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Surveillance and Society
6 November 2013
Current Event Analysis
Surveillance has been used against citizens by hierarchal powers for several years. Recently though a method of using surveillance against higher authority is becoming popular. The service police provide is essential today. As well a majority of the police who take the oath to serve and protect the public are well meaning professionals. Unfortunately some police are not held accountable and can abuse their authority.
For example in 1991 Rodney King a construction worker on parole for robbery was beaten after a high speed car chase with police. The disturbing image of police repeatedly hitting him where caught on film by a local citizen. The footage caused outcry in Los Angeles, and the incident is said to have provoked the 1992 Los Angeles Riots after the officers were initially acquitted.
George Holliday the nearby resident who recorded the scene was one of the first to participate in an activity described by Steve Mann as sousveillance. Sousveillance differentiates from traditional surveillance in that the word roughly to translate from French to under sight, as in surveillance by people subjected to a hierarchy (Huey, 158). The use of technology to challenge bureaucracies and authoritative organizations, like the police, is a form of reflectionism (Huey, 158). The taping of police is a specific type of sousveillance, which arises because of the failures of surveillance within institutions. The failures that Cop Watching organizations try to capture are the brutality and profiling that police engage in.
Although it is not illegal to record the police in Brevard County, FL a man was recently arrested for photographing police. Jeff Gray, who is an editor to photographyisnotacrime.com was arrested after failure to leave while recording a traffic stop by police. His wife was also recording her husband being arrested from her car. A deputy approached her and was caught on camera being rude, crass, and uncooperative with Teresa (Manes). Jeff’s iphone and camera was confiscated by the police.
According to the ACLU recording a police officer is constitutional and officers cannot confiscate or destroy your pictures. The practices of Cop Watch are noble in nature, but their actions are not always equal to their claim to promote democracy. Interesting also is comparing the unintended consequences of police taping against the potential benefits (Huey, 165). Not only are the police being recorded in these videos, but the identity of suspects and random civilians in the video are being shared. Also a critique of the incognito nature of organizations like Cop Watch is the lack of public information regarding the regulation, storing, and sharing of the information they record.
Another critique of Cop Watch is that although it claims to protect democracy its mission is not always representative of the community, “many residents of Vancouver DTES say that Cop Watch members do not represent them or their interest” (Huey, 161). Another critique is that the constant video surveillance forces cops into giving tickets. While normally police are left to use their discretion in arresting or delivering tickets, the camera forces their hands into action.
Huey, Laura; Walby, Kevin; Doyle Aaron. “Cop watching in the Downtown Eastside”.
Manes, Bill. “Brevard County deputies arrest man for photographing police”. Orlando Weekly. Web. October, 30 2013.