Atlanta police agreed to back off citizens who videotape

By Nathan Diebenow
Monday, February 14, 2011 0:14 EDT
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The Atlanta police force will no longer tangle with citizens who videotape their actions in public, according to a recent settlement between citizen activists and the city.

“We commend the city for resolving a long-standing problem of police interfering with citizens who monitor police activity,” Gerry Weber and Dan Grossman, the lawyers for the activists, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday.

The settlement involved Marlon Kautz, a 27-year-old volunteer with a group that films police activities called Copwatch. Two officers, upon taking his camera phone, told Kautz last year he was not allowed to record them making arrests after a raid of a local business. The police later returned his device without the pictures.

“The APD has shown time and time again that they do not want the public to see what they’re doing,” Vincent Castillenti, Copwatch organizer, said in an advisory.

He continued, “It’s alarming to see police trying to create a veil of secrecy around their activities, and I think we should all be asking what it is they’re trying to hide.”

The agreement, pending city council approval, would award Kautz and Copwatch $40,000 in damages. Also the Atlanta Police Department would agree to allow citizens to record their officers on duty, as long as the recording is done without physically obstructing officers.

The APD reported that disciplinary actions were taken on the three officers involved in the Kautz incident. A citizens advisory board recommended suspension without pay for four days for Officer Anthony Kirkman who stripped the phone from Kautz.

Kautz began filming police in East Atlanta two years ago after he formed a local Copwatch chapter. He told the Journal that a police raid on a local gay bar drove him to activism.

“We saw Copwatch as direct action we could take to increase police accountability in the city,” he said.

In 1990, the original Copwatch group formed in California to film police for citizens’ protection. Recording police activity has been upheld as constitutionally protected in some cases, but in many cases officers have treated it as an offense worthy of arrest.

A video of the raid can be viewed on the Copwatch East Atlanta’s website [link].

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  • Anonymous

    Imainge .. The lowly public video recording a public servant doing their job

  • Anonymous

    I kind of like the new look for RawStory but when real big shit happens, where are they going to put the huge fuckin’ red headline?

  • jack nichols

    This is good news for freedom, “quis custodiet ipsos custodes” “who will watch the watchmen” finally a step in the right direction. We don’t want nor need a police state.

  • Anonymous

    Cops have a tough job and a necessary one, but they need objective monitoring for everyone’s benefit (theirs too).

  • Anonymous

    In point of fact, the citizen is gathering evidence of a crime. Typical police crime being, assault, assault with intent to cause bodily harm, kidnapping, illegal detention and often theft. It is the responsibility of the police officer now to prove those crimes were protected by their acting in a properly legal capacity, failure of that test, means they are guilty of those crimes and should be punished as such.
    So false arrest leads to a whole suite of criminal offences, no difference with what the justice system does with other criminals, in charging them with all criminal acts associated with the major crime and only reducing them in the even of a plea bargain.
    No whoops sorry, slap on the wrist, one week holiday without pay, free to earn other income. Perhaps a short term retraining facility, where they spend 24/7 learning discipline and the law, would be far more appropriate, a remedial training facility for rogue cops run state wide.

  • Nickelthrower


    The ACLU released a report a few years back that stated that when an incident involving the police was filmed and the officers were not aware they were being filmed, that the official police report, when later compared to the film, contained factual “errors” 90% of the time.

    In other words, the police lie 90% of the time. These were not small omissions but outright and blatant lies in order to illegally abuse and incarcerate (and sometimes imprison) people that had done nothing wrong.

    Think about that the next time you think it is wrong to film the police in action.

  • theoldhippy

    There was a story about a week ago about a wearable video camera and how two cities, I think Austin was one, were preparing to field test them.

    That’s my idea of progress. Bug every conversation the cops have, even when they are bullshitting with their buddies, and upload it to a database any citizen can stream to his own computer. Up till now, they’ve had the advantage since everyone knows “Cops don’t lie”. And only us citizens now have to worry about being wiretapped. Since it is so innocent, let’s bug the cops.

    Remember, if they are wearing a uniform, any uniform, they are the enemy.

  • godistwaddle

    Never, ever fully trust a cop. If you grow up in a small town, go back 5 years after H.S. graduation, and the biggest jerk in your senior class is now a constable with a club and a gun and an attitude.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EHJJXSTSSOCXLTSQBUVIDYUF7M Dave

    Hide your camera when you film cops.

    You will get a more realistic version of their behavior and you won’t give some dickhead cop the chance to stop you. Use a hollowed out book or a pack or any other idea you can come up with. Little brother is watching big brother.

  • Anonymous

    Tags under the lead picture where credits belong is annoying but it is a step better.

  • mjcc1987

    This does not seem to be a “mutual” agreement, but rather the city caving. I suspect the city knew it was going to lose a larger case and decided to settle this smaller one.

  • Anonymous

    Certainly true in MY high school. He was so violent that even his own department canned him.

  • Hologram5

    The Atlanta police force will no longer tangle with citizens who videotape their actions in public, according to a recent settlement between citizen activists and the city.
    They are public servants performing a public service on a publice road, they have no choice in the matter but to back off. It’s either that, or they shouldn’t have the right to film people on their dash cams.

  • Iconoclasm

    Before cops became “Law Enforcement Officers” they were peace officers. However as of late they have in too many cases become armed government thugs!

    A few years back in a fairly small town Lake Geneva Wisconsin, a mentally ill boy was on the loose with a kitchen knife. they cornered the boy outside in an open area and there were over a dozen ARMED cops in riot gear set to take this kid down. The confused boy allegedly lunged out with the knife and was gunned down dead by several cops.Witnesses said the cops could easily have waited out the boy or brought him down without firing a shot but chose not to. The case went to court and the Wisconsin Court system exonerated all the cops of wrongdoing. This is becoming common place where police powers have grown exponentially.

    Our governments power over the “citizen” is out of control! Government expansionism is OUT OF CONTROL! Congress seems to constantly create laws to expand government and will do so using fear, lies and propaganda to attain its goals.

    Go here http://www.jackherer.com/thebook/ to see how the illegalization of Marijuana came about and it will give you an idea od how the War on Drugs and War on Terror are just scams to ensure government expansionism. The government need you to need them and will stop at nothing to attain that goal. So far it is working like a champ, while the unwitting don’t have a clue.

  • nycplayboy78

    Great news indeed!!! Keep up the good work CopWatch =D

    Please video tape police activities because if we don’t then this country will slide into a Police State…

  • CozmicSeer

    Great to see that, for once, it’s citizens 1, police state 0. Just wish they would have meted out a more severe sentence on Officer Anthony Kirkman like three month hard time with full loss of pay. That would have been a wakeup call for the police to stop violating people’s rights and illegally confiscating their property. After all, if they hadn’t acted like they were somehow omnipotent towards us, they probably wouldn’t have to worry about people recording their actions. In effect, they brought it upon themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Bad Boys

    Bad boys, whatcha want
    Watcha want, whatcha gonna do?
    When sheriff John Brown come for you
    Tell me whatcha wanna do, whatcha gonna do?

    Bad boys, bad boys whatcha gonna do?
    Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?
    Bad boys, bad boys whatcha gonna do?
    Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

    …..errr, hide the camera.

  • enorceht

    they probably lie 100% of the time and mess up their lies 10% of the time … sounds more like it

  • enorceht

    ~ Bob Marley

    Bad boys,bad boys whatcha gonna do whatcha gonna do?
    When they come for you?Bad boys bad boys whatcha gonna do?
    Whatcha gonna do whatcha gonna do when they come for you?


  • enorceht

    at a police brutality protest i was handing out information flyers, and one person i gave one to said “i feel bad for the cops that are good cops” and i answered “if they were so good why aren’t they turning in the bad cops”

  • enorceht

    you beat me to it, i just posted above with the same sentiment lol

  • Anonymous

    Ha ha ha ha. I hope you get help for thinking as I do…..I never did!!

  • Anonymous
  • enorceht

    i usually just do the Stuart Smalley thing while looking in the mirror
    I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!

    having self-diagnosed aad/adhd and dyslexia the change in the order of oldest to newest and the above below has got me totally discombobulated … i know i can change it but i’m half way down the comments before i remember i wanted to change it

  • Anonymous

    Watch ‘Serpico’ if you want something of an answer to that. It’s like any job, whistleblowers have a really tough time of it and often loose their jobs for their bravery. In the case of cops, it’s even worse because your coworkers are armed and together with you in dangerous situations. My heart really goes out to cops that are idealistic.

  • Anonymous

    All cops are criminals… 100%! Not 99.9% – 100%!!

  • Anonymous

    If you would allow me my 2 freakin’ cents here on this subject please.
    I don’t know, this new look and shit, it’s ok but I sorta liked the more indie, college radio station funkiness of the old style. Whenever shit starts to get slick it usually starts to suck too. I wonder how soon they are going to start tracking that Lindsey Loohan and Angelina Dogbuttlipps. And oh yeah, and when they’ll stop letting me use ‘cocksucker’ as a modifier for Obama.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QMPOO3PZFN7XV2XZKCGSXXR3WM Joe Somebody

    Isn’t that cute? Our “employees” have agreed to let us, the boss, engage in oversight without them beating us.

    This country is so fucked.

  • Anonymous

    Look let’s keep it real here it cops, 98% of the time, are just fucking with poor bastards trying to get through their miserable existences. Now days especially they are no longer the fat, donut consuming, porn-stasched fucks … they are more and more these roided’up freaks, out of Iraq/Afghan who are looking for the next motherfucker they can shoot up who can’t shoot back.

  • Anonymous

    Not the mail man though, he’s ok, right?
    Sorry just effing around, I basically agree withya.

  • Anonymous

    You got that, ‘either bcame a cop or a fucking dj.

  • Anonymous

    Any chance Scalia and his Tea Party buddies were discussing how citizen surveilance of the police should be considered a constitutional right?

    Something tells me the founders would think so.

  • Johnny Warbucks

    Yeah, let’s hope for the best. Remember, Atlanta is the home of everything that is wrong and backward with this country, from religion to civil rights.

  • enorceht

    i agree about that idealistic cops have a hard time dealing with bad situations, what i don’t understand is that from the top down why aren’t the good cops getting more recognition, or some type of bonus for actually doing his job as a human being and not as a member of a gang of thugs that seem to think they have no rules to uphold, then if someone is recognized for not being a brut he also has to put up with harassment about it from the people he works with.

    so what does it say about a work culture, that is already probably one of the hardest jobs to do, that gives you back up only if you play by the bad guy rules.

  • enorceht

    actually as a protester against brutality if asked questions from the cops like “who’s in charge” or “who a certain person is” we generally answer with an “i don’t know” so we both work on the code of silence thing.

    i’ve posted a reponse comment to “sergesret” which pretty much agrees the the blue code thing. and i ended with

    “so what does it say about a work culture, that is already probably one of the hardest jobs to do, that gives you back up only if you play by the bad guy rules.

  • Anonymous

    here in new york city, alabama, cops have beaten street artists and activists for filming, photographing or recording them despite the 1st amendment. they’ve claimed it is illegal under the patriot act… but in atlanta or wherever else, even if they SAY it is okay… watch out! bear in mind that in LA last week a viewer saw policemen on a security vidam beat a handcuffed man half to death while shouting at him to ‘stop resisting!’ and 2 weeks ago, i was attacked by a woman police officer here in NYC without any charges having been made and while she was cracking my ribs and tossing me downstairs onto my recently broken knee… what was she saying? “stop resisting!” btw… she weighed about 300 pounds while i’m 57 and weigh about 140…

  • Anonymous

    i’d been offering rawstory help with its total lack of design for months…

  • http://twitter.com/honorablelordk Karim Walker

    Other municipalities should pay heed to this.

  • enorceht

    i’ll have to do the youtube thing from home … i can go to a lot of places on the web at work but youtube and facebook are not on that list, and while in the cesspool i don’t want to make waves

  • enorceht

    atlanta isn’t the only location with backward thinking … we’ve been holding anti police brutality protests in chicago (along with la and nyc) since the 90′s and don’t forget chicago is the home of the infamous jon burge


  • enorceht

    and not the good humor man … lol

  • Anonymous

    too late for that, fellow. USA 310mln people and 2.4mln in prison with 7+mln ‘in the system’ at any given time… china 1.4bln people and 1.9mln in prison… here in new york city, alabama, police have killed over 1100 persons since ghouliani took office. under bloomberg, since 911 saw the start of the program of stop&frisks ‘to prevent and catch terrorists’ they’ve been stopping over half a million a year, 575,000 in 2008 and 81% blacks, 9% hispanics, 4% arabic/moslems and… 5% whites… in a city still 65% whites… yet they deny this is racial profiling? and in a country 13% black… 51% of prisoners are black and 2/3 of drug prisoners are black despite the fact that they consume slightly less than their percentage of the illegal drugs. this is as apartheid as germany, south africa or israel and all killer cops are always acquitted here… pat on the back and a promotion for ‘work well done.’ an internal study here showed over 400 NYPD in aryan nation and that is just one of the groups… and a former lieutenant on NYPD is on record as stating that ‘moonlighting’ on the NYPD is rampant and that beatings and killings are what they moonlight. call 911 and they drag YOU off and beat you while cuffed and they’re saying while laughing “stop resisting! stop resisting!”

  • Johnny Warbucks

    Oh, I know police brutality is a widespread phenomenon. The backward reference was as to the religion and Civil War mentality thing, if you catch my drift.

  • Anonymous

    I kinda liked their old lack of design. This is not so appealing.

  • Anonymous

    naw, it sux too. but at least it doesn’t like the web mostly did back
    in 1993, eh?

  • Anonymous

    It says that those at the top are corrupt as well and are protecting their own interests. It’s a tough problem and to the extent we don’t deal with it, the more we become like a banana republic.

  • Hassan i Sabbah

    Ah, the Nazis have agreed to stop acting like Nazis. I feel better already. ;-)

  • Anonymous

    you can legally buy tasers and glocks to defend against thugs like the police… but unlike them, you will not be acquitted.

  • Anonymous

    Some single digit percentage is where they protect life, liberty and property (necessary), the 90+% is pure tyranny! That would be beatings, murders, taserings and all other manner of abuse, the dug war and the plethora of other victimless activities they prosecute as crimes, all tyranny. The small percentage activity could easily be replaced by private security that could and would get fired and prosecuted for misdeeds. Time to scrap the monopoly on force! It is not working for anyone other than the bad cops!

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    I;m surprised…and I mean that genuinely. You’d never have convinced me that GA cops could be compelled to accept that their actions should be subject to public scrutiny. Heres to seeing a wave of other states admitting that it might just be illegal for cops to commit a crime and then arrest the people who caught them committing a crime.