On Wednesday, a private meeting of over 100 of the nation’s top politicians and law enforcement officers was held, and the unfortunate consensus reached seems to be that citizens are responsible for a less proactive nation of police officers. They call it the YouTube effect, claiming that police officers have stopped being aggressive in their methods for fear that a career-ending video of their actions will make its way online.
With the recording of police officers being protected by First Amendment rights, recent years have seen more and more citizens exercising that right and filming police activities. August 2014 saw a memo from the NYPD being sent to all officers as a reminder that interfering with anyone who is filming them is actually illegal. So long as that person filming does not hinder the investigation on hand in any way, there is no legal recourse for the action.
“Members of the public are legally allowed to record police interactions. Intentional interference such as blocking or obstructing cameras or ordering the person to cease constitutes censorship and also violates the First Amendment.”
After decades of decline in the rates of violent crimes, the recent surge in homicides across dozens of U.S. cities is an alarming trend that the new U.S. Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, has promised to respond to in a robust nature. However, this announcement came after mayors, police chiefs, U.S. attorneys, and even FBI Director James Comey spent literally hours of the meeting venting about how citizens recording officers and uploading videos to YouTube is ruining the nation.
‘YouTube effect’ has left police officers under siege, law enforcement leaders say pic.twitter.com/lJmgElUCcB
— 4mysquad (@4mysquad) October 8, 2015
It seems the possibility that perhaps the root cause of the rising crime rates could be drugs or guns or may be gang-related did not occur to many of the attendees. These top ranking officials seemed to have felt safe enough to put forth the YouTube effect as they were told that the meeting would be closed to members of the media. Unfortunately for the vocal group, the event was listed as public by the mayor of D.C., and a Washington Post reporter and her entourage sat in on the discussion, unobserved. According to the article by Aaron C. Davis of the Washington Post, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had some very choice words on the subject.
“We have allowed our police department to get fetal and it is having a direct consequence. They have pulled back from the ability to interdict … they don’t want to be a news story themselves, they don’t want their career ended early, and it’s having an impact.”
The words came as a response to a previous discussion based around what seems to be a significant reduction in proactive policing. There does not exist any evidence to actually support the notion that there has been a reduction in police officers engaging with the public in any major city, nor could a single example of a violent crime taking place due to lackluster policing be contributed to Wednesday’s summit. But still, this YouTube effect is being held responsible for the nation’s homicide struggles.
Many of the elected officials and chiefs spoke of a change in atmosphere in the police departments following police and citizen altercations that end up being high profile cases as a result of police-involved shootings and deaths of suspects in police custody. The riots that occurred in Ferguson and Baltimore were used as prime examples of what can occur after social media gets involved, and having video evidence on YouTube only serves to further aggravate citizens. As a result, claims are being made that, though officers still do their patrols, they are less likely to go the extra mile and confront persons who seem suspicious and from whom information that could lead to arrests could be obtained, as there is a strong fear that any ensuing altercations would be uploaded to the Internet.
Director James Comey eventually put forth that perhaps an attempt should be made to find another correlation between the rise in violence in different cities besides what he calls the YouTube Era.
“Has policing changed in the YouTube era? I don’t like the term ‘post-Ferguson,’ because I actually believe the ‘YouTube era’ captures it better.”
Sputnik News’ piece on the summit did raise a very valid point that deflates all the blustering officials are doing about this so called YouTube era. All these claims that the spikes in violence are somehow a result of less aggressive policing are little more than perceived victimization. Media coverage of police activities usually center around cops beating or killing someone unjustly and being called out on it. If the activities the police are engaging in is above reproach, if it is lawful, there is nothing to fear from a YouTube video.
"YouTube effect" aka reality filmed??? pic.twitter.com/oXgFFbBxxY
— patrick (@blankpat) October 8, 2015
The people are exercising their US Constitution’s First Amendment right to record their surroundings and YouTube is a great medium to share the knowledge gleaned. If this is the YouTube era, then it is here to stay, and officers will have to find a way to work with the eyes of the country on them.
[Photo Courtesy Of Andrew Burton/ Getty Images]