A bicyclist hit by a car in Stockton, Ca is hospitalized in very serious condition after being hit by car this morning at the corner East Frontage Road and Arch Avenue off CA highway 99. Police investigators were at the scene along with two cars and a bicycle. Next to the bike was one tennis shoe, a baseball hat and sunglasses, apparently property of the victim.
An extremely innocuous scene turned into a potential problem as one officer who was directing traffic attempted to stop a bystander from filming the public area, shouting "Hey! Hey! No!" and waving his arms. A bicylist getting hit by a car is indeed a news story as evidenced by the search term "bicyclist hit by car" netting millions of results across the world. However, Americans don't have to be members of the media or doing a news story in order to film police in public. This has been ruled on in courts across the country and in fact was outlined for the second time in a very strongly worded memo letter from the U.S. Department of Justice just last month.
The letter, filed in Federal Court and dated 3/4/13, stated, in part,
"The United States addressed the central questions raised in this case - whether individuals have a First Amendment right to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties, and whether officers violate individuals' Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they seize such recordings without a warrant or due process - in a Statement of Interest filed in Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Dept., et al., No. 1:11-cv-02888 (D. Md.), attached here as Exhibit A.1 Here, as there, the United States urges the Court to answer both of those questions in the affirmative.
"This case raises questions that the United States did not address directly in Sharp, the answers to which are critical to ensuring that the constitutional rights at issue in that case are upheld. First, the United States urges the Court to find that both the First and Fourth Amendments protect an individual who peacefully photographs police activity on a public street, if officers arrest the individual and seize the camera of that individual for that activity. Second, the United States is concerned that discretionary charges, such as disorderly conduct, loitering, disturbing the peace, and resisting arrest, are all too easily used to curtail expressive conduct or retaliate against individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights. The United States believes that courts should view such charges skeptically to ensure that individuals' First Amendment rights are protected. Core First Amendment conduct, such as recording a police officer performing duties on a public street, cannot be the sole basis for such charges. Third, the First Amendment right to record police officers performing public duties extends to both the public and members of the media, and the Court should not make a distinction between the public's and the media's rights to record here. The derogation of these rights erodes public confidence in our police departments, decreases the accountability of our governmental officers, and conflicts with the liberties that the Constitution was designed to uphold."
At the scene of the traffic accident, at 50 seconds into the video a traffic officer objected to the filming, but the videographer refused to stop filming and instead asked to speak to the officer or his supervisor, to no avail. Two other officers were questioned on the matter; one giving the phone number of the watch commander and a second officer offered a business card, adding that the bicyclist was hit by a car around 10AM and is hospitalized in "very serious" condition.
Stockton, CA cop tells person not to film police on a public street
Every day cops in ordinary situations nationwide need to realize that they are public servants, and infringing on our God-given natural rights is no small matter. Since they are "law enforcement", they need to uphold the highest law of the land, the U.S. Constitution.
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