Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Videotaping police could be illegal

I wonder if the person who taped the November 27th beating of Melvin Jones III by Officer Jeffrey Asher knew that she could have been arrested for illegal wiretapping?

Massachusetts is one of twelve "two-party consent" states, meaning that persons being taped must consent to their taping.

According to a story in this morning's Boston Globe, some police officers have been using that law to arrest people who are taping them on their cellphones, although convictions, at this point, have been reserved for cases where the taping was done in secret.

Two years ago, Vermont resident Emily Peyton was arrested at a Greenfield, MA anti-war protest for illegal wiretapping, but never prosecuted, primarily because she was very open about her taping of the arrest of a different anti-war protester.

Although video isn't covered by this law, one could imagine that strictly enforcement of this law would impact many businesses, government facilities and law enforcement techniques.

Unless and until this law is changed, the best defense for anyone wanting to document instances of excessive force is to do it as openly as possible.

Photo from bennylin0724's photostream at Flickr.

1 comment:

VanDog said...

I just picked up on this story from the Boston Globe too. Reading it, I'm kind of disappointed that Coakly's office never provided any guidance on the issue.

From the story:
"In Massachusetts, Wunsch said Attorney General Martha Coakley and police chiefs should be informing officers not to abuse the law by charging civilians with illegally recording them in public.

The cases are the courts’ concern, said Coakley spokesman Harry Pierre. “At this time, this office has not issued any advisory or opinion on this issue.’’"

As a blogger who regularly records people in public this really worries me. Can the Holyoke police come to my house and arrest me for recording firemen fighting the Lyman St blaze last month?