Camera Shy cops, but we’re not supposed to be?

Interesting story on NPR today (click) about a woman who got into trouble with the local police because she was taking video of a traffic stop she was involved in.

The cops took her phone, erased the movie, and made her sit in the back of a patrol car for two hours without charges just to teach her some respect, I guess.

What’s especially interesting is the video they show on the web site of a policeman who pulled a motorcyclist over for speeding and got out of his car waving his gun ar0und. For a traffic stop! 

This is especially ironic as we enter the Big Brother age here in Ogden, with a proposed blimp the police will use to keep an eye on us, and a central control center where they feed every surveillance camera in the city into one location. When the cops put you in the back seat of their car, you are very likely being taped as well, so don’t try to bribe the cop like one idiot in Riverdale did a while ago.

What’s funny is that police never, ever like it when you film them. As NPR says, they worry that some cop will worry about looking bad on film and hesitate to take life-saving action, causing the cop to be injured or crime to go unstopped, or something.

I like to assume the police always do try to do the right thing, but the video of that cop waving his gun around while approaching the motorcyclist argues very strongly that, at the very least, he may have stated the day out wrong, maybe arguing with his wife or something, I dunno.

Truth: Cops should not have to worry about being second-guessed for every twitch, but in this increasingly watched “big brother” society of ours, they darn well better assume they are whether they like it or not. There are hundreds of millions of video cameras out there disguised as cell phones, digital cameras and even a few actual video cameras.

The standard argument to defend police and security surveillance cameras is that none of us should mind because ”if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” 

Is it not interesting how that gets all nuanced (“It might look wrong even if it isn’t!”) when it’s the cops being videotaped?

And I suppose making non-cops hesitate before they do things is something that might keep crooks from doing bad things, but some people like me just don’t like the idea of being watched by an ever-larger big government.

I find it fascinating that this increased surveillance is being promoted by people like Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner who, when he was a Utah state senator, made his share of speeches demanding smaller government.

If a government that watches me on video 24-7, from the sky and while I walk around, is his definition of “smaller,” I’ll take vanilla.

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8 Responses to Camera Shy cops, but we’re not supposed to be?

  1. I will take revenge for being watched 24/7… by being my exceedingly boring self. And someone will suffer greatly having to watch me all the time. Maybe they can use “watching me all day” as a crime deterrent, a la Clockwork Orange, with the eyelid clamps and all.

    That’s how I will protest being watched. By chewing up police force time and resources, and draining their morale with my insipid life.

    “OMG she’s making hummus again. And another pot of coffee.”

  2. Mark Sparkman says:

    Charlie, do you remember the “sewer-cam” the Boys in Blue bought for some incredible sum? I don’t recall ever hearing about subsequent investigations that utilized it…maybe the S-E archives would be fun to peruse on this. Seems like they’ve got all the angles covered (pun apologetically intended).

  3. Bob Becker says:

    You wrote: The standard argument to defend police and security surveillance cameras is that none of us should mind because ”if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” Is it not interesting how that gets all nuanced (“It might look wrong even if it isn’t!”) when it’s the cops being videotaped?

    Yup. Exactly.

  4. Sven says:


    While I’ve disagreed with you on other issues, I completely agree with you on this. I’m a big supporter of the police, but unless they’re involved in some type of undercover operation, or something else that could jeopardize their safety; they should not be immune from being videotaped.

    If the police can use video images from a person’s cell phone to help catch the bad guys, then they can also be used to video tape police. They can’t have it both ways. If the police are driving around in their marked patrol cars, in uniform, in the public arena; they are fair came for the video camera…just as we all are.

  5. James "K" Florence says:

    Charles…With due respect of law enforcement, and a past-era
    6 month stint on the Junior Posse, I can only share a “Golden
    Nugget” of my youth:

    ….”When you least expect it, your elected, you’re the Star tonight.
    Smile, Your on Candid Camera…{circa’ 1971-Alan Funt-Host}

  6. Owain says:

    Yesterday’s SE had an article about cameras that are being installed in Riverdale squad cars. The article took pains to point out that the cameras weren’t for the purpose of collecting evidence, but rather, they were installed to protect the police officers.

    If the police take videos of citizens they come in contact with, what is the policy in Utah in general, and in various cities in Utah regarding citizens filming the police, if only for our own protection?

    Seems like there is an opportunity here for someone to commit journalism. Anyone interested?

    • ctrentelman says:

      doesn’t do any good to ask policy, owain, you should know that. What matters is what the cop does when he sees the camera running.

      having said that — cops will bust you for shooting in public if you are on mass transit or some such, claiming national security concerns. Try it some time on Frontrunner or Trax and see what happens. Use a professional-looking camera, since they don’t care so much about snap-shooters. (everyone knows the Taliban uses Leicas).

      seriously, not making this up.

  7. Owain says:

    “doesn’t do any good to ask policy, owain, you should know that.”

    What? Since when? I should think that a little journalistic curiosity would be in order here so that if Chief Greiner, as an example, says that there is officially no problem taking video of Ogden police in action, and the first time someone tries it, they get thrown to the pavement and handcuffed, someone would then be able to go back and pose the question again.

    I don’t necessarily want to be the one to tell you guys how to do your job, but it looks like SOMEONE needs to.

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