Bad Cops Hate Cameras
Be careful. I’m serious. Take a picture of some cop breaking the law in a public place and instead of being praised as a good citizen you could end up being beaten, maced or facing jail-time from an unsympathetic court system.
Its happening increasingly in both the USA and the UK where police are now aggressively going after anyone who tries to legally and legitimately photograph their activities. This abuse has become routine. While they have surveillance cameras at all public events photographing your every move they hate it when the roles are reversed and the spotlight is put on them.
There is nothing new in police brutality. It falls disproportionately on some sections of the community, but no-one is really safe. Whats new is the ability of the general public, often through the use of cellphone technology, to easily capture evidence of it on video or in pictures and how the police react to this.
In attacking the rights of photographers the police frequently misuse terrorism or other laws and even claim they can do it ‘just because they want to’. This matters because the odds are already weighted heavily against the public . Have you ever heard the saying on the internet ‘Pix or it didn’t happen’? Well thats the way it seems to be with complaints against the cops.
Where there is alleged police wrong-doing or criminality the courts are likely to take the word of the police over a member of the public unless there is irrefutable evidence to the contrary. Even with video evidence of police misbehaving the chances are they will still get away with it but these days such material can at least be posted on the internet to raise public awareness of the wrongdoing and create public pressure for action.
So its a no-brainer why bad cops hate cameras but its also equally clear that its always in the public interest they shouldn’t get away with breaking the law. There is a very real and important issue developing here over the right of citizens to film police misbehaving and its got much worse lately.
It seems clear that some police are determined to stop people recording examples of their criminality and it looks like lawmakers and courts are supporting them. Unless something is done very soon to protect the rights of photographers in public places we’ll be another step further down the road to a police state.
The ACLU on this subject
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By his own account London-based photographer Joel James Devlin has spent enormous amounts of time over the past few years examining and perfecting the effects of moving light through long exposure photographs. In the amazing photos above Devlin has experimented with lights on various bodies of water in a series called Light Waves and Dark Currentsand the others are the result of 50-minute exposures of airplane trails over the skies of London. See much more on his website, and if you liked this also check out the work of Lee Eunyeol, and Barry Underwood.