I’ve always been a bit of a supporter of the police. I have respect for cops, and the job they do, and am most often willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when there is some kind of disagreement. I’ve been willing to go on the record supporting them on several occasions.
But there’s one area where I have to stand against the general expressed desires of the cops. And that’s on the matter of people videotaping police officers performing their duties.
The latest incident to bring up this subject is in Oregon, where a man had his video camera taken away after videotaping police stop and question two men on the street.
As far as I am concerned, a police officer on duty and performing his or her duties has absolutely no right or expectation of privacy, and should behave as if they might be on film at any moment.
I can see certain exceptions, such as when the officers are changing clothes, in the bathroom, or acting undercover, but those are about it.
Of all the people who can assert some kind of claim to privacy, police officers acting in the public’s name, with the people’s authority, have about the weakest.
This strikes me as common sense, but it’s astonishing how rarely common sense actually intersects with legal reality. For example, Barack Obama has exactly one achievement in his years and years of public service that I can give him full credit for — the passage of a law in Illinois that required all police interrogations of suspects in capital crimes be videotaped.
My first thought was “how the hell was this not standard procedure?” My second thought was “how the hell can the police unions oppose this measure?” But they did, and Obama was crucial in getting this measure passed, and I laud him for doing that.
Likewise, I simply can’t imagine how a police officer could, with a straight face, insist that he or she had a right to “privacy” while on the streets, in uniform, while interacting with suspected drug dealers.
But they are, and it’s long overdue that our laws bring a bit of reality to the folks in blue.