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Opening Arguments

Crime seen

The videotaping-cops controversy comes to Indiana:

SOUTH BEND — The recent arrest of a University of Notre Dame student for allegedly fighting with police after trying to videotape a crime scene has raised questions about the legality of recording crime events.

Police say it is increasingly common for people to videotape crime scenes, especially as cell phones and pocket-sized camcorders become more popular.

But if doing so interferes with police work, then police will tell them to stop, as they did with Benjamin Ashenburg on Aug. 29.

Glenn Reynolds has been collecting stories nationwide about police who try to stop the taping of their activities. More often than not, the cases involve a pretty clear abuse of power. Police are public employees doing the public's business, so their activities should be open to public scrutiny.

But police actions seem to be more reasonable in this case. The crime was not in public but in a priavte residence where excise police had taken control, and there was a fear that undercover officers could be exposed by the taping. As Hoosier State Press general counsel Steve Key notes in the story, the law recognizes the need for protecting such officers.

But as Key also notes, police sometimes try to prohibit taping because "they know their actions might not look good on film." And the "interfering with a police investigation" charge is too general to always be taken at face value.


Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:17am

I'm going to guess you've never heard of Photography is not a Crime then.

Did the apartment owner/renter tell the guy he couldn't film there? If the police don't want to be filmed, they're free to leave.

tim zank
Thu, 09/09/2010 - 3:43pm

After reading the article this appears to be a pretty simple case of a drunk kid with a loud mouth.

Go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars.

He's lucky he didn't get the iphone stepped on or inserted into an orafice.


Thu, 09/09/2010 - 4:46pm

Ah, so he's lucky the police didn't break the law (worse) then. Good one, Tim.

Actual intelligent commentary here.

tim zank
Fri, 09/10/2010 - 9:52am

Michaelk42, Hilarious and soooo typical, you and the media are concerned about the rights of this yutz to take pictures of police when they (and you) should be concerned about almost 80 kids crammed into an apartment, having a kegger, while half are underage and 3 sheets to the wind.

Some buzzed up smarta** under age undergrad F. Lee Bailey wannabe with an IPhone takes a swing at a cop and he's surprised he gets his a** kicked?

This is another classic example of "changing the subject" and shifting blame to avoid responsibility and prosecution. This moron ought to be grateful if he isn't bounced out of Notre Dame.

You really can't fix stupid.

Sat, 09/11/2010 - 11:14am

The entire subject is the First Amendment rights of the student being violated.

Trying to say that isn't the subject is what's stupid.

Then again, Tim Zank.

tim zank
Sat, 09/11/2010 - 1:07pm

That may be the subject for you Michaelk42 and the moron "bob woodward" wannabe that penned the story, but not for any thinking person.

The kid doesn't have a leg to stand on. Underage, drunk, disorderly, in public, swinging at a cop and too drunk to even hit the record button on his Iphone.

Hardly a "Rodney King" moment.

It's a great ambulance chasers strategy to try and obfuscate the issue though.....

Sun, 09/12/2010 - 1:11am

It's amazing how someone can change the subject, and then accuse other people of doing so.

The order to stop recording was an unlawful order.

Seizing the camera without a warrant was also unlawful.

Smearing the victim doesn't change that.

Sun, 09/12/2010 - 1:31am

BTW, how can someone be "drunk, disorderly, in public," [sic] in a private apartment... especially when those weren't even charges against him, anyway?

If you're just going to make things up and not RTFA, do us all a favor and STFD and STFU.

Because let's face it Tim, if you're not being amusing, you're just a waste of time.

Larry Morris
Sun, 09/12/2010 - 2:49pm

I thought the post said "The crime was not in public but in a priavte residence where excise police had taken control, and there was a fear that undercover officers could be exposed by the taping" - seems if undercover officers were at risk by the taping they had a right to protect them - and if this was on private property and not "in public", isn't that trespass by the idiot with the camera ? Michaelk42, when do those rights get protected ?

Sun, 09/12/2010 - 7:37pm

You have the right to photograph until the property owner/representative tells you not to, in the case of private property. It can't be trespass until the person who owns/rents tells them not to.

So no, it's not trespass. No right there has gone unprotected.

The police can fear undercover officers would be exposed all they'd like, but there's no law protecting them from being filmed while engaged in their duties. That "right" not to be photographed doesn't even exist.

BTW, police have special limited powers (such as of arrest) that they are granted by the people in order to fulfill their duties. They don't have any special rights any other citizen doesn't have.

Larry Morris
Sun, 09/12/2010 - 10:15pm

Damn, boy, you sure you're not a lawyer, ... you'all talk just like one. Don't you go photograph'in 'round my property, I have a particular way of telling you to stop, ...

Sun, 09/12/2010 - 11:29pm

If regular citizens can't understand their own rights, there's little point in having them.

What would that particular way be, Larry Morris? Is it legal, or are you afraid to actually state it?

William Larsen
Mon, 09/13/2010 - 12:14am

Actually everyone has the right to photograph anything that can be seen while standing on public property. As long as you are on public property you have the right to photograph anyone.

However, if you are on private property the owner may ask you to stop and leave.

In the state of Indiana we have a law that protect each and everyone of us from using our image, voice, manersim for commercial purposes.

IC 32-36-1-8
Consent to commercial purpose use of personality's right of publicity; duration of right
Sec. 8.
(a) A person may not use an aspect of a personality's right of publicity for a commercial purpose during the personality's lifetime or for one hundred (100) years after the date of the personality's death without having obtained previous written consent from a person specified in section 17 of this chapter.

When police are conducting an investigation, they have the right to remove those from the area to protect a crime scene and to investigate. However, if there is media there taking photos, an individual has the same rights.

For more information I suggest this link. It is very good.


Larry Morris
Mon, 09/13/2010 - 7:25pm

You worry too much Michaelk42, I'd just pat you on your little liberal head and tell you to mosey on down the road, ... then probably call a lawyer and the sheriff - things might be a little different in Texas.

William Larsen
Mon, 09/13/2010 - 10:04pm

I suggest those who ask questions of police to carry with them at all times a digital audio recorder. Make sure you turn it on when speaking with the police.

Keep in mind it is the right of every citizen to question the state when they attempt to expand by implication a statute beyond its plain and littoral meaning given it be elected representatives.

The other day I witnessed a white car that made a right turn on red without yielding to on coming traffic. this white car nearly caused a three car pile up. The quick reaction of the driver in the right lane pulled into a right turn lane, but that turn lane ended quickly. The white car braked and the other driver had two choices: run into a steel pole holding the traffic signals or pull back into the lane they were in in front of the white car that had its breaks on. The driver pulled in front of the white car. I had moved to the left lane to avoid and give room and was now slightly in front and to the left of the white car. All of a sudden Blue and red lights, an unmarked police car. The driver pulled into a strip mall and I pulled into the strip mall further up. I walked back slowly watching what was happening. The non uniformed officer got out of his car, had his ticket book out and appeared to be writing a ticket. I finally arrived and told the driver I was a witness if they needed one as to what happened. The officer immediately said "I don't need a witness." I said, but she sure does. The officers eyes got big, wide. I told him I saw him fail to yield the right of way and nearly caused an accident. He told me to leave or I would be arrested for disorderly conduct. Disorderly conduct is tumultuous and in sighting fighting.

I walked 200 feet away and watched. The driver drove off a few minutes later and the officer pulled up to where I was standing. The officer could not understand why I would get involved. The problem with people is too few get involved and that is why we have the mess we do. Police are to serve and protect, they are not above the law. The officer stated he did not give her a ticket. The problem is he should have never pulled her over in the first place. I have his name and car number should I report this?

Mon, 09/13/2010 - 10:37pm


Oh, I'm not worried. I'm just amused by gutless Internet Tough Guys who think they're cool when they make dumb insinuations.

If you can't come out and say it, maybe you should just keep your mouth shut. XD

Larry Morris
Tue, 09/14/2010 - 8:07am

Man, has this place gotten personal, ... I think I will.

Phil Marx
Wed, 09/15/2010 - 3:00pm

William Larsen,

Regardless of whether the officer was at fault with his driving, he was clearly in the wrong to order you to leave. I can understand if he asked you to sit quietly for a few minutes until he was ready to hear what you had to say, but if his actions were as you portryaed them then he is just a worthless punk on a power trip.

Internal Affairs should work to weed out cops like this because they do a disservice to the community as well as their fellow officers. But FWPD clearly does not follow this logic. So no, you should not have reported it because it would have been a waste of time.

Phil Marx
Wed, 09/15/2010 - 3:12pm

A couple of years ago, I saw a drug raid taking place on Broadway Street. I would estimate there were about fifty officers present, so it's likely that it was more than just a FWPD operation. All the officers were dressed in black, with full face masks exposing only their eyes.

My first pictures were taken from across the street and immediately caused some commotion among the officers lining the front of the house for a few minutes. Not having drawn fire for this, and being the daring fool that I am, I then walked across the street and began taking pictures of the side of the house.

I was in a public parking lot, and my location was not interfering with the police doing their job, but one of the officers at the back door ordered me to stop taking pictures. When I asked why, he waved his gun in my direction (not pointing at me, just using a sweeping motion to suggest that I should just move along.) and repeated loudly - "No Pictures!"

So, he was armed with a machine gun and a kevlar vest. I was armed only with my Glock and the U.S. Constitution. If only that constitution was bullet proof, I probably would have wrapped myself in it and continued taking pictures.

And no, I do not think that police officers have a right to privacy when they are working in the public arena.

tim zank
Wed, 09/15/2010 - 5:09pm

From WNDU:

What is clear, though, is Ashenburg faces multiple charges for Saturday

Wed, 09/15/2010 - 7:40pm


tim zank
Wed, 09/15/2010 - 9:56pm

Are you really stupid enough to think when the cops break down your door, with a warrant in hand you have the "right" to start to filming it?

If you want to be a lawyer, you better go to law school junior.

Now go have some warm (not hot for gods sake) milk and get some sleep, and wear your helmet to bed just in case you fall out.

Wed, 09/15/2010 - 10:14pm

I dunno Tim, are you smart enough to use the rights you have under the law? No?

You don't have to be a lawyer to understand your rights. If that did require a lawyer, no one but lawyers would have them.

Tell you what: you want to let the police act as editors? Stop reading this blog, the newspaper and every other form of media. You cry here against these rights, yet you're posting in a medium made possible by those rights.

Andrew J.
Wed, 09/15/2010 - 10:26pm

At the time the cops got into his apartment with a warrant, he wasn't under arrest. It was his apartment. He was allowed to film, fart, scratch his ass or do anything else not illegal.

Cops can enter your house with a warrant to search for something: a fugitive, contraband, drunken underage partygoers but not arrest you, the apartment owner, with a cell phone camera. So why can't you film?

Funny, people like you want government off your backs when it comes to your wallet but have no problem with government (aka police) intrusion when it's the rights of someone you believe was a dumbass and has it coming to them.

Rights really count when the situation is uncomfortable, doncha think?

tim zank
Wed, 09/15/2010 - 10:46pm

I don't mean to be unkind Michael, but there's a great deal more in this life you've yet to learn.

Thu, 09/16/2010 - 4:10pm

Andrew J. states the situation well above. I don't know how many different ways we can explain the same simple thing.

But seriously Zank. Lulz.

I bet you're just the guy to tell us all about those things, too.

Why don't you go ahead and tell us what those things are, if they exist? If you have something to say, say it. Don't be shy.

Or could it be you've really got nothing?

tim zank
Thu, 09/16/2010 - 6:42pm

All I have to say boys, is the kid ain't got a case. Go put your helmet on and hold a rally, paint some signs, bark at the moon, holler at old people whatever it is you do for fun.

Get a hobby.

Thu, 09/16/2010 - 7:05pm

Shorter Tim Zank:

"My uninformed opinion, nothing to back it up, some lame insults."

William Larsen
Thu, 09/16/2010 - 8:13pm

Disorderly Conduct is a catch all charge with 90% being dismissed for lack of cause. Disorderly Conduct in Indiana requires Tultmutious Conduct, fighting and more. Asking questions is not disorderly conduct.

After dealing with FWPD, I have learned the following:
1. FWPD do not know the law. This allows them to use the canned phrase "What a reasonable officer at the time knew." Ignorance of the law if an excuse for law enforcement. Ignorance of the law for the citizen is no excuse. However, once a case is on the records, ignorance is no longer an excuse.

2. FWPD when they make up a charge have a difficult time getting their stories straight. If there are witnesses, that contradict their version, they loose the case.

3. FWPD can be present working off duty and use their power to arrest to aid the selling of pirated video. I should have called the FBI instead of asking if they had a license to sell the video that was being sold.

4. FWPD does not know the difference between a Civial Matter and a Criminal matter nor do they care. I have asked the same question several times of state police and sherif and both did not want to get involved because they statet it was a civil matter not criminal.

5. As I stated before, just carry s cheap digital audio recorder to protect you. You never know when you come across a rogue officer.

Kevin Knuth
Fri, 09/17/2010 - 7:22am

"FWPD can be present working off duty and use their power to arrest to aid the selling of pirated video. I should have called the FBI instead of asking if they had a license to sell the video that was being sold."

Not what really happened- I had kids in show choir, and guys like you want to ruin it for everyone.

How did your court case turn out?