Remember that woman who was arrested in Rochester, New York for the heinous offense of recording the cops during a traffic stop in front of her home?
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:
Charge against Emily Good dismissed
At the start of court Monday, City Court Judge Jack Elliott announced that the television show Inside Editionhad asked to film the criminal proceedings against Emily Good.
Elliott denied the request, but the interest from the cable show was typical of the national interest in the case against a local activist arrested while videotaping a May 12 police stop in front of her home.
The court session Monday was brief, however, as the District Attorney’s Office asked for the charge against Good to be dismissed. There was not evidence to support the particular criminal charge of obstructing governmental administration, First Assistant District Attorney Sandra Doorley said.
Good supporters maintain that the Rochester officer was peeved at Good’s videotaping and arrested her without legal cause. Others claimed the arrest was justified, the proper answer to a meddling woman who could have put the officers’ and others’ lives at risk.
While the criminal case ended with the dismissal of the criminal charge, the controversy is by no means disappearing. Police have launched two internal investigations — one about the Good arrest and a separate one into allegations that her supporters were selectively ticketed at a meeting in Corn Hill — and Good said she plans to bring civil action against the city.
Her civil attorney, Donald Thompson, said the legal action would be based on “the officer’s unlawful arrest of Ms. Good and his failure to recognize, unfortunately, that it was unlawful.”
Good, in her pajamas, was videotaping a police traffic stop in front of her Aldine Street home when Officer Mario Masic asked her to go back inside her house. He said he felt threatened by her presence; Good refused, saying it was her right to be in her yard.
Believe it or not, in some states it is a crime to record cops in the performance of their duties. Fortunately for Ms. Good, New York isn’t one of them.
Rochester Police Locust Club union President Michael Mazzeo said he worries that the case could signal to people that they can interfere with a police stop or police action.
“The last thing we need is people interfering or distracting officers in the middle of a situation,” Mazzeo said. “It could turn deadly.”
The groundswell of attention has wrongly focused on the fact that Good was videotaping the traffic stop, Mazzeo said. Instead, he said, the issue was whether Good’s actions could dangerously hinder the work of police.
Now that is pure, unadulterated horseshit. Good was standing in her own yard wearing pajamas and holding a loaded iPod. She was in no way interfering or doing anything threatening.
When video cameras first became commonplace in the eighties many people began to see for the first time how cops really behave. If it hadn’t been for citizens recording the incidents then Rodney King and Oscar Grant would have been just two more black men who “resisted arrest” and “got what they deserved.”
We have had “dash-cams” in some police cars for years. They should be in all police cars. Not only that but the technology is now cheap enough to make it feasible for cops to wear cameras that would record everything they say and do.
Rather than relying on viral video from random passers-by as a possible deterrent to bad behavior, police should be required to wear a perpetually running video camera with audio recording while they are carrying out their duties, with undeletable footage that could be subpoena-ed in the case of either an arrest by the police officer or a complaint by a directly affected individual within a reasonable time period.
This is now well within the realm of technical feasibility as far as I can see, and should not be vastly expensive (certainly no more expensive than e.g. the data retention requirements that police and legal authorities impose on ISPs and telcos). I can imagine some significant problems (e.g. with respect to the privacy rights of third parties caught by police footage), but they don’t seem to me to be insuperable. Of course police could have ‘accidents’ with the technology so that it didn’t work at key moments – but if this happened systematically, it would be a boon for defense lawyers. The actual objections would (I suspect) be more based on sociological arguments than on technology or costs. Police claim (see here for an argument to this effect that we guest-hosted on CT) that they require a certain amount of discretion to do their job properly. Giving the public the right to look over their shoulders in the case of arrests or complaints would severely curtail, or perhaps even eliminate that discretion.
Security cameras record criminals all the time. Why not cops too?
Those recordings would be decisive in determining whether there was really probable cause to search or arrest a defendant, as well as whether defendants were properly mirandized. Judges and juries could see for themselves what defendants and witnesses said and whether the use of force by police was justified.
Doesn’t that make you wonder why the cops are adamantly opposed to having their actions recorded? They even oppose having interrogations of people suspected of serious felonies recorded.
What are they trying to hide?
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