July 27, 2006

WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE EXPLAIN TO COPS that they can’t arrest people for photographing them?

The family of Neftaly Cruz said police had no right to come onto their property and arrest their 21-year-old son simply because he was using his cell phone’s camera. They told their story to Harry Hairston and the NBC 10 Investigators. . . .

Cruz, 21, told the NBC 10 Investigators that police arrested him last Wednesday for taking a picture of police activity with his cell phone.

Police at the 35th district said they were in Cruz’s neighborhood that night arresting a drug dealer.

Cruz said that when he heard a commotion, he walked out of his back door with his cell phone to see what was happening. He said that when he saw the street lined with police cars, he decided to take a picture of the scene.

“I opened (the phone) and took a shot,” Cruz said.

Moments later, Cruz said he got the shock of his life when an officer came to his back yard gate.

“He opened the gate and took me by my right hand,” Cruz said.

Cruz said the officer threw him onto a police car, cuffed him and took him to jail.

I think we need civil rights legislation making this kind of arrest illegal. Treble damages, plus the right to civil forfeiture of any police property or equipment used in the arrest. Oh, and respondeat superior liability against supervisors.

Well, we do need something , even if it’s unlikely that we’ll get it. Though a law defending ordinary citizens’ right to take pictures in public places seems like it might be a good campaign issue.

UPDATE: At Spleenville, skepticism and a claim that I am excessively libertarian. Hmm.