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Three Cheers for Connecticut

It’s been a good week for justice in the state of Connecticut. The state Senate passed a bill that would guarantee the right to record police officers while on duty and, perhaps more importantly, provides penalties for officers that interfere with that right. There are exceptions, but they’re not as broad as the police wanted them to be, as several exceptions were rejected:

The first, offered by Sen. Kevin Witkos, a sergeant in the Canton Police Department, called for an additional liability exemption if a person intended to “inconvenience or alarm” an officer in the performance of duty.

Witkos said he supported the underlying principle of the bill but wanted to make sure there were safeguards against ill-intentioned videographers who seek to interfere with police.

“I do believe that the public has a right, if they’re not in the way of a police officer doing their job, of filming all they want,” he said.

But Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the Witkos amendment would create too large a loophole. “It really would render the bill without meaning,” he said.

Looney also noted that interfering with an officer is already a crime and would remain so.

The other failed amendments would have exempted Capitol building police from liability and would have shifted the burden of proof onto the person bringing a lawsuit.

The bill passed by a huge margin, 42-11. It now moves to the House. Also, the governor of the state signed into law a bill outlawing the death penalty. All in all, that’s a pretty good week for the cause of justice.

I was almost going to write that it was a good week for justice but a bad week for the police. But that isn’t true. It’s a bad week for corrupt and abusive cops, but good cops should have nothing to fear from it. In fact, they should welcome video recording because it can protect them against false accusations as well.

Comments

  1. pipenta says

    Not to mention the nutmeggers’ recent medical marihuana act. Let’s hear it for the little blue constitution state where the lobster rolls are hot and buttered, and where the pizza is sublime.

  2. jesse says

    Funny moment if OT: I was at an Anni DiFranco show in Wallingford. She got up and said, “I want to say something to all you… um… Connecticutians? What do you call people from here?” At which point the audience whooped “Nutmeggers!”

    It’ worth noting that nutmeg was worth more (in modern dollars) per ounce in the early 19th century than cocaine is now.

    Anyhow, back OT, Connecticut has a nice tradition when it comes to civil rights in some respects, and I think that comes from being a place (like Massachusetts) where even the Republicans understand why government works as it does. While I have my differences with it there is something to be said for the hyper-local governance in New England, which kind of puts the workings of government in your face; town meetings really are town meetings and it gives you a feel for having to compromise with people you live with. Participation in most towns is pretty high.

  3. Didaktylos says

    What is that famous cliche of the penolaters – those who have nothing to hide will have nothing to fear?

  4. eric says

    In fact, they should welcome video recording because it can protect them against false accusations as well.

    Honest cops should also be happy to have tools that reduce the number of identification mistakes they make. A police cruiser comes upon a riot. There’s a bunch of just people milling about and also a bunch of folks throwing rocks through windows. Who wouldn’t want pictorial evidence of who was who (other than the rock-throwers)?
    ***

    I suspect some of the police resistance is because they understand the very long-term consequences of such recording. Right now, police testimony is given a LOT of deference by judges and juries, because in many cases testimony is the only evidence available. But once courts and jurers come to expect recording as the standard, they’re going to be a lot more skeptical of unrecorded claims. The smarter officers have probably figured this out, and probably don’t like the idea of having their credibility ‘demoted,’ so to speak, even if its just changing their credibility to be equvialent to every other witness’.

  5. d cwilson says

    In fact, they should welcome video recording because it can protect them against false accusations as well.

    I would go even further than this bill. It should be mandatory that cops have a fiber-optic webcam sewn to their lapels while on duty.

  6. Michael Heath says

    Ed reports:

    The state Senate passed a bill that would guarantee the right to record police officers while on duty and, perhaps more importantly, provides penalties for officers that interfere with that right.

    It would be interesting to see how the language acknowledged this right of the public. I would greatly prefer it acknowledges we possess this right, with no constitutionally delegated powers to unreasonably restrict or prohibit this right. And then have legislation which follows which delves into the penalties against those who abuse our rights.

    I’m using this event to continue my drum beating given that much of the public, liberal and conservative alike, believes that our democratic process creates and grants us our rights; nor is the government able to discern what our unenumerated rights even are. We instead own our rights where the democratic process should consider when and how to limit and protect certain rights.

    I think this perspective is important given so how many Americans support politicians and influential others declare that certain unenumerated rights don’t exist as justification to infringe upon our liberties or fail to protect certain exercisable rights.

  7. jesse says

    Good point Michael, and I’d go further: any violation of civil rights should be treated as a felony. You violate someone’s civil rights, no matter what, you go to jail. Maximum security prison. In fact, while I don’t like the death penalty, the one instance I think it is justified as a deterrent is that one.

    If a cop could be jailed for a civil rights violation — none of this civil lawsuit bullshit that never gets more than a slap on the wrist — you can bet they might be more careful.

    ANd I also think that civil rights violations are the one area where government officials in any capacity should be treated as guilty until proven otherwise. (For the same reason, by the way, that we treat other criminal matters as innocent until proven guilty). We treat people with the presumption of innocence because those in power have to prove why they should be able to detain a citizen for any reason. To protect the rights of citizens we have to basically assume that if they are accusing the government of violating those rights, they are correct.

    If the government can prove otherwise great; if not, jail time for the official in charge. Mandatory 25 years.

  8. kermit. says

    jesse: [...]any violation of civil rights should be treated as a felony. You violate someone’s civil rights, no matter what, you go to jail. Maximum security prison.

    Because preventing someone from protesting at a political rally is so much worse than shooting them dead.

    In fact, while I don’t like the death penalty, the one instance I think it is justified as a deterrent is that one.

    See above. Killing a child molester, killing a prisoner who has murdered other prisoners, are not justified, but executing a cop who searched your car without good cause is acceptable?

    And I also think that civil rights violations are the one area where government officials in any capacity should be treated as guilty until proven otherwise.

    Because nothing can go wrong with this scenario.

    [...]Mandatory 25 years.

    Mandatory jail minimums have worked out so well so far, amirite?

  9. Peter B says

    @5 d cwilson said:
    >I would go even further than this bill. It should be mandatory that cops have a fiber-optic webcam sewn to their lapels while on duty.

    Webcam with immediate off-site backup would be nice. But connectivity and bandwidth could become an issue. Also specifying technology i.e. fiber-optic, should not be specified.

    But a video and sound recording with encrypted data should be stored on a recording device. With today’s technology that’s likely to be a non-removable flash device. The officer, and only the officer would have read only access to this recording for the purpose of filling out reports. Should this recording become evidence for or against one or more officers or someone contacted by them then the file would be decrypted for that use.

    It should be required that the recording be on during officer meetings with all others, especially senior officers. Indeed, the recording MUST NOT BE TURNED OFF at any time – even bathroom breaks.

    Recordings should be saved for extended periods.

    Modern encryption can prove that the device said to have made the recording actually made the recording.

  10. Chris from Europe says

    And I also think that civil rights violations are the one area where government officials in any capacity should be treated as guilty until proven otherwise.

    They would become underlings easily threatened by their superiors. It would probably make it easier to establish a dictatorship.

    In general:
    I believe even good cops won’t like it because of the fear that they will be punished for every single mistake – the same reason other people don’t like to be monitored at work. But given the protection of the bad cops, it’s unfortunately necessary.

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