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posted by janrinok on Tuesday April 07 2015, @12:49PM   Printer-friendly
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.

 
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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).

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  • (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-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.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).

    --
    Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
  • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Tuesday April 07 2015, @02:19PM

    by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.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