The Dept of Justice gets it right on the War on Cameras
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The Department of Justice has come under a lot of criticism during Eric Holder’s tenure as secretary but you have to give credit when credit is due as earlier this week an official from DOJ came out in defense of citizens recording public events in the public square.
We’ ve written numerous times about this “War On Cameras” and how too many public servants freak out when somebody pulls out a FlipCam to show (horrors!) what transpires on public property.On Monday (May 14), Jonathan Smith of the Special Litigation Section of DOJ sent a letter to city officials in Baltimore after police there were slapped with a lawsuit after allegedly grabbing the cellphone and deleting the video of a man who was recording the cops forcibly arresting a friend of his.
Smith’s 11-page letter says the Baltimore Police Department should “prohibit officers from destroying recording devices or cameras and deleting recordings or photographs under any circumstances.” Furthermore, “officers should be advised not to threaten, intimidate, or otherwise discourage” people from using cameras or recording devices and reiterates court decisions defending citizens who record from their private property.
That should have been foremost in the mind of a Las Vegas, Nevada, police officer who broke a man’s nose when the man was videotaping an arrest from his own driveway.
I hope the DOJ memo gets passed on to Baltimore’s transit administration as well. As we noted in this posting last year, a student who has an interest in transportation systems was ordered by a transit official (incorrectly) to stop taking pictures of a light rail station because it violates the Patriot Act.
But it’s also elected officials who need to brush up on the First Amendment and lighten up on the attitude.
We’ve written how right here in New Mexico, Torrance County commissioners have gotten bent out of shape because a citizen records commission meeting hearings and posts the video on YouTube.
In 2010, during a Diane Denish public appearance that had been advertised, her campaign official told Capitol Report New Mexico we couldn’t talk to the gubernatorial candidate — or even watch the proceedings — because her presentation was a “field event” and not open to the media.
Last year, a Republican congressman from Ohio hosted a town hall meeting — and actually had security personnel collect the cameras of a couple people recording the event.
But my favorite (or most comically bad) moment came right across the street from the Roundhouse, when KOB-TV’s Gadi Schwartz was assaulted by a state employee for videotaping outside the PERA Building.
When Schwartz said he could shoot there because he’s on public property, the guy who gets paid with taxpayer dollars, responded in true Orwellian fashion, “This is not public property; this is state property!”
Posted under Capitol Report.
Tags: Capitol Report New Mexico, Department of Justice, Diane Denish, Eric Holder, Gadi Schwartz, Jonathan Smith, KOB-TV, Patriot Act, Special Litigation Section, Torrance County Commission, war on cameras