The scale of the Maryland State Police reaction to Graber’s video is “unprecedented,” (the cops raided his parents’ home and confiscated four of his computers,) but it certainly isn’t an isolated event. Yvonne Nicole Shaw, 27, was also arrested after recording an encounter with officers who had been called for a noise complaint.
There are now proposals in the Bay Area to outfit all cops with wearable cameras to record stops, arrests, sobriety tests, and interviews. Obviously, I think this a grand idea unless the cop cameras become the state’s official narrative.
Citizen monitoring of the police is crucial in a democracy as we saw in the Oscar Grant tragedy. Hypothetically, if Johannes Mehserle had been suited with an official police camera, and no subway riders dared record video on their cell phones because doing so was newly outlawed, who knows what would have happened to that sole record of events? We shouldn’t rule out the possibility of videotape getting “accidentally erased,” or “lost” in office clutter.
The plethora of bad outcomes alive in this hypothetical situation can be extended to protests. Citizens video tape police during these demonstrations as a form of protection. Back in September ’08, I was reporting about the Republican National Convention in St. Paul when I received an email from Eileen Clancy, the founder of I-Witness, a citizen watchdog organization that relies on the freedom granted to them under the First Amendment to document public activity with video cameras.
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