In several states, you can be arrested for filming cops on duty, even in a public place. With cameras growing ever smaller, conflicts are going to arise more often and there can only be one outcome. Police are just going to have to get used to it -- much as I forecast in The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom (1997).
Citizens of the future will be armed... with cameras.
One recent incident: “After a horrific shootout on the streets of Miami, Narces Benoit and his girlfriend witnessed the finale: police firing a barrage of rounds into a man's car. Narces recorded it. The police smashed his phone. But first? He stuck the SD memory card into his mouth and saved the footage.”
And then there's the story of Emily Good, who stood on her front lawn in Rochester recording police searching a man's car for drugs (none were found). Police responded that they didn't feel safe with her behind them...and ordered her to go inside her house. She did not comply, continued filming, and was arrested. Recording police is not illegal in New York, and she made no threatening moves. They declared that she was "anti-police" as a rationale. Watch the video.
And another horrific example. “Woman could get 15 years for recording cops after one of them allegedly assaulted her.”
We all carry hormonal and neuronal and psychological baggage from the million year Stone Age... and ten thousand years of urban life in which the king’s thugs patrolled the streets without having to think twice before slinging their truncheons at the heads of punks.
Well, sorry. We’re asking more of you, now. It is our civilization. Ours. And if you don’t think you can operate under the new rules, might I suggest another profession?
In fact, the glass is far more than half full. The men and women in most modern American police forces are adapting to the the new standards of behavior. Clenching their teeth and calling “sir” even the most outrageously abusive drunks. I am proud to know some of these folks. Moreover, I can understand why they might worry about that one time they lose their cool, coming back to haunt them, because some putz on the nearby street corner decides to record that momentary lapse on a cell cam.
Brin’s Corollary to Moore’s Law” -- the cameras will get smaller, cheaper, more numerous and more mobile every year.
So figures of authority might as well get used to it now.
== A World Watching ==
And I promise you this... juries and citizen review boards will bear in mind that we're all human. When you suffer that inevitable, occasional, not-too-awful over-reaction, there will often be a second chance. We're human too and we want our cities patrolled.
When all of this equilibrates, we will have to make some allowances for good people, caught making a rare mistake.
It is called the Truth. And if you fear it, then we do not want you as our hired protector.
We are changing the rules. And from now on, only adults need apply.
For Follow-up see:
You Have The Right To Record Police -- a look at recent court rulings on this important topic.
and The Transparency Amendment: The Under-Appreciated Sixth -- which examines the legal basis for our right to look back.
More: collected articles on Issues of Transparency.
== Finally, a Few Announcements ==
“Living lasers?” Way back in 1980, my first novel Sundiver proposed that living matter might be made to produce laser emissions. Scientists had already used organic dye as a laser amplification material. It seemed plausible (to me) that life could take the next steps, excitation and cavity reflection. All right, it's more than just a few steps to creatures with laser-shooting eyes! Still, three decades later, my forecast is coming true. Two Massachusetts scientists report having caused laser activity inside living cells. The photos are amazing. One for the predictions registry! (Someone please register it!)
Want kids to win the future? Turn them into Makers -- and Sci Fi Fans. I attended the recent Maker Faire and gave a keynote, then toured this “Woodstock for nerds” with my son. Highly recommended!
Want to hear some good audio sci fi? One of my stories - A Professor at Harvard - dramatized for a podcast on StarShipSofa. Others can be found on my website.