You Have a Federal Right to Film Cops
U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn
You gotta fight for your right to ... film cops on the job.
Rights don't always come easy. Beatriz Paez was exercising hers when a U.S. Marshal violently snatched her cellphone, threw it down and kicked it.
It happened last weekend in Paez's South Gate neighborhood. The marshal and other law enforcement officers reportedly were serving warrants on alleged biker-gang members at a nearby home when she started videotaping the action from a sidewalk.
Paez later said the lawman warned her that she was too close, but she told reporters she was a few houses down from the action.
You do have the right to record the cops in public, but you can't interfere with investigations. The area between the two is somewhat gray.
This much we know: Filming the police has led to countless revelations about their conduct and use of force that otherwise might not have seen the light of day. It appears that Paez was doing the right thing before she was thwarted.
Luckily, a neighbor also was capturing the situation on video (below) shot through a home window.
The ugly episode has inspired South Bay U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn to draft a resolution to "officially, publicly and collectively reaffirm the rights of citizens to film law enforcement officers," she said in a statement this week.
If the U.S. Congress says you have the right to film cops on the street, you have the right to film cops on the street. Unfortunately, there are police who have yet to receive the memo.
In the case of the U.S. Marshal, Hahn is calling for a federal investigation. She says:
I have called on the U.S. Attorney General to launch an independent investigation by the Department of Justice into this matter so the public can have confidence that the marshals will be held accountable, and I want all law enforcement officers to receive training and instructions to respect the rights of citizens to film police activity.
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Paez expressed shock at the marshal's actions and quickly lawyered up. She plans to file a civil-rights suit against authorities.
A U.S. Marshals Service official told us previously that superiors were aware of the video and would look into it.
Hahn said she was "alarmed and upset" by the lawman's actions:
I condemn the actions of the U.S. marshal who violently and improperly responded by destroying Ms. Paez’s property, terrifying her and denying her rights.