Perhaps this comes with the end of the Bush Administration and their disrespect for the Constitution, but any good news about the NYPD is welcome. The memo from the top of New York City's police force is that they will stop videotaping protesters for the sake of documentation. For far too long after September 11th, our Constitutional right to have freedom of assembly was infringed upon and suppressed. Now we might be seeing brighter days ahead.
Paul Browne is either an idiot or a liar, because surveillance of political protests is exactly what the NYPD was engaged in. Browne and his superiors may not hold high regard for the Bill of Rights, but it is a great day for those that do. Putting pressure on the NYPD for their un-Constitutional behavior is finally at an end. Of course, I fully expect the Police Department to find other ways of intimidating citizens (such as billy-clubbing bicyclists) who want to take to the streets to protest, so in no way is the battle between the NYPD and activists over.
The New York Police Department has stopped videotaping demonstrators at protests, ending a practice it had been trying to formalize since the 2004 Republican National Convention in Manhattan.
The decision was hailed by lawyers involved in the case as a victory for activist groups and New Yorkers who feel strongly about their right to protest without fear of winding up in a police dossier.
The NYPD, however, said it was never in the business of spying. "There was no political surveillance," says Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.
The development is the latest in the decades-old Handschu case, a 1971 class action lawsuit that resulted in guidelines prohibiting police from investigating political groups unless a crime is happening or is about to happen.