Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A little further on the Stasi of the People's Republic of Maryland

McKenna was charged with disorderly conduct, a charge that as of last week was still pending but now seems certain to be dropped. Prince George's County has since suspended four police officers, the three captured on tape beating McKenna and the sergeant who supervised them. But were it not for those iPhone videos, it would have been McKenna's word (and possibly those of whatever celebrating student witnesses he could round up) against the word of three of Maryland's finest. Or at least three. It seems likely that a number of other cops would have come forward to lie on behalf of those who beat McKenna.

If that sounds harsh, consider this: After the iPhone video of McKenna's beating emerged, investigators subpoenaed 60 hours of surveillance video from the College Park campus police. The only video police couldn't manage to locate was the one from the camera aimed squarely at the area where McKenna was beaten. Funny how that works. Campus police claimed that a "technical error" with that particular camera caused it to record over the footage of the beating. As public pressure mounted, police later found what they claimed was a recording of the lost video. But two minutes of that video were missing. Coincidentally, those two minutes happened to depict key portions of McKenna's beating. The kicker? The head of the campus video surveillance system, Lt. Joanne Ardovini, is married to one of the cops named in McKenna's complaint. (Washington D.C.'s ABC News affiliate, WJLA, a station with a history of deferring to police spokesmen without bothering to verify the accuracy of their statements, quaintly referred to this as "a bizarre coincidence.")

When police video of something just 'happens' to disappear/be unusable/otherwise unavailable when the officers are accused of doing something wrong, there's no 'bizarre' or 'coincidence' about it; it's tampering with records by the police to protect themselves. And should be dealt with as such.

In the other, remember the guy arrested because his helmet camera caught a Maryland cop acting like a jackass?
According to an interview Graber gave to photography activist Carlos Miller days after posting the video of his encounter with Trooper Uhler to the web, six officers from the Maryland State Police raided Graber's parents' home at 6:45 in the morning on April 14. Graber and his family were held for 90 minutes while the cops rummaged through their belongings. Graber was then charged with felony eavesdropping and spent 26 hours in jail. As an "official" told WJLA of Graber, "He had been recording this trooper audibly without his consent." The report from WJLA added, "That kind of recording is against the law in Maryland."

In fact, under Maryland law what Graber did isn't actually a crime. For a recording to be illegal, one of the parties being recorded must have a reasonable expectation of privacy. A cop, acting as a cop, with his gun drawn, while standing alongside a public roadway, has no such expectation. On April 15th, Graber was released and the charges against him were dropped. As he told Miller, "The judge who released me looked at the paperwork and said she didn’t see where I violated the wiretapping law."

That's because the 'law' you actually violated was the "Don't make a cop look bad or we'll screw you over" law; unofficial and illegal and- unfortunately- widespread.

And why the 'raid'? Why not knock on the door at eight, or after they're home from work? Because that doesn't scare hell out of people, that's why.

And it's even worse than that:
Graber was harassed, intimidated, illegally arrested, and jailed for an act that clearly wasn't illegal. According to Graber, the name of the judge who signed off on the raid of his parents' home doesn't appear on the warrant. As Graber told Miller, "They told me they don’t want you to know who the judge is because of privacy." If true, that statement is so absurd it's mind numbing. A judge issued an illegal warrant for police to invade the private residence and rummage through the private belongings of a man who broke no laws, and we aren't permitted to know the judge's name in order to protect the judge's privacy?
Fire the judge. Fire the cops who damn well knew he hadn't broken the law and did this anyway. Prosecute all of them if possible. Every damned time they do something like this.

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