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Police cuff citizens for videotaping arrests

Film a cop, go to jail

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Since the police beating of motorist Rodney King in 1991, men in blue have looked warily at the civilian videotaping of arrests and other police activities. Some cops are so opposed to the practice, they've begun arresting the amateur videographers and charging them criminally.

According to this article published by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, police in Boston and Pennsylvania have regularly arrested otherwise law-abiding citizens who videotape cops as they go about performing arrests on public streets. The charge: illegal electronic surveillance.

"The police apparently do not want witnesses to what they do in public," Sarah Wunsch, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, was quoted as saying.

Like 11 other states, Massachusetts is a two-party consent state, meaning that all parties to a conversation must agree to be recorded on telephones or other audio devices. Police in Boston and elsewhere have used the law to arrest videographers who use cameras with audio recording capabilities.

With the ubiquity of video cameras, just about every facet of public life - from fights on public transit to executions of megalomaniac world leaders - is regularly captured on tape. But if certain police get their way, the sole exception to that rule will be reserved for actions they carry out that they'd prefer remain secret.

The irony isn't lost on Jon Surmacz, who was arrested in December 2008 for videotaping police as they broke up a party he was attending.

"Had I recorded an officer saving someone’s life," he said. "I almost guarantee you that they wouldn’t have come up to me and say, 'Hey, you just recorded me saving that person’s life. You’re under arrest.'" ®

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