Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bring out the video cameras!

I’m wondering how many people are going to feel a smart-aleck attitude and start whipping out their cell phones or whatever other portable device they happen to carry when they find themselves in the presence of a police officer.

Although I’m also wondering how many cops are going to start pulling out similar recording devices to take pictures of people whom they think are paying a little too close attention to them.

THERE HAVE BEEN several stories in recent years concerning the laws that make it a felony criminal offense to take pictures of police while they’re on duty.

Ever since Rodney King got beaten by police in Los Angeles, there have been those who view the “problem” as the fact that anyone would think it appropriate to photograph or videorecord police officers while they work.

Because invariably one can easily capture “evidence” indicating they were less than professional in the performance of their duties.

But the American Civil Liberties Union, which occasionally does its own random recording of police just to remind them that somebody’s watching, has filed lawsuits that culminated in a Monday ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States.

THE NATION’S HIGH court upheld a federal appeals court that ruled the laws against taping were improper. That lower court said it impinged on a person’s right to freedom of expression by saying that police were off-limits.

Of course, what really outraged people was the fact that the lawmakers who put a restriction on photographing police officers made it one of the more severe categories of felonies – one that can carry a prison term of up to 15 years.

In short, one had the potential (until Monday) to spend a significant portion of their lives in incarceration if a police officer got it in his (or her) head that he/she was being watched too closely.

It doesn’t surprise me to learn that police officers feel that way about themselves.

I’M JUST PLEASED to learn that the Supreme Court issued a ruling that tried to bring some semblance of sense to our law.

Because the honest truth is that there are so many cameras being erected by so many interests in so many public places that it probably is unrealistic for us to think that somebody isn’t watching us somewhere.

Even the police often have those cameras erected on poles around the city and even in many suburbs. I recently heard of a case where an alderman seriously believes a newly-erected police video camera was positioned to look into his campaign office's windows. Why should police get to watch us closer than we can watch them?

After all, the police are supposed to work for us and protect us? The people who would support such laws are the ones using questionable judgment – which the Supreme Court knocked down.

COULD IT BE that the police were more interested in controlling the images of themselves in action? Because with all the cameras, it is impossible to avoid capturing them in some form.

I was just waiting for the moment when some tourist decided to take a picture of their relatives/friends on State Street with the Chicago Theater marquee in the background – along with an unintended image of some police officer being forced to use restraint on someone.

Just think of the black eye it would have given our city for that person to be prosecuted – particularly if that video had somehow shown the officer to be using legally-questionable tactics in the performance of his/her duties.

Which means what the Supreme Court of the United States actually accomplished by their action on Monday was to ensure that a law that was completely impractical to enforce is now off our statutes! We’re all spared some headaches.


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