Hello, Police State
U.S. District Court ruling in Philadelphia eviscerates First Amendment right of civilians to take video of police
The U.S. District Court ruled Friday that people don’t have the right to take photos or video of police officers without a specific and critical reason to do so ... that is, unless you set out to challenge police activity, your right to merely document their actions in this city of brotherly love, is abrogated.
Philly cops are probably rejoicing, after all, videos like this one showing cops stopping and frisking a couple of African American guys, can now end up under their boot heels without so much as a though about violating First Amendment rights.
The same thing holds true for this video — showing Lt. Jonathan Josey punching Aida Guzman in the face because she walked by him at the Puerto Rican Day festivities — taken by a bystander and since, to quote Monty Python, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition not covered by the First Amendment (according to Friday’s ruling).
The people who took these videos weren’t looking to challenge police activity, but their documentation should serve as a direct challenge to idea that police — or any public servant funded by tax dollars — has impunity to tyrannize, repress and abuse civilians.
Thankfully, the ACLU of Pennsylvania has announced it will be appealing Judge Mark Kearney’s ruling.
“The freedom to monitor the police without fearing arrest or retaliation is one of the ways we distinguish a free society from a police state,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of ACLU-PA. “Every court that has addressed this issue has ruled that the right to record the police performing their duties in public is at the core of what the First Amendment protects. Judge Kearney’s ruling is an outlier, and we intend to appeal it.”
Speaking as someone who grew up in a police state (which is only now, 30-plus years after the fact, starting to address the grave human and civil costs of offering explicit and implicit immunity of action to those bearing the weaponry and consent of the government), I urge every Philadelphian to get behind the ACLU’s appeal. Every Philadelphian — conservative, liberal, progressive, whatever — should be out on the streets protesting a ruling that is an assault on our First Amendment rights and our obligation, as citizens, to hold police accountable for their actions.
The police will not police themselves.
Sure, at a recent dialogue open to AL DÍA staff and members of the Latinx community Commissioner Ross told us that police officers are routinely disciplined for infractions, the public simply doesn’t see it.
But what about the big fails (cops shaking down and abusing bodegueros), what about the grave injustices caught on video surveillance (the unarmed Najee Rivera being brutalized by cops), or caught by civilians with no original intent to impugn the police, just standing at the right place at the right time to capture it on video?
Let me say it again and more firmly: The police will never adequately police themselves.
Want proof? Go look at that Lt. Jonathan Josey video again.
Now, think on this: Not only was Josey reinstated to the Philadelphia Police Department in 2013 after Judge Patrick Dugan (married to a cop) acquitted him ... the cop who punched Aida Guzman for simply being one of those scary, lawless people on 5th and Lehigh has now alledgedly been awarded a promotion.