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November 17, 2006

Watching The Watchers

Last week it was Kevin Federline in the cross hairs of the public via unedited video when he received his divorce notice from Britney Spears.  Now it's student Mostafa Tabatabainejad being tasered for refusing to leave one of the UCLA libraries.  Campus police asked him for an id while on a late night patrol.  Tabatabainejad thought it was racial profiling and refused.  News stories and witness accounts in the press conflict as to what happened next.  At some point he went limp and at another point he got tasered by police as they removed him from the UCLA facility.

But instead of guessing what happened and in what sequence it happened, you can view it for yourself on YouTube.  You can also watch a bunch of variations and edits, and even some follow-up video by Tabatabainejad himself.  One aspect of public police surveillance cameras that's disturbing is that the police are, in essence, the government.  Lots of people do not like the idea of spying on citizens.  On the other hand, the police contend that scanning the streets for crime can bring a faster response from law enforcement when crime is being committed.  Public cameras also have a deterrent effect, they say.  Courts have pretty much held that people can be recorded in public without their permission as the right to privacy is nil in public.

So, are there any checks on police surveillance?  You can watch the watchers as they go about their tasks and even record it with a cheap camera phone.  And, much to their chagrin, the video even gets posted to YouTube or other video sites.  One of my colleagues described the 6 plus minute video as another Rodney King situation.  That incident from the 80s only made it into the public conscience because L.A. Police beating was accidentally documented with a video camera.  This one is no less disturbing.  Rather than comment about the actions of the police or the response by Tabatabainejad, check it out for yourself.  Here's the main video.  To see others and edits relating to the incident, go to YouTube and search keywords library and taser.  Other obvious words may also be used, but the ones I suggest will bring results.

For news, check out the stories in the Los Angeles Times, KNBC in Los Angeles, Inside Higher Ed, and the Library Journal.

November 17, 2006 | Permalink

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