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No jail for seizing cameras

Sunday, April 13, 2014
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Citizens have a First Amendment right to videotape police officers while they're performing their duty, and not to be harassed while doing so.

But arresting police officers who violate that right is unnecessary overkill to solve a problem for which there are effective solutions already available.

A proposed ordinance under consideration in the city of Troy would make it a low-level misdemeanor for officers to interfere with the public's right to film them. A violation would be punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

Without going to that extreme, police agencies can make it clear to their officers that seizing cameras or other recording equipment from the public is prohibited through formal policies or just clear direction.

If administrative sanctions don't present enough of a deterrent, litigation from victims certainly will.

Policies that specifically prohibit officers from interfering with the public's right to film their actions, along with Justice Department backing and a legitimate threat of lawsuits from victims, should be enough incentive to curb the practice without resorting to throwing police officers in jail.

 
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