An incident that took place at Preakness last year called into question the rights of citizens to film police while they are carrying out law enforcement duties. The incident in question began when a woman allegedly engaged in a physical altercation with another spectator at the event. According to the Baltimore police, the woman resisted arrest and one of the officers punched her in the face in order to subdue her. She was later charged with assault.
While the incident was happening, an onlooker used his camera to film the arrest because he thought that the group of police were using unnecessary force to restrain the woman. An officer at the scene told that man that it was “illegal to record anybody’s voice or anything else in the state of Maryland.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) begs to differ.
It’s true that wire tapping laws exist to prevent ordinary citizens from secretly recording another person’s voice without their consent. However, the ACLU, as well as many other civil rights supporters, do not believe that those laws are applicable in these types of cases. According to reports, the ACLU plans to file a lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department on the camera owner’s behalf.
The ACLU believes that the police violated the camera owner’s rights by confiscating the device and deleting its contents. Citizens should be able to protect themselves by monitoring the actions of their government officials such as engagement in unnecessary roughness and police brutality. The ability of onlookers to capture the actions of these officers using their phones or a digital camera is one way to hold them accountable for their unreasonable behavior. Do you think that citizens should have the right to record the public actions of police officers?
The Baltimore Sun: “ACLU threatens lawsuit over seizure of man’s camera at Preakness,” Justin Fenton, Aug. 4, 2011
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