The Saying Is That A MAN'S HOME Is His Castle. It Doesn't Say Anything About Women, Or Lawns.

Effluvia, Politics & Current Events

Sure, a cat can look at a king. But a person is not a cat, and a cop is not (exactly) a king, and a camera is not a look, so the epigram is non-operative when its application might threaten national security — for instance, when a citizen wants to photograph an ongoing traffic stop from the safety of her own property.

That's what Emily Good of Rochester, New York found out when she concluded, incorrectly, that she had any rights that the policeman is bound to respect. When she saw a traffic stop in front of her house, she stood on her lawn filming it. The cop — one Mario Masic — ordered her into her house. Good — who was on her own property, observing a public servant undertaking a public function — refused. She was arrested for her trouble. Carlos Miller — a photographer and tireless commenter on law enforcement's reflexive hostility to photographers and willful ignorance or defiance of their rights — has the story and the video. There's also an eyewitness account. The Rochester police department has started the process of framing a justification.

Law enforcement hostility to being photographed or recorded is nothing new. Radley Balko and Carlos Miller have done important work on the subject, and here at Popehat Patrick has talked about how the criminal justice system retaliates against citizens who use modern technology to document police misconduct.

What's different about the encounter between Officer Mario Masic and citizen Emily Good? In a way, nothing — it's a banal application of the general rule that police officers are either ignorant or contemptuous of citizen rights, and feel entitled to prevent citizens from recording their public functions. In another way, this incident is a rather pure distillation of the issue. Law enforcement arguments in favor of prohibiting photography usually involve an invocation of the thin blue line — the proposition that civilians simply cannot comprehend the barbarism that cops are protecting them from, and cannot understand the unique stresses and challenges and dangers of The Job. When Officer Mario Masic justified ordering Emily Good off of her own property, and ordering her to desist recording a public function in a public place, he did so on the basis that she made him feel threatened — a subjective "feeling" allegedly caused by an unarmed civilian on her own property doing nothing objectively threatening. Law enforcement wants citizens to accept such subjective feelings and hunches and suspicions uncritically, without dispute, as justifications to stop us and search us and detain us and order us to stop doing things we have the right to do. They assert that they can't protect us unless we respect and yield to these unilateral subjective feelings. But the core proposition of limited government power is that the state must have a specific, articulable, fact-based, and legally sufficient basis to impede citizens from exercising rights. If we cede that by yielding to claims that law enforcement officers have special abilities to feel danger, we let law enforcement order us about at will. Make no mistake that they will take that opportunity, particularly where recording them is concerned: perhaps the greatest threat to law enforcement's entrenched traditional privilege to abuse citizens and then lie about it is modern technology that produces irrefutable evidence of perjury and violations of rights. State officials do not give up privileges easily.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. TJIC  •  Jun 22, 2011 @9:31 am

    I have lately been berated by counsel for saying justified ^H^H^H inflammatory things.

    So I have no comment.

  2. jared  •  Jun 22, 2011 @10:28 am

    I grew up in that neighborhood, and am proud of how the citizens comported themselves here. Officer Mario "I'm trying to give you a warning here" / "my beat features arson and execution-style murder but I'm afraid of a chick with a camera" Masic should stick to dealing Malamutes to his fellow gentry. He must have missed the part of cop orientation where they explain that some of the people who live in that neighborhood do so out of something other than fiscal necessity, and will sue a bitch.

  3. chiefjaybob  •  Jun 22, 2011 @1:15 pm

    Here in the People's Democratik Republik of Illinois, our glorious leaders have passed a state law prohibiting the filming, photographing, or video recording of police officers doing their job. Our cops are The Only Ones Good Enough to Need No Filming.

  4. Scott Jacobs  •  Jun 22, 2011 @3:06 pm

    That law passed? Jesus. Time to film a cop, get arrested, and roll some appeals through the system…

  5. Paul L.  •  Jun 22, 2011 @3:37 pm

    To paraphrase SCOTT H. GREENFIELD at Simple Justice.
    Respecting a person's Constitutional Rights does not help a Police Officer make it home alive.
    Rochester woman arrested while videotaping police officers during traffic stop

    Rochester Police Union President Mike Mazzeo has seen the video and points out that the officer in question repeatedly told Good he felt threatened by her presence. "I see an officer using great restraint, maintaining composure, acting professional, clearly giving very clear and concise orders to an individual who just simply didn't comply.

    Mazzeo says what can't be ignored is the danger police find themselves in on a daily basis and says the fact that she's on her property is insignificant. "I think she was certainly trying to engage the officers, in my opinion, and that's what's so dangerous because it's a distraction to what these officers are doing."

  6. Scott Jacobs  •  Jun 22, 2011 @4:41 pm

    So screw those rights, Eh Paul?

    Can I be arrested for watching a cop from across the street? From the far end of the block? 2 blocks away? At what distance do I cease to be a distraction?

  7. PLW  •  Jun 22, 2011 @5:09 pm

    If you can't control a scene without violating constitutional rights, call for back up.

  8. Paul L.  •  Jun 22, 2011 @6:05 pm

    I was being sarcastic.

    I suspect that the police will say you should not be allowed to watch the Police period.
    I should have included my objection that a Police officer "clearly giving very clear and concise orders to an individual" automatically make them legal orders that should be complied with by a civilian.

    IMHO, Officer Mario Masic showed little restraint ,lost his composure and acted unprofessionally when he arrested Emily Good for Contempt of Cop.

  9. marco73  •  Jun 23, 2011 @7:40 am

    I can't believe that this officer somehow feels threatened when someone is using a video camera. Come on, we've had home video cameras for decades. The Rodney King incident in LA was 20 years ago, in March 1991.
    What has happened recently, though, is that as the technology has gotten more compact and the price has dropped, there are a lot more cameras out there. So people in poorer neighborhoods and out in public are a lot more likely to have a video camera handy. More cameras and more filming is bound to turn up more embarrassment.
    I work in an regular office building. I'm filmed driving in the parking garage, getting on the elevator, and walking the hallways to my office. I don't have a camera on me at my desk, at least none that I'm aware.
    The genie is out of the bottle. If you can't handle being filmed on the job, maybe you should live in a cave.

  10. Michael  •  Jun 23, 2011 @8:27 am

    Thanks for continuing to cover these stories, as always I am grateful for your perspective.

  11. RP  •  Jun 23, 2011 @11:01 am

    I'm actually glad that this woman's camera wasn't impounded permanently or simply destroyed.

    Does that mean that I am already servile?

  12. Paul Baxter  •  Jun 23, 2011 @1:08 pm

    I think what really struck me here was that in the officer's mind "you're making me nervous" constituted some sort of order or direction. One thing I've learned from parenting is that directions need to be clear and simple (and not self-referential) if you want the best chance of them being effective.

    The whole incident was unfortunate all the way around. Obviously it's sad and unfortunate for the woman who was unlawfully arrested. I also think it's sad for the cop who I think must have been either very nervous already or was poorly prepared for dealing with bystanders during an arrest.

  13. SurfinServer  •  Jun 29, 2011 @10:46 am

    http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20110628/NEWS01/106280327/Break-Emily-Good-s-home-an-oddity
    It sad that someone who cares and tries to make a difference finds herself a victim not once, but twice. With her house being robbed and her electronics stolen. Though it is a seperate incident, its is ti imagine that if her life had not been so dramiticly upset with her unnessecary, illegal arrest. this probally would not have happen. I am hoping that somehow we can help her with the replacement of her electronics. I can do it, other than locating her and making a direct donation. If anyone in the community can help with this, it would be a blessing for Emily and a real show of community support. SS

  14. Joy  •  Jul 10, 2011 @7:14 pm

    From internet search, I believe Officer Mario Masic was recently married to EDIT: DELETED. Joy, in these parts we don't call out spouses and we don't post addresses and contact information, even of nasty people.