Friday, May 27, 2011

In a Free Society, Recording Cops CANNOT Be Illegal

Essentially by definition, in fact. Unfortunately, public servants all too often hold a differing -- and somehow weightier than yours, citizen -- opinion. Herewith, an open letter to the NH Senate (previously submitted to my own Senator Sanborn, to enthusiastic support, as expected) regarding government accountability and transparency. In a phrase, its intended subservience to the People for whom it ostensibly works. Following which, the referenced hearing record in toto, and selected testimony from William Kostric, Seth Hipple and John Lewicke. And serendipitously, a little something extra from


HB145 as originally introduced, "permitting the audio and video recording of any public official while in the course of his or her official duties," served particularly to clarify the rights of citizen journalists and detained "suspects" (to produce their own evidence, as per Part First, Article 15) in the face of continued legal threats by, particularly, less-than-transparent local police departments -- arrogance that will inevitably cost the taxpayers, in liberty as well as lucre.

It reflected, in good faith, the NH GOP's own platform, in fact ("Will work to amend the wiretap statute to allow citizens to make audio/visual recordings of interactions with public officials"), as well as the fundamental concept that in a free society, public servants are, as Part First, Article 8 states and RSA 91-A reinforces, "at all times accountable." On the job means on the record. Public servants, rationally enough, are accountable to that public. "Private" citizens need to take off the badge.

The bill as currently amended, however, in addition to muddying what should logically be an already clear legal picture with regard to audio recording of public servants on the job, as well as limiting its scope to law enforcement only (who are nevertheless still granted "wiggle room"), also for the first time appears to introduce purely video recording (such as, say, security cameras) to the ranks of potentially prohibited activities in NH. And it makes no allowance for recording with the permission of someone "personally interacting with the officer." Whither, then, Rodney King?

This is altogether entirely unacceptable. In as much as, for example, (actually) interfering with law enforcement is already illegal, prohibiting "surreptitious" (audio) recording of public employees is certainly the limit of what a proper bill might restrict. But then where would investigative news teams, exposing government corruption, be?

HB145 was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 26th. I was there, brazenly recording the authoritarians without their consent -- the evidence is below -- because I have a right to hold my employees accountable. Particularly, it should be noted, the ones with a (granted and revokable by the People, let's never forget) monopoly on force and the tools to impose it. And citizens who can't be personally on-scene -- whether in the State House or at a traffic stop -- nevertheless have a right to know what their government is up to, in their name, on their dime. "At all times accountable."

I trust that we, the liberty community, the "small government" community, the "accountable government" community, the "citizen journalist" community, can count on your earnest efforts to amend HB145 back to its simple, straightforward, clarifying, proper original form. And then compel the House to stand with the courage of its declared convictions against the special interests of clandestine -- and as recent history, particularly, has clearly demonstrated, capricious and petty and vindictive and profligate -- government agents. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Thank you.

The committee, later that day, voted to recommend more study...

1 comment:

  1. Police are thugs hired by the state to protect the private property of the wealthy and to create a sense of alienation among the people they patrol. Cops know that being recorded exposes them for what they are and destroys some of the power they have over others. All of this is caused by social hierarchy.