FBI Director James Comey believes citizens recording police with cell phones and viral videos of police misconduct posted to the web are to blame for an increase in violent crime.
Police believe citizens are “taunting” them with cell phones and because of this they are not addressing crime, Comey said.
“They told me, ‘We feel like we’re under siege and we don’t feel much like getting out of our cars,'” he said.
“I don’t know whether this explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year, and that wind is surely changing behavior,” he added.
Police have responded to widespread video recording of their activity by arresting people for obstruction, resisting arrest and other charges.
Several high profile cases of police brutality have been exposed by cell phone cameras.
Civil liberty experts argue citizens have the right to record police in public under the First Amendment.
“Exercising this right has consistently and uniformly been upheld by state and federal courts; they have made it abundantly clear that citizens have right to film police in public,” said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. “What is alarming is the degree to which police are ignoring this clear precedent and continue to threaten citizens.”
“If you’re in a public place, and you’re not interfering with a lawful investigation, then you have an absolute right to videotape a police officer,” Adam Pollack, an Orlando criminal-defense lawyer, said last year. “There’s no expectation of privacy.”
Some states are using wiretapping laws implemented before the advent of cell phone technology to prosecute citizens who record police and post the videos on the internet.