Friday, May 24, 2013

Police Persecution Of Citizen Journalists

When David Silva of Bakersfield CA died this week after being beaten by police, the first thing police did was confiscate the cell phones of everyone who'd witnessed the beating.

"Citizen journalists" have caught police doing many things since the famous 1991 video taping of the brutal beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police. One that still reverberates is when Oscar Grant of Oakland, CA, was shot in the back by a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officer on New Year's Day in 2009 while other officers held Grant face down on the ground. At least two BART passengers recorded the shooting with their cell phones.

But more and more, police around the country are finding ways to prevent their misdeeds from becoming known. Citizen journalists, and even professional journalists, have been arrested, threatened with arrest, beaten, and wiretapped for recording police activities on public property.

Confiscating cell phone cameras, as in the Bakersfield case, is pervasive, because police know that when video evidence of their misconduct and crimes gets on the internet, it becomes very difficult to contain the damage.

And now, police have gotten laws passed in some states making it a crime to takes photos or video of police.

When there is no cell phone video, of course, it's next to impossible to receive justice for criminal activity by police. The misconduct is investigated by the police themselves, and the final decision about whether or not to prosecute a case is made by district attorneys, some of whom simply refuse to pursue police misconduct.

Journalist Carlos Miller created the web log Photography Is Not A Crime to keep track of the efforts by police to shield themselves from the truth, after he was arrested in 2007 for photographing police who were questioning a man, and charged with numerous crimes, including resisting arrest, all of which were eventually dropped or overturned.

Sure enough, when I looked up Miller's site tonight for this post I found that he is on top of the Bakersfield case. Two people have had their cell phones returned. One, whose cell phone didn't contain incriminating evidence, had it returned intact. Another, whose cell phone contained incriminating video, had it returned with the incriminating video deleted.

Activate iCloud and video away.


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