portland independent media center  
images audio video
promoted newswire article commentary portland metro

police / legal

Citizen Law Enforcement Protection Act

Currently the law reads that one can not tape record a police officer unless that officer has knowledge that the conversation is being recording. Under a new proposed law that would change completely and allow citizens to record police officers with or without their knowledge.

Even when you take a complaint to internal affairs about the actions of a police officer while in the scope of their duties, most of the "evidence" needs to be supplied by you when you make the complaint. However, the best evidence possible, a taped recording of the event, IE: traffic stop, stop and frisk, etc. could actually be used against YOU! That's right...this has happened to me personally, so I know how it goes. [ Read More ] [ www.portlandpolice.net ]
My experience was this....I met with a uniformed sergeant who was harrassing my employees while he was on duty. I met with him to discuss this issue and see how he would respond. I took a tape recorder to the meeting and recorded the whole meeting. Here was the beauty...he knew it was being recorded because the tape recorder was on my lap in plain site! Well, when he copped an attitude about the whole thing, I called the internal affaris division with his department to make a complaint. They came out to interview me and recorded my complaint. I handed them the tape of the meeting so they could see that I was not making anything up at all. Gee, much to my surprise about 2 weeks later I received a letter from their district attorney's office stating that I was being brought up on charges of intercepting communications! I was pissed off at that point...yeah, the complaint process was working for me...oh boy! I went to their DA's office and met with a deputy DA about the issue. I advised them that I had not committed that crime and even showed them in ORS where they were wrong. The deputy DA said ok, they had made a mistake and would handle it during arraingment. Arraignment day came and the deputy DA stood up in front of the judge and AMMENDED the charge reading! They chose another crime, obtaining contents of communications. I was really pissed now. I plead not guilty and left the courtroom.

The next day I went back to the deputy DA to voice my concerns to their supervisor about their actions. The supervisor was just as bad. Underhanded dirty games they play sometimes...to honest citizens who just want justice. Well, I spoke with them at great length letting them know that I would not stand by and let them charge me with a class A misdemeanor. After several hours of frustration they came back to me and said they would move it down to a mere violation of the law instead of a criminal offense. The catch was I had to change my plea to guilty to do so. Well, since it was now going to be NON-CRIMINAL, I took the plea and changed it to guilty in front of the judge AFTER the DA's office had advised the court that they wished to change the charge status to a violation. The judge looked at it and agreed. I had to pay a $250.00 fine to the court and listen to the judge lecture me in a full courtroom that I was not James Bond and that recording conversations like that was reserved for such people. I was humiliated in the courtroom....people actually were laughing in the court....including the judge! Pissed me off!

After that experience I contacted a state senator to go over a new proposed law which I labled The Citizen Law Enforcement Protection Act. He went over it and agreed that such a law would help end some police corruption and injustice. One of the sections allowed a citizen to tape record police officers durring traffic stops or any other personal contact by the officer. It would be LEGAL to do so as long as the police officer was in uniform and acting in official capacity. We agreed...the only ones who would have a problem with this new legislation would be the police. How could they object though....why would they NOT want a traffic stop recorded? We all know the reasons for that....the officers would have to watch what they say...because they would never know if they were being recorded or not as the new law would read that the recording could be done with OR WITHOUT the officer's knowledge that it was being recorded. That would end a LOT of unjust stops, harrassment and make sure that officers would not lie in court because a little tape could pop up and then they would be charged with perjury. I also made it a CRIME (class c felony) if a police officer tried to steal or forcefully take the recording away from the citizen. Cops watch out....it's not here yet, but we're working on it! Honest law enforcement....that is the goal, and citizen protection from unreasonable detentions and searches. This should also help with racial profiling stops too. Good cops have nothing to fear....bad cops.....fear it baby!

Dave 16.Jul.2003 12:02

skate

Doesn't this stance sort of contradict your complaints about photo-radar? In those you've maintained that it's bad to use technology for gathering evidence. Here you seem to be saying it's okay. Or are you simply saying it's okay for you to do it but not anyone else?

No 16.Jul.2003 12:59

Dave editor@portlandpolice.net

Skate, are you a cop?

Ok, here's my "stance" on this issue. With photo radar, we rely SOLEY on the evidence obtained by a machine, whether we were speeding or NOT. It is QUITE different with police officer recordings however. First, both people are on the tape, not just one side. An ACTUAL recording of the incident can be recorded for HELP in futue evidence use, not used SOLEY as it's only evidence. IE: There are also at least two witnesses...the officer and the citizen, both of whom are recorded on the tape. With photo radar, you just have to take the word of a machine with NO officer witnessing ANY violation. Those are the main differences. We know that many cops record their traffic stops for their own "use" if it comes down to CYA. I believe such use of recordings as it is now with the law are illegal for officers to use when no crime has been committed. However, I know many cops who use mini recorders on traffic stops, without the citizen knowing it. Technically, the officer is violating the law when they do that as the law reads now. However, under a new law such as this, it would be legal for EITHER the officer or the citizen or both to record the incident as it is happening.

The only ones who should fear this type of law are bad cops....period.


Nope 16.Jul.2003 13:50

skate

I'm not a cop ... one doesn't have to be in order to disagree with you.

On any particular stance, there's more than just right or wrong ... there are all shades and variations. Two people can have different views with neither being 'wrong' or 'evil'. Based on your postings so far, you come across as someone with a drum to beat and I don't happen to care for the tune, that's all.

As for "The only ones who should fear this type of law are bad cops....period." It seems I've heard similar arguments put forward in support of the Patriot Act ... "the only ones to fear this are ........... "

But more power to you ... if you can convince enough other citizens to agree with you, they'll join you in voting this into law. That's the way the system is supposed to work.

Great Follow Up for Your Employees/Self, Dave! 16.Jul.2003 14:43

Kroeker is a TERRORIST! "skate" is a collaborator.

First they ignore you; Then they laugh at you; Then they fight you; Then you win. (Gandhi)

That story is an outrage. Inept police can't stand the light of day. Keep it up!

Agreed. Dave rocks. 16.Jul.2003 15:30

--

Thanx for standing up for an employee, for relaying this story and continuing to act.

But, really, Skate doesn't have the earmarks of a cop of collaborator ... so far as I can tell. He asks questions, sometimes unpopular questions. 75% of the time I don't agree with him, but he does engage in reasonable dialogue and doesn't seem built to provoke. Terms like troll, cop and collaborator can lose all meaning if applied too ... um ... liberally.

Bond...James Bond 16.Jul.2003 16:54

Snaggle

I'm sorry you felt humiliated. Courtrooms always make me nervous, even when I have nothing to be nervous about. Sounds you got in a little over your head and didn't know how to play. Sort of a like somebody who plays trumpet for two weeks and thinks he can show up at any ol' jam session, and then gets smoked in the first eight bars.

My mother always said: Your mouth is what'll get you into trouble.

Snaggle 16.Jul.2003 17:02

<

...should have listened to his/her mother.

Great idea Dave 16.Jul.2003 19:29

Reader

Cops need to be accountable to the law if we are allowing them to be judge, jury and executioner. It is now widely accepted that Portland has a huge problem with bad cops, and that such behavior is accepted and encouraged by their peers. Regularly recording police arrests is an efficient way to put the breaks on that kind of behavior.

If police are not engaging in illegal activity in the course of performing their jobs, a recording will be evidence in their favor. However, if they know they have a lot to hide, they will probably fight this legislation. My guess is that the police will fight this very hard.

Mistakes 16.Jul.2003 20:26

Not a Lawyer

Sounds like Dave made a few mistakes:

- Giving the recording to internal affairs without a subpoena
- Not getting a lawyer
- Speaking to the DA without a lawyer
- Going to court (especially a second time) without a lawyer
- Negotiating a plea bargain without a lawyer
- Pleading guilty when not

I have a hard time believing that it is illegal to record a police conversation, especially when the police are aware of it at the time. I have a legal book, written in Oregon, that asserts that is perfectly legal to photograph police at any time, as long as one doesn't obstruct them and obeys lawful orders (I'm paraphrasing from memory here).

It would be wonderful if it was made illegal for police to confiscate recording devices of any kind (including cameras and camcorders). As far as I know, police are only legally able to confiscate recording devices if the recordings are evidence of crimes. Of course, nothing stops police from falsely claiming this.

Another question 16.Jul.2003 23:02

Mulberry Sellers

Is whether the prohibition on recording a conversation without the knowledge and consent of all the parties applies only to recording cops, as Dave implies, or whether it applies to recording anyone, irrespective of their job.

There are one-party and two-party states, i.e., states where recording a conversation is licit if only one of the parties consents and those where the consent of both parties is required.

From my experience back East in doing audio enhancements for the legal profession, I know that Pennsylvania is two-party, while New Jersey is one-party. I worked on a surreptitiously recorded tape for which the person doing the recording had, on the advice of her lawyer, insisted on meeting the other person in a restaurant in New Jersey. so that the recording would be both legal and admissible in a Pennsylvania court. (in case anyone is wondering, I was working for the defense, in a rather notorious murder case from a few years back).

What's the situation here on the West Coast?

Interesting 16.Jul.2003 23:20

Not a Lawyer

Dave wrote, "I also made it a CRIME (class c felony) if a police officer tried to steal or forcefully take the recording away from the citizen. Cops watch out....it's not here yet, but we're working on it!"

Interesting. As I understand it, police don't need to "steal or forcefully take the recording away from the citizen". If they assert that the recording may constitute evidence of a crime and are seizing it while arresting you, all they need to do is to demand it from you. Failing to do so might result in a charge of resisting arrest. Otherwise, they need a warrant or subpoena. Of course, you could just voluntarily give it to them. Big mistake, but we know that now, don't we?

Lessons learned and remembered 17.Jul.2003 01:34

Dave editor@portlandpolice.net

Yes, I have learned many lessons that I will always remember now...especially in dealing with the police and a court of law. When I started in with the original complaint against the sergeant I had NO idea how out of hand it would get...I mean how dare I go against one of their own....that should be a crime itself...lol. However, after speaking with the DA's office, I had every reason to believe that they would have done the right thing and dropped the charge, period...not amend the damn thing. But....we learn as we go...and we will always remember such lessons. What have my experiences done for me....they have given me the energy and commitment to change how the police interact with the general public.

As far as the CLEPA law is concerned, it directed only towards uniformed police officers who are acting in official capacity at the time of the contact. Here is something esle that people have to remember...a traffic violation is not a crime. There is no such "evidence" in a recording that a police officer could be interested in with a traffic stop most of the time, unless that officer made some inappropriate comments and discovered during the stop that he or she had been recorded. With the CLEPA law, a citizen could legally record the stop in its entirety without the officer's knowledge. Even if a citizen who is stopped believes that their tape will be confiscated by the cops could legally have a second recording device to capture that move. The police would have to be VERY careful as to what they said and how they acted and reacted in the contact. There wouldn't be any more "their word against your word" routine anymore either...the truth could be heard as it happened.

Such a law is paramount in achieving a society where citizens could have some reasurrance that their rights would not be violated by overzealous cops. There could be accountability and fairness for everyone. When you go into court, especially for traffic related offenses, the judge will always have the best interest of the State in mind, especially when it comes down to believing the police over you....unless you have proof of your claims that show the officer is wrong and you are right....in the form of a legally obtained (under CLEPA), accounting of the police contact with you.

The police have to realize that the people ultimately have control of how the laws work and are applied to them in general. That is what our elected officials are for. We need to build a society where the police are limited to enforcing serious crimes and serious traffic offenses....all the small stuff needs to go the way of the dinosaur. Police shootings need to be quelled to a minimum with more restrictions set out for them to follow. IE: Only able to shoot a person if they are being immediately put in jeaporday of their lives. The way that the Kendra James shooting went down was poor....the police poorly handled the situation. The officer who shot her should not have had his body inside the car at all. What ever happened to officer safety training? So she would rabbit and run...big deal! She could be apprehended another day, and she would still have that life to live....the police acted incorrectly in handling that situation.


I agree 18.Jul.2003 21:03

Mystery_Officer Mystery_Officer@yahoo.com

As a person who has worked in Law Enforcement for the past 5 years I agree that citizens should be allowed to record interactions with police officers. Someone or something needs to help curb police corruption. I can see how this could be a very valuable tool to doing that. I do not object as a LAw Enforcement Officer because I have nothing to hide.

What's good for the goose... 20.Jul.2003 18:39

Me

If it becomes legal for you to tape the cops, it should be made legal for cops to tape you. Every arguement you can make justifying why taping cops should be legal can be made by cops for why they should be able to tape people they deal with, including "so the truth can be heard". Cops have to deal with false complaints filed against them, and in all of those cases having a tape of the event would save everyone the stress and tax expense for the investigations and interviews.

There should be nothing to hide, right?

Right 23.Jul.2003 18:54

Dave editor@portlandpolice.net

Yes, there should be nothing to hide for either. Fair is fair, I have no problem with that.