Drunk with authority

The way the authority-drunk New Model Police are behaving these days is making even veteran military policemen nervous:

For the past fifteen years, I have worked every day on the same very small military installation as a contractor. This morning, as I was approaching the main gate, when I started off after the stoplight, I didn’t shift upshift. So, the Goat was just wailing that sweet V8 growl as I approached the gate. About fifty yards from the gate, I slowed down, rolled down my window, and had my ID outside the car as I approached. Usually, there are civilian DoD police at the gate, but this morning, it was manned by a reservist, a 2nd Class Master at Arms—the Navy’s equivalent to Military Police. We had a brief conversation that went, as nearly as I can remember it like this:

PO2: (Snippy) Are you running late this morning?

Me: No.

(At this point, I could instantly see that my answer displeased him.)

PO2: (Scowling) You need to keep your speed down.

Me: I always observe the speed limits when I’m on the installation.

PO2: (Waving me through) You need to keep your speed down off-base, too.

Me: (Starting to drive away) What happens off-base isn’t your jurisdiction.

I got to my office, turned on my computer, and went into the break area to warm up a couple of delicious whole-wheat Eggos. While I was standing in the kitchen, a uniformed DoD police officer walked in and asked me if I owned the Red GTO. When I said I did, he then asked for my driver’s license. I asked, since I wasn’t operating a motor vehicle, if I was required to show it to him. (In CA, you are not required to do so when not operating a vehicle, nor are you required to show an ID otherwise. It’s different on military bases, of course, in that you are required to show an ID).

When I gave it to him, he then began to tell me how bad my attitude was, and how I should be more respectful of the police, what with them having such a hard job and all. I said that, when it came to respect, maybe the gate guard should’ve been a little less snippy. He said they didn’t need me making smart remarks about their jurisdiction, because they have a close relationship with civilian law enforcement, and he himself, had worked for Atlanta PD for fifteen years. I denied driving at an excessive speed when I approached the gate, said that my comment about jurisdiction was completely valid and that did not have the authority to issue traffic citations off-base, and that if they felt they needed to call CHP to give me a citation, they should do so. Otherwise, he should present me with a citation or arrest me for a military-related offense. Failing that, I was uninterested in further conversation. He seemed a bit upset when he left.

About twenty minutes later, two more DoD policemen came into my office….

This guy made two mistakes. Police are like children; they absolutely hate to hear the word no, especially from someone they consider an inferior. If the guy had simply smiled and said “I hope not”, he would have been fine. Then he compounded his error by twice contradicting the gate guard.

Lesson: don’t ever talk back to police or contradict them. Don’t say any more than you absolutely have to. If they start asking you questions, don’t answer except to apologetically tell them you are invoking your right to remain silent as well as your right to record their interactions with the public. You don’t have to actually be recording anything for that to force them to start behaving; it’s actually better if they have no idea where your putative recording device is.

It’s probably not a bad idea to have a copy of the relevant recording law or statement by local public officials about the legality of such laws in your jurisdiction laminated in your wallet which you can hand them along with your ID.  Below are the laws that govern 20 different states. If anyone wishes to provide information on the rest, I will put them all together in a summary post, complete with the relevant legal citations for printing out and carrying.

The U.S. Courts of Appeals have recognized the
First Amendment right to record the police and/or other public


  • First Circuit Glik v. Cunniffe,
    655 F.3d 78, 85 (1st Cir. 2011) (“[A] citizen’s right to film
    government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the
    discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and
    well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.”); Iacobucci v. Boulter,
    193 F.3d 14 (1st Cir. 1999) (police lacked authority to prohibit
    citizen from recording commissioners in town hall “because [the
    citizen’s] activities were peaceful, not performed in derogation of any
    law, and done in the exercise of his First Amendment rights[.]”).


  • Seventh Circuit ACLU v. Alvarez,
    679 F.3d 583, 595 (7th Cir. 2012) (“The act of making an audio or
    audiovisual recording is necessarily included within the First
    Amendment’s guarantee of speech and press rights as a corollary of the
    right to disseminate the resulting recording.”).


  • Ninth Circuit Fordyce v. City of Seattle, 55 F.3d 436, 438 (9th Cir. 1995) (assuming a First Amendment right to record the police); see also Adkins v. Limtiaco,  _ Fed. App’x _, No. 11-17543, 2013 WL 4046720 (9th Cir. Aug. 12, 2013) (recognizing First Amendment right to photograph police, citing Fordyce).


  • Eleventh Circuit Smith v. City of Cumming,
    212 F.3d 1332, 1333 (11th Cir. 2000) (“The First Amendment protects the
    right to gather information about what public officials do on public
    property, and specifically, a right to record matters of public


MN Ramsey County
TX Senate Bill 897 introduced, but not passed.