It's Definitely OK to Film Cops, Texas Judge Rules

copbeating.JPG
Smile for the camera, officer.
It's perfectly legal to film people who don't want to be filmed as long as it's all happening in public. If you're trying to provoke an asshole into kicking your ass without breaking the law yourself, getting a camera and the courage to overzealously use it may just be your ticket.

But filming cops, a popular pastime in Texas (and a topic we cover a lot here) doesn't quite have that same legal protection. The Supreme Court has never ruled on your right to record police. That's why activists and civil liberties experts are happy about a new ruling a Texas judge made in support of this avid cop-filmer.

Antonio Buehler may not feel safe around Austin Police Department officers, but he spends a lot of time filming them.

He became an activist back on January 1, 2012, after he thought Austin cops were too violent during the DWI arrest of a motorist. He started taking pictures and got arrested that night. He says it was just for taking the pictures, while the APD had claimed that Buehler had spit in the face of Officer Patrick Oborski.

After the arrest, Buehler decided to start recording his city's cops on a regular basis. One night he ran into Oborski again, camera in hand. "How you doing, Pat? Still harassing people?" Buehler asked.

Buehler got arrested a few more times in the course of his filming. Police also confiscated his camera.

Buehler is now filing a federal lawsuit claiming that the police have maliciously prosecuted him and used excessive force. More important to other cop-filmers, Buehler also argues that he had a First Amendment right to film.

The city of Austin tried to stop the case by arguing that filming officers isn't a recognized constitutional right. But last week, Judge Mark Lane said the lawsuit can still go forward because all citizens have the right to record public servants in public places as they do their job, as long as they don't interfere.

Lane also reviewed past rulings and determined that there is a "robust consensus" of past judges who similarly concluded that the First Amendment "encompasses a right to record public officials as they perform their official duties."

In other words, it's well-established case law that you can record police, even if nothing has landed on the desk of the Supreme Court yet. "He's definitely not the first judge to do that, that's kind of part of the point," says Rebecca Robertson, ACLU of Texas' legal and policy director. The ruling, she says, should send police officers nationwide the message that more citizens are going to be filming them and they need to figure out a way to handle all the cell phone cams appropriately.

It's a message that one of the local police unions has been slow to accept. In April, Dallas Police Association President Ron Pinkston complained to CBS that citizen taping is unsafe. "We don't know who it is pulling behind us," he said. "We don't know they're there to videotape. ... If that guy has has just done a kidnapping they could be part of the kidnapping. You don't know."

UPDATE: Pinkston tells Unfair Park that being filmed doesn't bother him or other officers, as long as the person recording isn't getting in the way. "Make me look skinny in the video and I'm good with it," he jokes, and he's also expressed support in the press for equipping officers with squad car dash cams and body cams. It's the cameramen who follow cops in their cars that disturb him."I don't like people pulling up behind officers," he says, pointing out that police officer deaths at traffic stops aren't uncommon.

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55 comments
noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas

While I think anyone with a reasonable sense of life can understand why many police officers would prefer NOT to be on a video that could go who knows where, including being posted on YouTube for the world to see.  However, our world has changed since the 50s when every police officer was your friend, even when giving you a ticket. 

Thank goodness it has been ruled "legal" by the courts for bystanders - even close ones - to video a police officer performing his duties.  There have just been too many cases of police officers going way overboard to subdue a suspect, and ending in tragedy or serious injury. 

Any police officer who hasn't read our constitution needs to do so in order to be able to honestly swear to uphold, adhere to, and faithful observe every provision of the document. 


marseglia.geo
marseglia.geo

I am not much for commenting on the writer of the article but they completely left out that there was a vide of the antonio event where there was absolutely no evidence of any spitting event.  This criminal activity by Austin APD should absolutely terrify Austin citzens.  If you look at Anontio's record, he had no history of filming or being involved in such activity until after he himself was a victim.  He then took up a cause that we should all be greatful for.  And for that my friends....I recognize Antonio's efforts to benefit us all.

oaklawnmassage
oaklawnmassage

I do it every time I get pulled over with a hidden flip video. Its a lot funnier to watch them act a ass if they don't know.

icareservices
icareservices

It was pretty obvious that Officer Oborski lied when he stated Antonio had spit in his face.  Thankfully, someone across the street had been filming it and it does show the officer lied.  It also showed that in no way was Buehler being aggressive or a threat to the officers.  Despite that, Oborski handled him pretty roughly.  I don't get why these cops get so worked up around Antonio.  All he is doing is filming them.  IF they were actually good at their jobs, Peaceful Streets would have nothing to show the public.  As it is, you can go online and see all sorts of police brutality happening all around this country.  I am thankful for people like Antonio, as well as all others who are out in the streets monitoring the police, because they need someone monitoring them.

antonio80
antonio80

It would have been nice if you covered what happened on January 1, 2012. The part about two cops assaulting a woman (a passenger) who had committed no crime and was not suspected of committing a crime. The part about them making up claims of spitting that were debunked by a half dozen witnesses and two videos. 


This isn't just a case of someone hating cops, this is a case of cops assaulting innocent people, framing them, and those people actually being able to stand up to the cops because of a bunch of witnesses who had the courage to step forward. 

Joe.T
Joe.T

www.facebook.com/texascopblock

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

More Proof that Cops are Violent Knuckle-draggin' Neanderthal Scumbags with badges and guns.



DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Cameras Shall Not Be Infringed !!


When cameras are outlawed, only outlaws will have cameras!


Semper Nikon !!



bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

While this ruling is unique in Texas, courts all over the country have consistently ruled in favor of citizen-photographers. The right to photograph is the same as the right to see.

Anonamouse
Anonamouse

One small step in the right direction.

roo_ster
roo_ster

It usually takes a jerk to push against power and expand liberty.  God bless all such jerks.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

After my Cheaters episode years ago...I learned the only place safe from being filmed in inside your own house.

EdD.
EdD.

Can't wait until this case gets to the US Supreme Court, a group of public officials who have repeatedly shut down any attempt to have cameras present while they perform their official duties.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb topcommenter

Out in public no expectation of privacy. Plus, ON THE PUBLIC TEAT. Film away.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Well if we required every cop to film everything they did with a dash cam and uniform camera, we wouldn't need to film cops to protect our rights when interacting with them.  A cop should have no reason to fear being filmed.  If the force used was necessary the film will show it.  

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas

@icareservices This cop should be fired, and sued for defamation of character by intentionally accusing this person of something he didn't do, and therefore not breaking the law.

Charlie
Charlie

@bmarvel If even Illinois and Massachusetts had their statutes struck down, then pretty much all of them will.  Illinois and Mass. required the officer's consent to film them in public and that was struck down due to the lack of an expectation of privacy in a public setting.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@bmarvel but if we arm everyone with cameras, there will be more crime, more upskirts and more public filming of sexual displays

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@roo_ster "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

JackJett
JackJett

@Sharon_Moreanus  Are you serious?  I did a Cheater's episode too several years ago and still get email from it.  It was the one where Joey got stabbed and I filled in as host while he "recovered" .

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@EdD. These cases have been climbing the juridical ladder towards POTUS for several years now. Every court at every level has affirmed the rights of photographers to photograph in public places or any place they have permission to shoot. I don't see the Supremes bucking this wave.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin Except that the devices always seem to "malfunction" when the beat down is coming.  Especially in ways like the case where the cops who chased the motorcycle guy "happened" to turn the dashcam away from the front right before they gave him a leather shampoo.

JackJett
JackJett

@ScottsMerkin  There is the key line in this entire debate. 


A cop should have no reason to fear being filmed. In fact I am trying to think of one example of someone that gets paid by taxpayers that should not fear being filmed.


Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

Are you the EB, SC or TF?

It was a paid gig. And it still plays 12 years later. Well played I'd say.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@JackJett @Sharon_Moreanus Somehow I actually believe that Jack was in an episode of cheaters.  Sharon Im not so sure.  Though I do know of a few people who were paid decently for their time on the show

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bmarvel @EdD. I didn't realize Obama had extended his unilateral powers over the courts now as well.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@everlastingphelps I hear ya, no video no defense for the cop.  In the case of the obviously tampered with camera in that motorcycle incident, automatic termination and summary judgement for the citizen

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@JackJett @ScottsMerkin Hmmm, a tax-paid employee who should have a healthy fear of being filmed in the course of their duties?  Foreign intelligence agents and deep cover law enforcement  would be the only examples I could think of.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@bmarvel @ScottsMerkin good point murder is a price we pay for our liberty to bear arms.  And DWI deaths are the price we pay for our liberty to drink, paying reparations are a price we pay for liberating slaves and Kwanzaa is the Price we for Price

JackJett
JackJett

@Hot.Sauce  I filled in for him during the time they were shooting on a lake and he got stabbed. The episode was listed number two by E! Entertainment's 101 Craziest TV Moments program.


Fortunately for him, unfortunately for me, he got better and returned a few weeks later. Goldstein ended up Producing all my Canandian shows.  Crazy times.  Clark Gable III is hosting it now.  An insanely fun studio to hang around.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

Are you willing to bet ur merkin on it...

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @bmarvel @EdD. Golden, at least TRY to make sense. What's Obama got to do with this? Or you just have an Obama fetish?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bmarvel "These cases have been climbing the juridical ladder towards POTUS for several years now."  

Care to try again, genius?  Make sense of the case climbing the courts towards POTUS.
I originally intended to make a small joke.  In light of your, predictable, arrogant and insipid response, I hope you feel stupid.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @bmarvel POTUS reviews lower courts. Has to pass through lower courts before it gets to POTUS. Am I missing something here?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bmarvel @RTGolden1 SCOTUS = Supreme Court of the United States.  POTUS = President of the United States.

Now I just feel mean for picking on the obviously infirm.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@RTGolden1


UNCLE = United Network Command for Law and Enforcement


APE =  Agency to Prevent Evil


CHUMP = Criminal Headquarters for the Underworld's Master Plan


hth.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@RTGolden1 Yes. Got it. Made mistake. Not the first time. Feel just awful. Thanks. Etc.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@RTGolden1 Ah, yes, I meant to type SCOTUS. I'll give you a "like" for that.

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