12/30/10 Maryland’s Right to Record

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I have a suggestion for a law the Maryland General Assembly ought to pass when it convenes next month.

Last spring a joyriding motorcyclist was confronted at a stoplight by a casually-dressed man who leaped out of a car yelling and brandishing a pistol. Only later did he identify himself as a state trooper.

Pulling a gun for a traffic violation was a dangerous abuse of power and could have set-off an ugly chain of events.  This trooper should have been suspended if not fired.

But there’s more.  The motorcyclist was wearing a helmet camera, filmed the encounter, and posted it online.  Days later state troopers showed up at his home and confiscated his camera, four computers and two laptops, and arrested him for illegal wiretapping.  Fortunately, a judge tossed the charges.

This case is not isolated.  There has been an increase in cops threatening the public and even the media who dare to record them.

The burden of proof rests with a whistleblower when alleging government wrongdoing. Eliminating the evidence – such as banning or confiscating video — makes it nearly impossible to hold government officials accountable.  No one should have an expectation of privacy while working at taxpayer expense.

Maryland should enact a law that makes it lawful to audio or video record any government employee while performing their job.