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Filming Police Helps Keep Them Honest And Protects Civil Rights

In the past, many incidents of police misconduct went unreported because citizens did not feel that they would be believed. Now smartphones have changed those beliefs. The technology is empowering citizens to hold police accountable for their actions.

Citizens should know it is completely legal to film the police everywhere in the United States including New York. The requirement is that the person who is doing the filming cannot interfere or get in the way of the police.

In mid-July, a bystander on Staten Island filmed the death of Eric Garner in a prohibited police chokehold. Since then, at least eight other videos showing instances of apparent excessive force by NYPD officers have surfaced. Most of these videos were captured by smartphone. Four such videos have appeared this month alone, said the Huffington Post (10.13.14).

In the Huffington Post, Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that she encouraged people to film troubling police incidents on their phones. “When police wrongdoing is captured on videotape, it makes the public understand what has happened and why we need to hold the police accountable,” she said.

Lieberman is right in saying that many people would not have believed what happened to Rodney King if the incident was not recorded on videotape. King was beaten by police officers in Los Angeles after a traffic stop in 1991. The video aired on television news programs across the country, stoking charges of police brutality and racial injustice.

Other videos which showed questionable action by the police included:

A July 17 video shows a NYPD officer putting Garner in a chokehold during an arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk. The video, filmed by a bystander, shows Garner, who had asthma, repeatedly crying that he could not breathe before his body goes limp. He died of a heart attack during the arrest.

A July 14 video shows Ronald Johns, 22, being put into a chokehold by the NYPD while being arrested for allegedly entering a subway station in East Harlem without paying a fare.

A July video appears to show a NYPD officer putting a 27-year-old pregnant woman in a chokehold during an arrest. Rosan Miller was illegally grilling outside her home in East New York, Brooklyn.

In September, footage of two NYPD officers shows them punching and hitting a 16-year-old suspect in the face with a gun despite the teen raising his hands to surrender. The brutal incident involving Kahreem Tribble was filmed in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.

There have been a number of other disturbing video posted online, as well, clearly demonstrating that these are not isolated incidents.

The NYCLU has a “Stop and Frisk Watch” downloadable app. It allows citizens to document stop-and-frisk encounters and alert community members when a street stop is in progress.

Some of the most outrageous forms of civil rights violations can come from the police officers that are sworn to serve and protect. People who have their civil rights violated need a highly experienced civil rights lawyer fighting for their rights.

The Huffington Post story cited is “Yes, It’s Legal To Film The Cops — And What’s Been Filmed In Recent Months Is Appalling.”


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