Bostonmagazine.com – In a victory for two very different groups of people, a federal judge has ruled that a Massachusetts law against secretly recording police officers or government officials in public places is unconstitutional.
I have to be honest, I thought this was already legal everywhere. Hopefully Massachusetts is the last state to hang on to this. If not, don’t be misled by the fact police officers were protected by this law. That’s only the case because police officers are technically classified as “public officials”. This law existed because legislators and heads of government are public officials and they were looking out for themselves. Police officers were included by a technicality.
When I worked as an undercover officer in Indiana, I was legally allowed to strap a recording device on my person and record my conversations with whomever I wanted…except “public officials”. If I wanted to do that, I had to get special approval beforehand. That meant a government official had to be made aware that another government official, likely of the same political party or affiliation, was under investigation and at risk of making incriminating statements on a recording. No chance of things going wrong there.
However, the focus of Bostonmagazine.com, and other media outlets releasing this court decision, is on citizens being able to secretly record police officers in public and deservedly so. The internet is full of cell phone recordings of police officers mistreating citizens and abusing their authority so, I personally believe the legal right to record these interactions is a significant check and balance for our society.
That being said, I support this right as long as it’s done in a manner that doesn’t interfere with police officers lawfully performing their duty or in a manner that jeopardizes their safety. Don’t get in my face with your camera and yell crazy shit while I’m dealing with an escaped mental patient that’s wielding a machete. I need focus on not getting my arm hacked off and talk a crazy dude into dropping a machete so I don’t have to shoot him.
But as long as you stay at a safe distance, record until your battery dies. I don’t give a shit. As a member of your community you have the right to report what I’m doing to your community. After all, I’m supposed to be treating people fairly and performing my duties in a lawful and ethical manner, so I should have zero issue with you documenting my actions. What I do in your video should get me promoted, not arrested.
Obviously, not every officer treats people fairly and/or performs their duties in a lawful manner, which is why you’re recording me in the first place and why I support you being lawfully permitted to do so. So, I’m happy the state of Massachusetts finally agrees with us. We need to heal the relationship between cops and community and I don’t think we can do that until we identify all the problem cops so we can get them off the job and hold them accountable for their actions.