11 March 2014

Police Fail To Follow Own Policy On Cameras

James MacArthur/MacArthur Media
A recent, highly publicized incident, involving the assault and harassment of a photographer at a crime scene by Baltimore Police, have thrust the issue of First Amendment rights into the public consciousness. 

Incidents of Baltimore Police violating the First Amendment rights of citizens are not new here. Truthfully there have been many well documented instances for years now. The beleaguered department seems to have a particular penchant for displaying a gross disregard for the rights of citizens.

It is notable that the only time the issue seems to get played up in the media, is when the victim of this abuse is someone other than a person of color. Put simply, when black people are being routinely harassed, threatened and intimidated by Baltimore Police, The Baltimore Sun, and nearly every other local media - who mostly only follow the lead of the Sun - make little if any mention of it, and quickly move on, implying a tacit approval of police misconduct going on under their watch.

That is, until it involves their own. Then and only then, is it a big deal, even spurring a public apology from Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, and the launching of an immediate investigation. If only the everyday citizens of Baltimore, daily dealing with abuse from overly- aggressive, poorly trained, heavy handed officers, could be so lucky.

Instead, having no voice, they typically suffer in silence, taking their place among the choice-less, with media ignoring the role of being a voice for the voiceless.


In November 2012, the Baltimore Police Department finalized and adopted a formal policy for dealing with photography and video. Despite being sent to every officer via email, discussed during roll call, and plenty of media mention initially, General Order J-16 has become in practice, nothing more than mere suggestions. Well written words of damage control.

Having absolutely no effect on officers behavior, with no punishment or discipline mechanism in place for violators, the rights of citizens in Baltimore continue to be crushed by the cops.

In the video below, the author is seen talking to Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, while surrounded by police. Police were initially threatening arrest for doing nothing more than standing on a sidewalk and taking pictures. Courtesy of Justin Fenton/The Baltimore Sun.

Baltimore Police General Order J-16: photo, video policy

Upon discovery that a bystander is observing, photographing, or video recording the conduct of police activity:

1. DO NOT impede or prevent the bystander's ability to continue doing so based solely on your discovery of his/her presence.

2. DO NOT seize or otherwise demand to take possession of any camera or video recording device the bystander may possess based solely on your discovery of his/her presence.

3. DO NOT demand to review, manipulate, or erase any images or video recording captured by the bystander based solely on your discovery of his/her presence.

4. For investigative purposes, be mindful of the potential that the bystander may witness, or capture images/video of events considered at some later time to be material evidence.

5. BEFORE taking any police action which would stop a bystander from observing, photographing, or video recording the conduct of police activity, Officer(s) must have observed the bystander committing some act [deemed criminal, such as obstruction, disorderly conduct or interfering with an officer's lawful duties].

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To all those who willfully, deliberately and routinely violate the civil rights of law abiding American Citizens; Yes, you're powerful. Sure, you're everywhere. But this is still America, and the Constitution of the United States Of America still reigns supreme as the law of the land. The Baltimore Spectator will vigorously and aggressively defend against any and all attempts at spying and suppression. Let it be known to all that we are already aware of the regular monitoring and shadowing attempts. There is nothing to hide, but cross the line and there will be hell to pay.

In the end, efforts to impinge upon the freedoms of the people will ultimately fail. Some of us may get taken out in the ongoing battle for true and lasting freedom, but as I've said many times before, and will say till the day I die or get taken out by you goons, THERE ARE MORE OF US, THAN THERE ARE OF YOU.

A.F. James MacArthur -- American patriot & lover of liberty.

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