, the Court holds that secret audio recording of government officials, including law enforcement officials, performing their duties in public is protected by the First Amendment, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions." And so, she added, the law "is unconstitutional in those circumstances."

The attorney general's office is reviewing the decision so challenge or appeal may still be forthcoming. However, as the Globe notes

this is one law whose time has come and gone. Challenges to the law go back to at least 2001, when a spirited dissent in a case then before the Supreme Judicial Court insisted that the "legislative intent" was to regulate government surveillance, not that of private citizens trying to monitor police conduct in a public place.

This case was clearly a win for greater transparency — and that's all to the good. It should be allowed to stand.

More information on recording public officials is available here and here.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Maybe now we can, just a little bit more, in Massachusetts.

Good one Skippy.

Previously: Right to Record Police Established in U.S. Fifth Circuit
Right to Record Police Established in U.S. Third Circuit

Related: New Bill in Colorado Would Protect the Right to Record Police
PINAC Correspondent Found Guilty of Trespassing on Public Road
China Says it's OK for Members of the Public to Record the Police


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by quadrox on Tuesday April 07 2015, @12:57PM

    by quadrox (315) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @12:57PM (#167410)

    AFAIK this law should be fairly redundant, but it's a good thing that it's being spelled out for everyone. If the bill passes, we can only hope it will be adopted by other states (and countries even).

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:11PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:11PM (#167419)
      How does this law really help? Where does the $15,000 come from? The tax payers or the police officer?

      A better law would be one that at least threatens to put the police officer in jail.

      Stealing people's stuff is wrong, and stealing/destroying stuff to cover up bad stuff is even worse. So a police officer abusing his power to seize people's cameras/phones should be forced to come up with very very good excuses to avoid going to jail.
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Immerman on Tuesday April 07 2015, @02:05PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @02:05PM (#167443)

        Exactly. But hey, I'd be happy if even $1000 had to be payed directly by the offending officer - dock their pay if they don't have it on hand.

        It would be nice if people were compensated for their abuse, but the ultimate goal should be *stopping* that abuse in the first place, and that requires holding the offenders personally responsible.

      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Tuesday April 07 2015, @02:08PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday April 07 2015, @02:08PM (#167445) Journal
        It changes the economics of the situation. If police continue to do this so that a photographer gets $15,000 every time their cheap camera is seized or destroyed, this is going to unleash some very interesting dynamics.
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by LoRdTAW on Tuesday April 07 2015, @02:09PM

        by LoRdTAW (3755) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @02:09PM (#167447) Journal

        Taxes most likely. And jail is also paid for by taxes. So either way it comes out of our pockets.

        I'd prefer that the officer is directly fined for damages. Money loss is a better deterrent.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday April 07 2015, @06:30PM

          by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @06:30PM (#167527) Journal

          I'd prefer that the officer is directly fined for damages. Money loss is a better deterrent.

           
          If a person drives a forklift for a living and they hit someone they aren't (generally) personally liable. The police definitely need a good reigning in but the same general concept should apply.
           
          Keep in mind that forklift incidents are the leading cause of death in general industry so it's closer to an apple-to-apple comparison than you may think.

          • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Tramii on Tuesday April 07 2015, @06:52PM

            by Tramii (920) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @06:52PM (#167539)

            If a person drives a forklift for a living and they hit someone they aren't (generally) personally liable. The police definitely need a good reigning in but the same general concept should apply.

            If I was struck by accident with a forklift, that's one thing. But if I was struck *intentionally* then yes, I would expect that employee to be personally held responsible.

            Any cop who intentionally seizes/destroys my personal property in order to cover up their misdeeds, should indeed face personal liability.

            • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday April 07 2015, @07:07PM

              by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @07:07PM (#167544) Journal

              Any cop who intentionally seizes/destroys my personal property in order to cover up their misdeeds, should indeed face personal liability.

               
              Well now you are talking about intent, conspiracy and the ciminal justice system. Those are very different things with different punishments and evidenciary requirements.
               
              The bill in question does not require a finding of intent, is a civil infraction and has a much lower standard of evidence. The intent part is important because you don't have to prove anything about the Officer's motives.
               
              They newbie cop who is simply mistaken due to too much CSI will also be sanctioned for confiscating your phone.

              • (Score: 3, Touché) by chromas on Tuesday April 07 2015, @09:48PM

                by chromas (34) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday April 07 2015, @09:48PM (#167607) Journal

                They newbie cop who is simply mistaken due to too much CSI will also be sanctioned for confiscating your phone.

                Nothin' wrong with that. He should be familiar with laws before he goes around enforcing them.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 08 2015, @04:24AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 08 2015, @04:24AM (#167727)

              In California, if a school bus driver gets in an accident. The driver IS personally liable. The district may or may not decide to help out with legal expenses (I drove school buses in college, and I quit after this happened to another driver-- the district chose not to help out the 20 yr. old college student).

              In California, if a cop shoots an unarmed, face-down and restrained man in the back, and he and his buddies steal the phones of anybody around to cover up the murder (the murder of Oscar Grant), nothing happens to any of the cops.

              Cops should not be immune from going to jail (probably every cop in the US has committed crimes that would have landed them in jail, if they were not cops), but even some financial burden upon them would probably improve things. Make every settlement involving a cop as well as this $15K damages come out of their pension fund. And, if the pension fund is completely drained (which will happen pretty quickly if current abuse rates by cops hold up), then start using asset seizure, and seize the criminal cop's houses and other belongings (there is precedent for this sort of thing when dealing with criminals).

          • (Score: 2) by LoRdTAW on Tuesday April 07 2015, @09:58PM

            by LoRdTAW (3755) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @09:58PM (#167613) Journal

            Your employer can dock your pay as a means of reimbursement.

            Side note: I am licensed to operate a forklift in NY and I can confirm that people do some really stupid things while operating them.

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Arik on Tuesday April 07 2015, @02:15PM

        by Arik (4543) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @02:15PM (#167449) Journal
        The whole idea, unfortunately, fails. The new law is unlikely to ever be enforced, for all the same reasons that the many already existing laws on the books will not be. Prosecutors are deathly afraid to offend the police.

        If they were not, there would be no need for this law, prosecutors would *already* have cops in the dock all across the country under charges starting with deprivation of civil rights under color of law, and continuing in many cases with asault and theft via threat.

        --
        If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
        • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Tuesday April 07 2015, @05:17PM

          by hemocyanin (186) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @05:17PM (#167504) Journal

          I haven't read the law but there is a huge clue that says it isn't going to work that way: attorney fees. Note that there is no mention of jail time. This sounds like they are creating a private __civil__ cause of action. No prosecutor involved anywhere. You get your camera trashed, go hire a private attorney and sue. If you win, the city pays you $15k and whatever it cost to sue it (legal fees and costs).

          • (Score: 4, Informative) by hemocyanin on Tuesday April 07 2015, @05:22PM

            by hemocyanin (186) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @05:22PM (#167507) Journal

            Yep -- so I RTFA'd:

            The summary indicates:

            The bill creates a private right of action against a peace officer's employing law enforcement agency if a person records an incident involving a peace officer and a peace officer destroys the recording or seizes the recording without receiving consent or obtaining a warrant or if the peace officer intentionally interferes with the recording or retaliates against the person making the recording. The person who recorded the peace officer incident is entitled to actual damages, a civil penalty of $15,000, and attorney fees and costs.

            • (Score: 2) by Arik on Tuesday April 07 2015, @06:06PM

              by Arik (4543) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @06:06PM (#167513) Journal
              A good correction, but unfortunately the idea still fails.

              Even without the prosecutor involved, courts are still loathe to mess with police, but even if it works perfectly as written, so what?

              The award comes out of the taxpayers pocket, not the offenders. And if you think a $15k judgement will get someone fired, think again. Many cops around the country have triggered much larger payouts and it's extremely rare to see one lose their job over it.
              --
              If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
              • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Tuesday April 07 2015, @07:09PM

                by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Tuesday April 07 2015, @07:09PM (#167545) Homepage
                They'll just need to confiscate more stuff that they think may be the fruits of illegal activity (so-called civil forfeiture) in order to recoup their losses. That camera looks valuable...
                --
                Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
              • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Tuesday April 07 2015, @07:21PM

                by hemocyanin (186) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @07:21PM (#167552) Journal

                I agree that the officers should face personal consequences, but the flip side of that is that if the officer is judgment proof, and the law did not specifically say you can sue the police department, it might actually be weaker because you couldn't collect anything. Plus without the law, their would sovereign immunity issues most probably.

                So -- is it perfect? No. Does it address the problem? Yes, in the most important way possible: front page headlines specifically pointing out that it is legal to video cops. The teeth it has are to make that headline happen.

        • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday April 07 2015, @07:10PM

          by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @07:10PM (#167546) Journal

          The whole idea, unfortunately, fails. The new law is unlikely to ever be enforced, for all the same reasons that the many already existing laws on the books will not be. Prosecutors are deathly afraid to offend the police.
           
          This bill allows citizens to sue directly over infractions. No prosecutor required

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Translation Error on Tuesday April 07 2015, @03:55PM

        by Translation Error (718) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @03:55PM (#167482)
        From the bill:

        A person who lawfully records an incident involving a peace officer, and has that recording destroyed by a peace officer, or a peace officer seizes the recording without receiving permission from the person to seize it or without first obtaining a warrant, has a private civil right of action against the peace officer's employing law enforcement agency. [edited for readability]

        So, it looks like the money would come from the agency the officer's working for, and while it's not the deterrent it would be if it were coming out of the officer's own pocket, you can be sure that someone will be coming down pretty hard on the person who made $15,000+ vanish from the department's budget.

      • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Tuesday April 07 2015, @05:13PM

        by hemocyanin (186) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @05:13PM (#167503) Journal

        I agree with you, but I would bet that if a cop causes more than one of these bills (and remember, the attorney fee part will at least double that cost), or if the cops under a particular head cop are costing a ton of money, some people are going to get fired. They'll go from well compensated (good pay excellent benefits) to barely over minimum wage rent-a-cops. That is at least some discouragement.

      • (Score: 2) by sjames on Tuesday April 07 2015, @08:26PM

        by sjames (2882) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @08:26PM (#167582) Journal

        If you are responsible for the officer, watching your budget fly away might make you think twice about shuffling the matter under the rug.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by VLM on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:28PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:28PM (#167426)

      we can only hope it will be adopted by other states

      Why?

      It only dis-incentivizes nuisance actions like threatening people at a street fair for photographing someone doing everything mostly legally.

      If you're filming cops behaving badly, $15K is enough to make them harass you and destroy your camera because it'll never cost more than $15K.

      So you're banning stuff that doesn't really matter while making it really cheap with a firm fixed cost ceiling when they stop a photographer doing something actually important.

      • (Score: 2) by Alfred on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:36PM

        by Alfred (4006) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:36PM (#167428) Journal
        Good point. 15K is way too low for damages. If you have your video and a cop gets fired for it that is at least 50K a year to them so it should be at least that for the photographer also.

        Reminds me I have been meaning to invest in button cams.
    • (Score: 5, Informative) by Thexalon on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:50PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:50PM (#167433)

      The reason it's not redundant is that crooked cops will use other laws (e.g. wiretapping) as an excuse to arrest the person making the recording and seize the device with the incriminating-the-police recording, and once the case is thrown out by a court (as it always is) the recording has been mysteriously erased. This law would make the original arrest illegal, whereas before the wiretapping arrest was legal but incorrect.

      The thing is, rules like this don't make it impossible for cops to get revenge on somebody. Consider, for example, the case of Ramsay Orta, who filmed Eric Garner's death and is now being held in Riker's prior to trial: The cops followed him around everywhere he went waiting for him to make a mistake, and a couple of weeks later searched him illegally and came up with an unregistered firearm (Orta was apparently feeling more than a bit paranoid at this point).

      --
      The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Tuesday April 07 2015, @02:19PM

      by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Tuesday April 07 2015, @02:19PM (#167450) Homepage
      Indeed, this law really ought to be redundant, as, unless there's a prior law that explicitly permits officers to curtail recording and/or confiscate equipment, it's never been permitted. If there is such a law, then alongside the introduction of this new law, the old law should be repealed. Lack of such a repeal implies lack of such a law.

      So I'm in two minds over whether this is a good thing. A simple decision setting precedent using only prior legislation would have been better. Something which didn't burden the tax system (the taxpayer pays the $15K ultimately) would have been better too, actual punishment for the infractor more than just a mark on his record ditto.
      --
      Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:15PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:15PM (#167420)

    Write your reps, Colorado people. I did yesterday. The cops keep doing shit like this and need a bitchslap to make them stop.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:35PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:35PM (#167427)

    This may be just a means of codifying a price tag onto the 1st amendment. I'd be interested in knowing who they hired to come up with the 15K$ number. Somebody probably did some polling or some calculations to figure out what the most cost effective hush money figure would be.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Grishnakh on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:43PM

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @01:43PM (#167430)

    $15K isn't enough; this will be considered like "the cost of doing business". It should be $150K, or even $1M.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07 2015, @02:39PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07 2015, @02:39PM (#167460)

      If it's 15K taken out of that cops pay, it is more than sufficient. But it's probably 15k taken out of the taxpayers money, in which case almost no amount is enough, and any amount is pretty much punishing the wrong people.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by gman003 on Tuesday April 07 2015, @03:14PM

      by gman003 (4155) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @03:14PM (#167471)

      $1M from the police department funds, $100K from the violating officer himself, and throw out any current cases that officer is involved in.

      The first makes the rest of the cops stop wanting to cover for you, the second gives a measure of personal responsibility, and the third makes the DA and the rest of the non-cop justice department want you gone.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by morgauxo on Tuesday April 07 2015, @04:14PM

        by morgauxo (2082) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @04:14PM (#167486)

        ", and throw out any current cases that officer is involved in."

        That is a horrible idea. What if a murderer or rapist goes free and strikes another victim because of this?

        • (Score: 2) by gman003 on Tuesday April 07 2015, @04:35PM

          by gman003 (4155) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @04:35PM (#167492)

          What if a dirty cop goes free to murder more people because we don't have this?

          • (Score: 2) by JNCF on Tuesday April 07 2015, @10:09PM

            by JNCF (4317) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @10:09PM (#167615) Journal

            I think morgauxo was only explicitly arguing against one part of your proposal, the part where we throw out all pending criminal cases the dirty cop had any involvement with. I'm sketchy on how that relates to the dirty cop getting free.

            • (Score: 2) by gman003 on Wednesday April 08 2015, @12:29AM

              by gman003 (4155) on Wednesday April 08 2015, @12:29AM (#167648)

              It's one of those "fear of the punishment keeps people from committing the crime in the first place" ideas, except with the addition that it also punishes those who would otherwise have an interest in hiding the crime. Which is, of course, the real problem with thug cops - they're protected by the rest, for various understandable (but still wrong) reasons, and it takes an extraordinary event and massive effort to break that protection.

              The idea was also motivated by the fact that a thug cop is inherently an unreliable source of evidence, which has obvious effects on the cases they're involved in.

              I will admit that throwing the cases out entirely may be too much - simply excluding all their evidence would suffice for the quality-of-evidence issue. However, our laws are harsh and unforgiving to non-police criminals - I see no reason why the punishment for corrupting the course of justice should be any less brutal.

              • (Score: 2) by morgauxo on Thursday April 09 2015, @02:15PM

                by morgauxo (2082) on Thursday April 09 2015, @02:15PM (#168337)

                "It's one of those "fear of the punishment keeps people from committing the crime in the first place" ideas"

                Why does a cop on his way to prison care about the outcome of what were previously his ongoing cases? He has more personal things to worry about.

                "a thug cop is inherently an unreliable source of evidence"

                I would want to know what the evidence was before determining that and automatically throwing EVERYTHING out. His word? Not worth much. Winesses he discovered? Were they in on the crime with cop or totally unrelated? What is their motivation for testifying? Photographic evidence? Well.. get an expert to check it out, make sure it wasn't photoshopped.

                And how does the case relate to what the cop did? Is a cop who took a camera away because someone was taping him harassing a minority less reliable when he is trying to put a white guy away for raping white women? (reminder - I'm not arguing for keeping the bad cop, only for continuing to prosecute the rapist)

            • (Score: 2) by morgauxo on Thursday April 09 2015, @02:06PM

              by morgauxo (2082) on Thursday April 09 2015, @02:06PM (#168331)

              That is correct

        • (Score: 2) by jasassin on Tuesday April 07 2015, @10:12PM

          by jasassin (3566) <jasassin@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 07 2015, @10:12PM (#167616) Journal

          That is a horrible idea. What if a murderer or rapist goes free and strikes another victim because of this?

          That would be a perfect question to ask an officer doing evil and confiscating the proof. What if the criminals were set free and ended up raping and murdering the offending officers family? Would you feel sorry for him?

          This reminds me of Spiderman. With great power comes great responsibility. For the record no, I don't feel sorry for Peter. He had his chance and he blew it. It was that tragedy that opened his eyes, and made him realise the importance of right and wrong.

          --
          jasassin@gmail.com Key fingerprint = 0644 173D 8EED AB73 C2A6 B363 8A70 579B B6A7 02CA
    • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Tuesday April 07 2015, @06:42PM

      by tangomargarine (667) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @06:42PM (#167533)

      That's why you hire the most expensive lawyer known to man, silly.

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by choose another one on Tuesday April 07 2015, @03:53PM

    by choose another one (515) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday April 07 2015, @03:53PM (#167481)

    If it passes: "a person lawfully recording" will not apply, because the second an officer chooses to disengage from an incident to deal with a photographer, that photographer is interfereing with an investigation. The mistake is to assume they currently persecute lawful photographers, obviously they don't - any photographer they interfere with is by definition _un_lawful...

    If it doesn't pass, even better, the legislature has just confirmed to the cops that they have the right to interfere with _any_ photographer...

    Sounds like a win-win, for them.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07 2015, @04:36PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07 2015, @04:36PM (#167494)

      Also;
      Cops break law. Citizen films it. Cops destroy evidence and pay $15k for the privilege. Cops goes free from the crime. Cheaper than most lawyers.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by wonkey_monkey on Tuesday April 07 2015, @06:18PM

    by wonkey_monkey (279) on Tuesday April 07 2015, @06:18PM (#167517) Homepage

    New Bill in Colorado Would Protect the Right to Record Police

    Yay! But shouldn't this right already be protected on account of it, y'know, not being illegal?

    The bill states that if a person is lawfully documenting a police officer and then has their imagery seized or destroyed without a warrant, they are entitled to $15,000 for actual damages plus attorney fees and costs.

    makes it sound like it could be more a case of:

    New bill in Colorado puts limit on how much the cops will have to shell out if they do stop you recording

    Hmm.

    --
    systemd is Roko's Basilisk