This must be dubbed the “Rodney King Law.”
Apparently what a police officer does while on duty is a private act. A guy posted a video of a state police officer writing him a ticket, one that he says he deserved. But when he posted a video of the incident captured by a camera in his helmet, he found himself facing 16 years in prison.
On April 8, Graber was awakened by six officers raiding his parents’ home in Abingdon, Md., where he lived with his wife and two young children. He learned later that prosecutors had obtained a grand jury indictment alleging he had violated state wiretap laws by recording the trooper without his consent.
…Like 11 other states, Maryland requires all parties to consent before a recording might be made if a conversation takes place where there is a "reasonable expectation of privacy." (By contrast, Virginia and the District require one party’s consent to a recording.) But is there any expectation of privacy in a police stop? That’s where police and civil libertarians differ.
During a 90-minute search of Graber’s parents’ home, police confiscated four computers, the camera, external hard drives and thumb drives.
…The frequency of such arrests has picked up with the spread of portable video cameras and the proliferation of videos showing alleged police misconduct on the Web. [Miami journalist Carlos Miller, who runs the blog Photography Is Not a Crime] has documented eight arrests in the past few years, including one of an Oregon man who was arrested for using his cellphone camera to tape police he says were being rough with a friend and a Chicago artist who taped his arrest for selling $1 artwork. "Most of the people getting arrested are not criminals," Miller said. "It is just really a power trip on the side of police."
…"The question is: Is a police officer permitted to have a private conversation as part of their duty in responding to calls, or is everything a police officer does subject to being audio recorded?" [Harford prosecutor Joseph I.] Cassilly said.
Cassilly thinks officers should be able to consider their on-duty conversations to be private. Other officers share that view and have issued warnings to documentarians. Another video that surfaced on YouTube shows a Baltimore police officer at the Preakness warning a cameraman who was recording several other officers subduing a woman that such recordings are illegal.
State police spokesman Greg Shipley said that Uhler acted appropriately and that the officer never pointed his gun at Graber, putting it away as soon as he saw Graber comply with his commands.
Troopers are told to act as if they are being videorecorded, Shipley said. If they see someone videorecording them, they can ask them to stop but are to take no further action even if the cameraman continues, he said. If they think a private conversation is being illegally recorded, they are to contact the local state’s attorney’s office and let a prosecutor decide whether a violation occurred.
Now get this irony:
Complicating the issue: Maryland state troopers record traffic stops themselves, using dashboard cameras that were installed in all patrol cars as a result of a 2003 settlement with the state ACLU over racial profiling.
In an August 2000 legal opinion, the state’s attorney general wrote that "many encounters between uniformed police officers and citizens could hardly be characterized as ‘private conversations’ " and that "any driver pulled over by a uniformed officer in a traffic stop is acutely aware that his or her statements are being made to a police officer and, indeed, that they may be repeated as evidence in a courtroom."
But Cassilly says the use of dash cameras does not negate officers’ entitlement to privacy on the job. Police who use dash cameras must alert drivers that they are being taped, he said.
Yes, but the driver have the option to say “I don’t want to be videotaped”?
If the police officers in California had such a law, Rodney King would have been beaten near to death and no one would have known.