UPDATE: After passing the House, HB 168 died in the Senate Jud A committee on March 1st’s deadline. For the 2nd year in a row, Senator Joey Fillingane (R) killed the bill all by himself by refusing to allow the Jud A committee members to vote on it.
Don’t let Joey Fillingane’s authoritarian move stop you from filming your interactions with law enforcement officers. If you don’t relentlessly assert your rights and ensure your rights aren’t being violated – you don’t have any. See #2 and #3 below.
Some of our legislators get a little confused when a bill comes across their desk that would actually limit the government’s power. These bills usually invoke a “I don’t know why this law is necessary,” response from the authoritarian-leaning legislators. Such is the case with Senator Joey Fillingane (R) when HB 168 landed on his desk.
HB 168 would reaffirm every individual’s right to hold law enforcement personnel accountable for their actions by making it clear that it is, in fact, perfectly legal to video-tape them while on duty. But Joey Fillingane doesn’t see the need for such a law and he hasn’t heard a legitimate claim for it.
Fillingane says he hasn’t seen the bill, and although he doesn’t want to judge it before reading it, he sees no use for it.
Fillingane says so far he hasn’t heard a legitimate claim for the need for citizens to record law officers and says police dash cameras do the job.
Maybe Senator Fillingane should re-read the Mississippi Constitution he swore to support. It makes a pretty clear argument in support of HB 168. Section 13 of the Mississippi Constitution clearly states the individual right to free speech and a free press is a sacred right:
The freedom of speech and of the press shall be held sacred
Yes, sacred. Furthermore, an individual’s right to free speech is no more and no less sacred than the freedom of the press. They are equally sacred and the laws, as well as the individual actions of our public officials, ought to reflect this since every law-maker and every public official swore an oath to “…faithfully support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Mississippi”.
The MS Constitution also addresses the relationship between individuals and the government and it’s police powers. Because government originates with the people, the people have the inherent right to regulate the government and it’s police powers. Since the people have the inherent and constitutional right to regulate their government and the government’s police, we ought to be allowed the peaceful tools to do so without fear of being tossed in a cage:
All political power is vested in, and derived from, the people; all government of right originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.
The people of this state have the inherent, sole, and exclusive right to regulate the internal government and police thereof, and to alter and abolish their constitution and form of government whenever they deem it necessary to their safety and happiness; provided, such change be not repugnant to the constitution of the United States.
The only current language in the MS Legal Code that addresses filming law enforcement officers, public officials, and other people is § 97-29-63, which states:
Any person who with lewd, licentious or indecent intent secretly photographs, films, videotapes, records or otherwise reproduces the image of another person without the permission of such person when such a person is located in a place where a person would intend to be in a state of undress and have a reasonable expectation of privacy, including, but not limited to, private dwellings or any facility, public or private, used as a restroom, bathroom, shower room, tanning booth, locker room, fitting room, dressing room or bedroom shall be guilty of a felony…
So if the Constitution affirms the natural right of “the people” to regulate the government and it’s police powers, and current law allows filming other people in areas where they have no reasonable expectation of privacy – then what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that when the unauthorized power of an armed agent of the government meets the natural, constitutional, and legal rights of an individual – the individual usually finds himself sitting in a cage. Law enforcement officers can, and often do, tell people to turn the camera off and if you don’t do as he says, he has the power to arrest you and toss you into a cage for the usual “disobeying an officer” or “disorderly conduct”. When such a case goes to court (usually without a jury), it’s the word of a uniformed law enforcement officer against yours.
A law, such as HB 168, that reaffirms every person’s natural right to self-preservation, supports Sections 5, 6, and 13 of the Mississippi Constitution, and is perfectly consistent with current Mississippi law, would specifically restrict law enforcement officers from forcing you into shutting off your camera simply because the law enforcement officer threatens you with arrest. If he does force you to turn the camera off, then you would have the language in HB 168 to use as your defense in court.
One legitimate concern of the opponents of video-taping police officers is that a camera or a camera operator could interfere with a police officer doing his job. However, HB 168 clearly states that it’s legal to video-tape an officer “…provided, that any person videotaping, filming or otherwise recording such duties shall not interfere with the performance of such duties.”
I don’t know of any other legitimate reason why anyone would oppose such a bill. Could you imagine the civil rights movement being any movement at all without the brave camera operators catching the abuses by government officials on film and sharing their images with the rest of America? The images of law enforcement officers using high pressure water hoses, cattle prods, and police dogs against peaceful people would have never reached the hearts and minds of others and it’s unlikely that the civil rights movement would have ever gained momentum had there not been cameras around.
Note: Check your volume before you play each videos below.
I’m not saying all cops use their power to violate your rights. Good cops generally don’t mind being recorded and some even see it as a means to improve the way they handle themselves during an interaction with individuals. Most cops are, in fact, good and decent people – no different than you or I. This law would simply protect folks from the handful of law enforcement officers that enjoy their power a little too much and then try to cover-up their actions by forcing a person to shut the camera off. You can dig around youtube or copblock and find plenty of these instances.
HB 168 is currently sitting in Joey Fillingane’s Senate Jud A Committee – the same committee where it died last year without a vote after passing the House. The Jud A committee members are:
- Joey Fillingane (R), Chairman
- W. Briggs Hopson III (R), Vice-Chairman
- Sidney Albritton (R)
- Terry C. Burton (R)
- Kelvin E. Butler (D)
- Tommy Dickerson (D)
- Hillman Terome Frazier (D)
- Jack Gordon (D)
- Dean Kirby (R)
- Chris McDaniel (R)
- Walter Michel (R)
- T. O. Moffatt (R)
- Michael Watson (R)
- Lee Yancey (R)
Remember, law enforcement officers and public officials aren’t above the law. One individual has no right to violate another individual’s rights whether he wears a badge or not. If a public official violates a person’s rights he ought to be held accountable for his actions. Often times, the only way to hold a public official accountable for their abusive actions is to capture the abuse on video. Don’t let Joey Fillingane and the members of Jud A ignore this bill again.
What Can You Do?
- Contact the committee members, including Joey Fillingane at (601) 359-3770 and let them know you support HB 168. “No one has spoken to me for or against this bill,” said Senator Joey Fillingane in the WDAM interview.
- Know your rights and relentlessly assert your rights, including Section 13 of the MS Constitution. Peacefully asserting your rights to an armed agent of the government is only scary the first few times you do it. And, you’ll find that some law enforcement officers are receptive to the ideas of liberty so long as you’re respectful and courteous in presenting them.
- Arm yourself with a FlipCam or a similar video camera for a round $100. Or, you can sign up for a Qik.com account and download the free camera app for your smartphone. Qik makes it more difficult for law enforcement officials to delete the video footage you’ve recorded by streaming the video, as you record it, to a secure online account. Remember, after you’ve been arrested your cell phone can be searched without a warrant – says the Supreme Court – and anything they find questionable can lead to a warrant issued to search your house and other property.
- Connect with other liberty-minded people within the state and throughout the country. Network with others and help spread the libertarian message with friends and family. Networking with other libertarians is also helpful if you ever find yourself arrested for one of the many victimless crimes.
- Consider making a contribution to the Libertarian Party of Mississippi. Your generous donations help us educate the public on the ideas of individual liberty and elect principled Libertarians to federal, state, and local office to repeal and block laws that are contrary to the ideas of individual freedom.