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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Who Will Watch The Watchmen?

Someone accused of a crime is meant to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. One of the ways the prosecutors attempt to prove the guilt of a suspect is by using the testimony of an arresting officer. The officer’s statement seems to be held in higher regard than the defendant. It is as if the defendant cannot be trusted because he has been accused of a crime. A crime we are supposed to assume he is innocent of.

On the other hand if a citizen accuses the officer of abusing his authority we still tend to give the officer the benefit of the doubt. Police statements are generally taken as gospel. If a cop says something happened; the media, courts, and most citizens just assume it happened. 

Thanks to ordinary citizens armed with nothing but a recording device, society is forced to realize that when the watchmen are left unwatched they will sometimes do as humans do and abuse the power with which they have been entrusted. In his Book Liberty Defined, P. 278 Ron Paul had this to say:

More police brutality has been caught on film than ever before, which serves the interest of us all. I also note that most government agencies are now barring citizens in government offices from carrying cell phones, and there can be no doubt about the reason. Government doesn't want to be watched and filmed

 Rodney King may seem like a distant memory but no one knows how long his corrupt assailants would have continued to abuse had they not been caught on video tape. In recent months we have seen video recordings (such as these) where the authorities have been caught lying, being abusive, or both.

 In this case a policeman actually tackles a defenseless bicyclist. After the cop knocks the individual to the ground he proceeds to arrest him for assault! He claims the cyclist intentionally rode into him but the video proves the opposite is true. This officer was rightly fired but the question being begged here is a frightening one: what if there had been no video evidence at all?

 The victim actually would have been tried and most likely (based on police testimony) convicted of a crime. He did suffer a temporary loss of freedom when he was arrested and if not for the video could have actually suffered a prolonged period of imprisonment. This doesn’t even include the fines and court cost he would have been subjected to or the real cost incurred in his defense.

It is a growing trend. One needn’t search hard to find many recent examples of police abuse caught on tape (Such as this one where an innocent man was killed by a California patrol officer.) One would think the authorities would be happy to have evidence of such crimes and see the benefit of incorporating the technology. This is not the case.
The totalitarians have chosen to wage an all out war on accountability. They have gone so far as to pass laws and arrest citizens for simply operating a camera. What should be encouraged, and seen as valuable evidence. is being portrayed as a crime.

 In California it is illegal to record anyone including public servants without his consent. This is done under the guise of privacy protection. I wonder if anyone sees the irony of the patriot act allowing the authorities to spy on private citizens while laws exists that prevent private citizens from recording authorities. An on duty police officer has no right to privacy. He is a public servant performing a public function. His job is meant to be scrutinized.

 Local citizens must demand that such laws be abolished. It should be made clear that a private citizen may, without fear of retribution, record a public servant doing his job at anytime he is acting in an official capacity. In fact anyone given arresting authority should be required to carry a visual audio recording device at all times. It is the accused who should be allowed to opt out of being recorded. Not the accuser. Ron Paul elaborates on this notion in Liberty Defined P. 279:

Nothing good can come out of permitting government  to film our every move.  It strikes me like a scene out of Orwell's "1984.  What I would like to see is the very opposite.

Philosophically, we long ago abandoned the idea of innocent until proven guilty. We have elevated those in government and especially those in law enforcement to the levels of saint-hood. We pretend that when these mortal men garnish the uniform they relinquish all human flaw and ascend to the rank of angel.

 No man is an angel but most police officers are honest, ethical, hard-working family men who feel a sense of duty to protect and serve the community. Allowing the officer to be recorded will also protect him from false allegations of abuse.

 For the noble officer (of which there are many) it will allow him to do his job with a little more peace of mind while weeding out the corrupt bullies who tarnish the profession. 

 It should serve as a reminder to the rest of us that police only exist to protect the liberty, property, and safety of the individual. The individual does not exist to meet the demands of or provide employment to a police force. They exist to serve our needs not the other way around.

The cop is a servant not a master. They have no right to bark orders or make demands of the law abiding citizens who pay their salary. The citizen does have a right and a duty to make sure the officer does his job in an honest and ethical way.

 Arm yourself with a camera. Tell a friend who may not know how his liberties are being violated. Circulate a petition that anyone given the power to arrest in your county should be uniformed with a camera. Liberty can be reclaimed with small steps by the masses.

It is not illegal or immoral to disobey a policeman. It is an abuse of power for an officer to bark orders to anyone not committing a crime. We are a society of laws. We employ certain individuals to abide by and enforce those laws. We allow them the honor and the privilege to serve as watchmen.  As defenders of liberty and advocates of a free society it is our duty to watch the watchmen.

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