The Public’s Domain

 

Police employees in Beverly Hills, California, have gotten the clever idea that they can effectively jam a live streaming broadcast of their activities by playing copyrighted music from their phones, thereby causing the automated filters of a platform such as Instagram to shut the video down for copyright infringement. The filters have been around for several years, and they can be either too aggressive or too timid unless monitored by a human being, presumably one with common sense.

RKO Radio Pictures transmitter ident
The RKO Radio Pictures transmitter logo that signaled the beginning of a motion picture from that studio from 1929 to 1957. This image is now in the public domain.

But monitoring and moderating by a human being comes after the fact; to shut down a video in real time, the filters have to be automated and act independently. The police employees have figured this out and are now counting on the filters being set too aggressively so that they can exploit the feature for the purpose of frustrating citizens’ rights to film them as they go about their public duties at the behest and expense of the public. This tangled mess will surely end up in the courts.

Meanwhile, at this time like no other before, technology bestows benefits on those who enjoy listening to radio programs from around the world, whether that involves copyrighted music or not. Internet streaming of radio broadcasts has been around for decades, but never has access been as easy for casual listeners or the choices as broad as they are now. Radio Garden is a Dutch non-profit project that makes picking out a radio station anywhere in the world to listen to as easy as spinning the globe and then jabbing a finger at a green dot somewhere on it. Let police employees everywhere know that they are in the public’s domain, and that copyright – as easy as access to copyrighted works may be – is not theirs to wield as a baton.

— Techly


The first clip here is from the 1963 Blake Edwards film, The Pink Panther. The second clip is from the 1964 film, A Shot in the Dark, also directed by Mr. Edwards. Both films starred Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau.

 

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Extraordinary Popular Idiocies

 

No matter how incompetently the current president handles crises, from the toll taken on the nation’s health and economy by the coronavirus to the nationwide protests in response to the police murder of George Floyd, his supporters, followers, and enablers continue giving him a free pass. No evidence makes an impression on them.

 

The coronavirus is a plot by Democrats to make the current president look bad! No, he makes himself look bad, in the same way that those pants don’t make you look fat – your fat makes you look fat. And the George Floyd protesters need to be dominated in the streets, because that’s what a strong leader does! Never mind that it is the behavior of a tinpot dictator, not the leader of a nation of laws guaranteeing the freedoms of speech and peaceable assembly.

Orlando-Ferguson-flat-earth-map edit
A Flat Earth map drawn in 1893 by Professor Orlando Ferguson of Hot Springs, South Dakota. Looks rather like a roulette wheel. From the collection of the Library of Congress.

There’s the word “peaceable” that reactionaries have hung their hats on for centuries as an excuse to violently quell protests. If only some of the protesters can be goaded into violence by agents provocateurs planted among them by law enforcement agencies or private reactionary groups, then the police employees in riot armor can have license to start swinging their clubs and firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets into the crowds. In the ensuing confusion, it’s difficult for reporters or other independent investigators to locate and prove the identity of the provocateurs.

 

Boy making a rainbow with a garden hose
Boy making a rainbow with spray from a garden hose in Charleston, South Australia in January 2019. Photo by Photwik.

Too many people believe, in the end, only what they want to believe, and do not care to trouble themselves any further with truthful details. It’s simpler that way, comforting really. Observational evidence will not convince them to change their minds. To use an example from the natural world, through the years many gardeners and even some professional horticulturists have believed that watering plants in sunshine will scorch the plants’ leaves on account of a supposed magnifying lens effect from water droplets.

Not only has this myth been scientifically disproved, but the evidence there is no validity in it is plain for anyone to see who has watered annual flowering plants tightly packed in a hanging basket or pot. No escaping getting water on the foliage there, and those plants appear to get along alright, and better than they would if the worried gardener had withheld the spray of water waiting for a cloudy day. Yet many continue to believe, because they would rather believe the story their mind and culture invents for them than what the plants themselves are showing. We’re alright! Thanks for the water on a hot, sunny day! Here’s a rainbow for your trouble!
— Ed.

 

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Service with a Smile

 

In an exchange in Decatur, Alabama, between a police employee and a handcuffed citizen, the employee identified himself as F*ck You when the citizen asked his name. The citizen and another young man had been filming a music video outside, and there are conflicting accounts about whether they used a handgun as a prop in filming. The sight of the handgun may have prompted a passerby to call police. It is unclear if that is what brought police to the scene, but if it did, then the two young men used poor judgment in filming in public with a handgun without making it abundantly clear they were engaged in a harmless fiction.

 

Further speculation on what brought about the police encounter devolves into victim blaming and sidetracks the basic point, which is that the behavior of Officer F*ck You was clearly out of bounds and unnecessary. It turned out the two citizens had not been up to no good and there had been no need to handcuff them and illegally search at least one of them. Officer F*ck You’s thin skinned behavior is precisely the kind of escalation of an encounter with a citizen that too often ends with the police employee meting out violent street injustice. A person as hotheaded and drunk with power as Officer F*ck You has no business dealing with the public.

Hello my name is sticker
Many people dealing with the public find it helpful to wear a sticker like this one. Write in whatever name you like, but try to be nice! Image created by Eviatar Bach.

We can imagine other scenarios for the encounter in order to guess at why it went wrong, but thankfully stopped short of becoming another incident of a police employee murdering a citizen. What if the two citizens had been middle-aged white businessmen in suits and ties? Chances are higher in that case there would have been no police encounter at all, even if a passerby had spotted a handgun. Surely such fine gentlemen must have good reason for what they’re doing! Perhaps they’re police detectives filming a training video!

Had the police nonetheless been called to the scene, chances are high the police employees would have treated the two white, middle-aged men in suits with circumspection and respect while working politely toward a peaceful resolution to the problem. Had Officer F*ck You been called to the scene at all, he might have introduced himself instead as Sam-I-Am, the character in Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham who beguiles another character into trying the titular foods. Or he could have said with a salty twist “Call me Ishmael”, as the narrator does at the beginning of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

“The Name Game”, a 1964 song written by Shirley Ellis and Lincoln Chase, and performed by Shirley Ellis.

There are any number of names Officer F*ck You could have used if it is the policy of the Decatur police department for employees not to identify themselves when asked by a citizen. He could have referred to such a policy as a reason for not giving any name at all. Contrary to what many people may believe, it is not a matter of law that police employees identify themselves by name, but a matter of each police department’s policy. All of the alternative tactics mentioned above would have conveyed a less hostile tenor and might have even lowered the tension. Isn’t that what a police employee is supposed to do in order to keep the peace? What purpose does it serve when a police employee gets in a citizen’s face when that person simply asks for a name and badge number? Who does it protect to belligerently retort “F*ck You! F*ck You is my name!”?
— Ed.

 

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Know Your Privileges

 

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) employees have been detaining journalists and immigration lawyers at checkpoints in Arizona and Texas and questioning them about their political beliefs. These are nothing more than intimidation tactics by government employees who don’t appear overly concerned that they work for all citizens of the United States, not merely the current presidential administration and its far right supporters.

 

CBP has long had too broad an authority, and particularly after World War II when Congress passed laws giving the agency the ability to regularly trespass on citizens’ rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. In 1953, without public review, the Justice Department specified the zone within which CBP could operate fast and loose with the Constitution at 100 air miles of the United States border. That’s 100 miles within the United States, all around the perimeter, an area encompassing nearly two thirds of the populace.

Oh America -WomensMarch -WomensMarch2018 -SenecaFalls -NY (38908982905)
A sign at the January 2018 Womens’ March in Seneca Falls, New York. Photo by Marc Nozell.

It’s incredible these laws and rules have stayed on the books as long as they have and have withstood review by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has often interpreted the Constitution with an eye toward sustaining the power of the government over the citizen, however, despite the recent miraculous lapse in its ruling on Timbs v. Indiana, which rescinded civil asset forfeiture, also known as cops’ legalized stealing of citizens’ property. That ruling can best be considered an anomaly, at least from the Court’s five conservative justices, who with an even more recent ruling, in Nielsen v. Preap, are back to their usual shoring up of police state encroachments on the Constitution.

George Carlin performing in 2008 in Santa Rosa, California, just months before he died. “You Have No Rights” is the closing bit, and for the album made from this Home Box Office (HBO) special, It’s Bad for Ya, he was awarded a posthumous Grammy. Warning: foul language.

Supposedly these laws are meant to be enforced against illegal immigrants, who after all are not citizens. In practice, their overly broad authority allows enough room for CBP employees with a political agenda to harass and intimidate anyone they care to, citizens and non-citizens alike. The CBP employees can always claim some legal rationale for their capricious actions, and even after offering the flimsiest excuses, they know legal redress of their abuse of power will take years, if it comes at all. This is what happens when fear guides the writing of laws, giving too much authority to law enforcement agencies, and then a lawless presidential administration grasps the reins of all that power. Meanwhile the nation’s courts have too often upheld police prerogatives over citizens’ rights, eroding the meaning of those rights and mocking their supposed inviolability.
— Vita

 

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Cops and Robbers

 

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
— Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In a unanimous decision on February 20, the Supreme Court ruled against the state of Indiana in the case of Timbs v. Indiana, a ruling which effectively ends the notorious practice of civil asset forfeiture. The applicable clause in the Constitution is “nor excessive fines imposed”, and it’s a wonder the states have been able to get away with lawless civil asset forfeiture practices as long as they have, considering the clause seems plainly clear. Apparently the application of that particular right slipped through as long as it has because the country’s founders meant the Constitution to apply only to the federal government. The Supreme Court has been gradually redressing that error ever since, and on February 20 the Court closed the loophole by which police departments across the country had been stealing citizens’ property under state laws allowing the practice.


Ten Commandments altar screen in the Temple Church London
The altar screen of the Temple Church in London, setting out the text of the Ten Commandments according to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. Photo by Jheald.

What’s most remarkable about this historic ruling is that it was unanimous. The Supreme Court’s balance is now five to four in favor of conservative justices, and typically when conservatives weigh law enforcement practices against the rights of citizens they have decided for the former. Considering what was at stake in this case, the miraculously unanimous decision speaks to just how corrupt policing for profit had become, and ending it slows the nation’s slide toward becoming a police state. Now police employees nationwide have to heed the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution as well as the Eighth Commandment which, carved in stone in Judeo-Christian culture, reads “Thou shalt not steal”.

They can make more progress by heeding other Commandments, too, such as the Sixth, a paraphrase of which states “Thou shalt not wantonly kill, and then have thy buddies on the force close ranks and cover it up for thee”. That last bit incorporates the Ninth Commandment against bearing false witness, saving time. What does all this have to do with technology? If the police can finally be made to start following rules that have been set in low-tech stone for millennia, perhaps moving along to rules for 21st century high-tech will follow, like whether the controversial practice of going on fishing expeditions to obtain DNA evidence violates citizens’ rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. There are no equivalent strictures in the Ten Commandments. Perhaps the usual advocates on the Court for the police, the conservative justices, can rely on the Constitution alone and apply its plain as day language to the latest technology and once again vote unanimously for citizens’ rights.
— Techly

 

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A Prediction

 

With this year’s midterm election three weeks away and an enormous amount at stake regarding what sort of country voters want to live in, it’s a safe prediction that turnout will be higher than usual, perhaps at a record level. Midterm elections have historically drawn out only about 40 percent of eligible voters, compared to about 60 percent in presidential election years. There are so many cultural issues at stake in this first national election since 2016 that people are more likely than ever to turn out at the polls despite the relatively good economy, which ordinarily would be a reason for complacency and low turnout.

High voter turnout typically favors Democratic candidates, and that should hold true this year as well, but turnout by Republican voters should be high as well on account of the fires being stoked by their leader in the Oval Office, the Divider-in-Chief. In rally after rally and through draconian policy actions meant to provoke an outraged and, in his view, pearl-clutching response from the opposition, the Republican Party’s national leader inflames his base with culture war issues distorted and amplified through their partisan media outlet, Fox News. Ramming Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh through the relatively wet noodle opposition on the Senate Judiciary Committee served the Divider-in-Chief’s purposes admirably, giving him and his base a win in the culture wars against liberals. Whether Mr. Kavanaugh’s service on the Court will improve the rule of law in this country, or even respect it, is besides the point as far as they are concerned.


Map of US Voter ID Laws by State, Strict vs Non-Strict, Nov 2016
Map of Voter ID laws in the United States, Strict vs Non-Strict (November 2016).

Red ——– Photo ID required (Strict)
Orange —- Photo ID requested (Non-strict)
Dark Blue – Non-photo ID required (Strict)
Light Blue – Non-photo ID requested (Non-strict)
Gray ——- No ID required to vote
This map may not be up to date. Check with your local registrar if you are unsure. Map by Peterljr888.

 

With the Republicans fired up and their unofficial paramilitary offshoots among white supremacist organizations feeling emboldened by Supreme Leader and by the police, it’s also a fair prediction that voter intimidation efforts at the polls by those groups will be higher than ever this year. Supreme Leader has signaled numerous times to the lunatic fringe of the alt-right that he has their backs, and the police have done the same by standing by passively while white supremacist groups have rioted and dealt violence to counter protesters, most prominently in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, and again recently at altercations in Portland, Oregon, and in New York City.

If voters are intimidated at polling places this year by over zealous followers of Supreme Leader, it is perhaps not advisable to rely on reporting the matter to local police employees. It is probably better to follow the guidelines of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE, or the Department of Justice Voting Rights Hotline at 800-253-3931. The ACLU also advises contacting an attorney, but as that can add up to a lot of expense, it helps to realize the Election Protection Hotline is run by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and can help with legal questions pro bono. Now that everyone in the country has had two years to observe where the Divider-in-Chief and his cohort want to take the country, to unsavory places where the rule of law is not respected and where only the rich benefit from the nation’s wealth, it has never been more clear how much voting can make a difference in the sort of country we claim to be than in this year’s midterm election. Vote!
— Ed.

 

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Standing on Shaky Ground

 

Last weekend was the anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and while the organizer of that rally was denied a permit by the mostly dysfunctional Charlottesville city government for a reprise this year in Charlottesville, he was able to promote a rally in Washington, D.C., where it fizzled. Meanwhile, in Charlottesville, police employees showed up in force, 1,000 of them, in order to make up for last year when they stood by and did as little as possible to keep the two sides from fighting. Since the police employees had even less to do this year despite their greater numbers and show of macho force in riot gear, they contented themselves with bossing around peaceful, law-abiding citizens who wished to conduct business as usual on the downtown pedestrian mall, site of some last year’s conflicts.

Police State Pittsburgh G20
Police employees power tripping at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in September 2009. Among the other tricked out military gear, note the desert camouflage trousers, surplus from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, being worn by servers and protectors in the green, leafy environs of home as they serve and protect the interests of the conservative 1%. Photo by katesheets.

 

The police appear to have no concept of reasonable proportion and common sense discretion which would permit them to gauge an appropriate middle ground in these civil conflicts. They are hammers, and to them almost everybody looks like nails. They are either busting heads, almost always of those on the left, or standing by idly and collecting overtime while the two sides in fascist and anti-fascist protests engage each other violently. It’s not hard to guess based on police conduct that most of them sympathize with protesters on the far right. No one impartial appears to be directing the police at these events. This is nothing new in American life, that the police would side with the most conservative portions of the citizenry against the left. The police slogan “To serve and protect” has always implied a narrow constituency. What’s all the more interesting then is that the supposedly liberal city government in Charlottesville, out of fear and a desperate desire to reclaim their reputation from last year’s debacle, deferred to local and state police organizations eager to impose for one weekend an authoritarian regime in an empty show of over-the-top policing.
— Ed.

 

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The Neighborly Thing to Do

 

With gentrification occurring in many old city neighborhoods across the country, there has been a rise in calls of complaint to city officials from the new, mostly white, residents about the established, mostly black and brown, residents. New residents usually make those calls to a city’s 311 line, which doesn’t automatically entail a police response, and that’s just as well because out of control police employees are just as likely to escalate a conflict between neighbors as they are to defuse it, particularly since the complainants are pointing their fingers at black and brown people.

John William Waterhouse - Gossip
Good Neighbours, an 1885 painting by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). While not a depiction of an ethnically diverse gathering, still this painting conveys the notion of neighborliness.

Some white folks, but not all, understand the possibly dangerous consequences for black and brown folks of having the police intercede in even the mildest disputes. Those who do understand how it works use the police as their personal enforcers, as a blunt instrument to get their way without having to simply talk with their neighbors. Involving city officials, especially the police, ought to be the last resort, but when you are rarely the target of a blunt instrument it is easy to take the view that it is a first resort.

The new residents in gentrifying neighborhoods have little in common with the established residents, and that has much to do with their reluctance to deal with them one on one as equals. Some are intimidated by people whom they have long been instructed by the greater white society to view as likely criminals, or at least as not worthy of the benefit of a doubt. A black or brown person conducting themselves in a manner not dissimilar to a white person, for instance conducting a house inspection as part of his or her official duties or job, is far more likely to be viewed with suspicion by a white person in the vicinity, with the white person eventually calling the authorities to report those supposedly suspicious activities. The glass half full for white people in this society is almost always half empty for others.


Sesame Street has always been at the forefront in portraying amicable relations among people of different ethnicities. This clip from a 1990s episode features a version of “The People in Your Neighborhood”, a song written by Jeffrey Moss and, since the show’s inception in 1969, usually performed by Bob McGrath and a selection of Anything Muppets representing various occupations.

 

It seems like this society is sliding backwards, and the rhetoric and actions originating with the current presidential administration are leading the way backward. No doubt that is the meaning behind the slogan “Make America Great Again”. For a few in this society, about one third of the population, going backward appears to mean returning to the days when black and brown people were rarely seen and never heard, and then only in a subservient capacity. One thing they overlook is that in the days before home air conditioning and home theaters, people got out and about amongst their neighbors in the evenings, getting to know each other.

Turn on the captions for the printed lyrics.

Granted, ethnically mixed neighborhoods were never part of life for the upper classes, but the upper classes have always been able to afford their own way of life and rarely cared much at all how the rest of society viewed them for it. Poor and working class people have always had more day to day experience with other ethnicities, though that hasn’t implied an always peaceful coexistence. It seems now that in gentrifying neighborhoods the new residents, wealthier and usually whiter than their neighbors, don’t bother getting to know the poorer and darker people around them, and consequently they are easily disturbed by unfamiliar behavior, calling 311 out of fear or annoyance. The pattern continues until all the established residents are priced out of the neighborhood. What a shame then that the new residents come from all political stripes, some with the best intentions, and yet the ultimate effect they have on their new neighbors reflects the same backward thinking as that of those cynical, small-minded leaders now making policy in Washington, D.C., and that of their frightened, small-minded followers, calling the cops out to hassle their neighbors over every little thing.
— Vita

 

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Calling All Cars

 

Following up on a story from last December in which some gamers involved an innocent man in their dispute by calling in the police on a phony hostage situation, ultimately leading to the innocent man being shot dead by a police employee, two other gamers as well as the one who made the call are now facing federal charges. While it’s encouraging to see authorities taking this incidence of swatting seriously, it is not surprising to learn that the local district attorney in Wichita, Kansas, where the killing took place has decided not to prosecute the police employee who shot the innocent man. Andrew Finch came to the door of his house when police called him out under the impression that he was armed and dangerous based on the hoax phone call and, when in his confusion he moved toward his waistband, one trigger happy protector and server shot him dead.

 

It is no longer unusual for police in this country to overreact to situations and escalate them into unnecessary uses of deadly force. What marks the situation involving Andrew Finch as somewhat unusual is that he was a young white man, and even he was not given the benefit of the doubt. Had he been a brown or black person, he might have been killed even sooner. Police employees increasingly show an appalling lack of discernment in their interactions with the public as a whole, and in their interactions with minority groups it appears the shoot first and ask questions later rule is definitely in force. They behave this way for a number of reasons having to do with their hyper macho culture and us versus them mentality, but the most important reason is simply because they know they can get away with it.

CHP-Swat-Team
What’s wrong with this picture? It’s likely the question has never occurred to the members of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team depicted here getting down with their bad selves. Photo from CHP social media.

Of course the district attorney in Wichita is not going to prosecute the police employee who killed an innocent citizen simply because that employee had no common sense and perhaps had delusions of being garrisoned in a combat zone, where everyone but your fellow cops is a suspect. Who knows what goes through the minds of these testosterone hyped, jumpy confrontational cops? All the local district attorney knows is that he or she has to work hand in glove with the police department every day in the prosecution of cases, and their cooperation and good will is necessary to get that done. Prosecution of derelict police employees should not be left up to local district attorneys, but to a panel of citizens who can appoint an independent counsel.

 

Police sharpshooter at Ferguson protests
Police sharpshooter at the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. They take all the expensive equipment the taxpayers hand them and then turn those taxpayer funded guns and vehicles on their fellow citizens. Photo by Jamelle Bouie.

People, particularly white people, are more and more coming to the understanding that the police are blunt instruments with no discernment of their own, and they are taking advantage of that proclivity to sic the police on minorities the same as they would sic a vicious dog on someone. Black and brown people have unfortunately always understood this. The police seem all too willing to play along in most instances, particularly when it gives them the opportunity to lay a beating on some brown or black people. This phenomenon of calling on the police so that they may function as thuggish enforcers for the propertied class rather than as impartial guarantors of the public safety comes courtesy of all the police unions and police departments and local district attorneys who refuse to hold police employees accountable in any way to satisfy the rule of law they are sworn to uphold. A paid vacation and a desk job until things blow over is not only nowhere near enough accountability to the public, it is a sick joke amounting to a slap in the face of the citizens they purport to serve and to protect.
— Techly

 

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We’re Watching You

 

There are so many surveillance cameras in private and public spaces watching private citizens that it seems the only way to redress the imbalance is for private citizens to start recording corporate and government officials with surveillance cameras of their own. Recording business representatives on their property without their permission would be legally permissible only on publicly accessible portions. Recording public officials, however, such as police employees, would be much easier since much of their business is conducted in public and because they are, well, employees of the public.

 

The police employees themselves will often dispute the right of citizens to film them as they go about their business, and intimidate filmmakers into shutting off their cameras and even turning them over to the police. Those tactics are illegal, and cops who use them are doing so either out of ignorance of the law or, more likely, in anticipation of ignorance of the law on the part of the filmmaker. It’s interesting that the increasing surveillance in public of private citizens by corporate and government entities is justified by asserting “If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about”, but the same entities do not feel their dubious logic applies to them when the public films them going about their activities.

Inauguration U.S. Park Police Surveillance
A U.S. Park Police (USPP) employee takes video of spectators observing an incident in which the USPP had kettled a group of people at 12th and L N.W. in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017. The USPP officer has his back to the kettled group. Photo by Mobilus in Mobili.

Dashboard cameras, many of them with audio recording capabilities, are increasing in popularity mainly for insurance purposes in the recording of accidents. Some auto manufacturers have started including them as standard equipment or options, and therefore they are not entirely after market purchases by car owners anymore. What some car owners tend to overlook is the usefulness of dashboard cameras in recording interactions with police employees. Police have themselves had dashboard cameras for about 20 years, and body cameras are becoming more prevalent every year. The question is how much a citizen can rely on evidence provided by police dashboard cameras and body cameras in any interaction with police employees.

 

The police have cameras, which they can and do turn off, or the footage of which they can and do selectively edit. It’s well past time for the general public to have cameras in the same abundance. In their cars, for instance, they should have not only a dashboard camera pointed forward, but a rear dashboard camera pointed backward, because that is where a roadside stop by a police employee will end up if it goes outside, with the cop and the driver between the back of the driver’s car and the front of the squad car. All cameras should have the ability to swivel on their mounts, which in the case of the front pointing dashboard camera would allow it to capture the interaction with the police employee at the driver’s side window. All cameras should also have audio capability, though it is important to remember to advise passengers in the vehicle if this feature is on. Police employees do not have to be informed, because they are engaged in public business.

Bodycam-north-charleston-police
Police employee with bodycam in North Charleston, South Carolina, in March 2016. Photo by Ryan Johnson.

So many people have smartphones now that it may seem unnecessary to buy and install more than one dashboard camera in a vehicle. If the need arises, people think, they can always take out their smartphone and film the interaction with the police employee. There are a few things wrong with that idea. The first is that for most people, who interact with police rarely, getting stopped by a police employee can be intimidating and make them nervous, which in turn may make it difficult or impossible for them to get out their smartphone and point it directly at the police employee, making it obvious they are filming them. Secondly, for some aggressive police employees who don’t know or don’t care about the constitutional rights of the citizens who employ them, pointing a smartphone camera at them is like waving a red cape in front of a bull. It’s much easier and less conspicuous to reach up quickly and turn the dashboard camera toward the driver’s window, making sure to enable audio.

The Conversation, a 1974 film by Francis Ford Coppola, is about an audio surveillance expert, though in general the topic becomes the loss of privacy in the electronic age.

It’s a shame it has come to this, where the public feels they have to protect themselves against the very people who have sworn to serve and protect them, people who use public funds to trick out publicly funded squad cars in thousands of dollars worth of the latest technology, and themselves in quasi military gear and vehicles for the purpose of intimidating and beating down the citizens who pay their way. For the time being, it may appear out of control police employees are hurting only minorities and the poor, but that will change as they see they can get away with it, as they have. Any day now, the mistreatment will become indiscriminate, because that is the way of things like this. Psychotic bullies will beat up on almost anyone, middle class white people included, if they step out of lines that are ever more narrowly defined. They will beat up on almost anyone, that is, except the rich who are their real masters. Protect yourself with as many cameras as they have, if you can, because you can’t afford as many lawyers.
— Techly

 

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