Friday, April 27, 2012

Do Last Year's Occupy Protests Really Justify New Police Videotaping Powers?

Posted by on Fri, Apr 27, 2012 at 2:51 PM

As Cienna Madrid reported in this week's Stranger, the Seattle Police Department wants to roll back a 1979 ordinance that—for good reason—set strict limits on police surveillance of citizens exercising their constitutional right to protest.

And one prong of the SPD's argument for giving itself more leeway to videotape peaceful protesters involves last December's Occupy protests:

As Assistant Chief Mike Sanford explained during an April 18 meeting of the city council's Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee, the filming would be used "to catch criminal activity when it occurs, not after it occurs." Sanford referenced last fall's Occupy Seattle protest at the Port of Seattle, which included masked protesters lobbing bricks and other projectiles at police. "We want the ability to see the people lobbing bricks before they put their masks on, before they hide their identities," he said.

The thing is, there's no shortage of police video from last fall's Occupy protests. In February, in response to a public records request I filed, the SPD released to The Stranger about an hour of police video from those protests—all of which was very useful to the police, by the way, in rebutting claims that they'd brutalized protesters (while also proving police claims that protesters had thrown wood and other projectiles at them). Here's one of two YouTube videos we made from the SPD's recordings of the December Occupy the Port protests:

Given this, and given that Assistant Chief Sanford told Cienna that police already have the power to start filming "once people commit pedestrian interference" (i.e., stepping off the sidewalk into the street, jaywalking, or blocking traffic), it's hard to understand why the SPD needs more power to start filming even earlier.

Most interesting theory I've hear so far to explain this new SPD push: They're excited about their new flying drones and—despite what they're saying—think they might want to use them at a protest someday.


Comments (6) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
What do we want?


When do we want it?

Posted by Anastasia Beaverhausen on April 27, 2012 at 3:03 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 3
First, if you are out in public, you loose your right to privacy. The police can video you. I can video you. Any idiot with a cell phone can video you. You have a right not to be surveilled in your own home. You don't have that right when you are protesting on the street.

Second, cops frequently video protests and demonstrations. It seems they are just trying to do this more openly. Frankly, I'd rather they video openly and honestly rather than circumspectly.

Third, I sort of see this as a two way street. The ability for nearly any citizen with a cell phone to video cops has the effect of putting pressure on them to behave. And when they do step out of line, they are far more likely to be caught on video than they would have any time in the past. Likewise, I would think that cops openly recording protests and demonstrations would have the effect of keeping them peaceful. If we all know we are on camera, we are more likely to keep a cooler head.

As long as the police aren't using the cameras as a means of intimidation, then I guess I'm not really seeing this as a problem. If the police ARE using cameras as a form of intimidation, then address the intimidation, not the camera.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on April 27, 2012 at 3:32 PM · Report this
Without any commentary on whether or not it is appropriate, try and tell me that you wouldn't want to use a video camera attached to a remote control helicopter if you had it.

That's what I thought.
Posted by -J on April 27, 2012 at 3:52 PM · Report this
Kinison 5
I think alot of people were not aware of this law and its not going to bode well with occupy idiots next tuesday because the second they see a cop with a camera, they'll go nuts!
Posted by Kinison on April 27, 2012 at 4:23 PM · Report this

So these protestor go into an unwinnable conflict with armed policemen who have every modern weapon as an option.

But actually, they don't want to show their opinion...they want to be anonymous.

Or not.

What was the point again?!?!
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on April 27, 2012 at 9:35 PM · Report this
I'm not concerned about the police and their little (outdated) videocameras. I'm concerned about the cocky attitude SPD takes when it comes to releasing the footage they record.
Posted by suddenlyorcas on April 28, 2012 at 10:34 AM · Report this

Add a comment

Commenting on this item is available only to registered commenters.