Monday, July 26, 2010

Still Not Illegal to Film Police: New York Rep. Towns Brings the Issue to Congress by Martin Hill - LA County Libertarian Examiner

Read original...

Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns is a 14- term member of the U.S. House of Representatives in New York's 10th District. He has a Masters Degree in social work and is an ordained Baptist minister.
 On July 20th, Towns introduced Resolution 298, affirming the public's right to film police. In his press release, Towns briefly referred to an incident in New York where police beat up a man then falsely charged him with a crime; the man was acquitted after videotape of the beating came to light. (Incidentally, that video has been featured on my youtube channel for years, and has almost 200,000 views. See 'Cops beat the hell out of handicapped man, try to frame him').

Towns should be highly commended for introducing this resolution. It should be interesting to see how many Congressmembers support it.. Yours truly has been involved in this issue for some time. My December article Arkansas State Trooper meets videocamera: It's not illegal to film police includes my video of an Arkansas trooper during a brief traffic stop this past January. (it was also featured on The article also includes information on three admirable activists who film cops and other government servants: my friend Greg, the Houston man who filmed and shouted at George H.W. Bush in a pizza place late last year; the webmaster of CheckpointUSA, who films warrantless checkpoints to the chagrin of arrogant officers; and Brett Darrow of Missouri, who has a dash camera mounted in his car and who got at least one rogue cop fired after he went on a rampage, making criminal threats against Darrow. I profiled Darrow in my March article The Brett Darrow Case: a hero in our time . And of course you have the video of the power-starved kook slob of a cop who tried, unsuccessfully, of course, to tell me that I couldn't film him. (See It's NOT Illegal to Film Cops. RESIST ILLEGAL ORDERS- EXERT YOUR GOD GIVEN RIGHTS ).

Here is Congressman Town's youtube channel. Below is an excerpt from Town's resolution:

Rep. Towns Moves to Affirm Citizens’ Right to Photograph Police Activity

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns (NY-10) is taking steps to ensure that citizens who videotape suspicious police activity are not improperly prosecuted. Several recent news reports have highlighted instances where police or security personnel have improperly arrested innocent civilians taking photographs and video footage in public. To help raise awareness about the issue, Rep. Towns introduced H.Con.Res 298, a congressional resolution recognizing that the videotaping or photographing of police engaged in potentially abusive activity in a public place should not be prosecuted in State or Federal courts.

“We are all deeply grateful for the law enforcement personnel who protect our communities every day while respecting the rights of individuals,” said Rep. Towns. “With this resolution, we are making it clear that the rights of citizens are balanced with the rights of those who are sent to protect them. Too often innocent civilians have found themselves penalized for exercising their right to document instances of police brutality in public. With this resolution, Congress recognizes every American’s right to record improper law enforcement conduct in public.”

A number of court cases across the country have misinterpreted the intent of wiretapping laws and are incorrectly prosecuting individuals for videotaping police activities in public. H.Con.Res 298 strikes a balance between the rights of police officers to diligently perform their duties and the rights of citizens, as guaranteed by the First Amendment, to peacefully ensure that law enforcement officers are not improperly harming individuals.

Congressman Towns son Darryl C. Towns is a New York State Assembly Member. Darryl recently fought 'to reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws' in his state's budget. On his website, he said "Most importantly, those laws failed to curb drug abuse... In these tough economic times, instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year imprisoning non-violent drug offenders, some of this money will now be used more effectively for treatment, education and job creation in our communities."