Wednesday,September 17, 2008
Edition: Oregonian News Paper,
Sunrise, Section: Local News, Page D01
SUMMARY: First Amendment | A lawyer for Mike Tabor, whose video camera was
seized, says officers are accountable
After Mike Tabor turned his video camera on two Portland cops rousting a couple of men on a downtown
sidewalk, one cop seized his camera and gave him a ticket, saying he'd broken the law by recording the officers without their
The Multnomah County district attorney's office declined to prosecute, and now Tabor is trying to force
the Portland Police Bureau to take a formal position on whether it's OK for civilians to videotape cops --with sound --in
In a tort claim notice to the city last week, attorney Benjamin Haile informed the city of Tabor's
intent to sue for $100 and a written policy saying that citizens have the right to make video and audio records of police.
Haile has taken on Tabor's case at no charge. He says recording officers on the job is a fundamental part of holding police
accountable that Haile believes is protected by the First Amendment.
The issue isn't an isolated one. Last month, Beaverton police arrested a 27-year-old Aloha man on accusations
that he illegally recorded an officer arresting another man at a bowling alley. Ho Xent Vang recorded the encounter on his
cell phone, and Beaverton police say the audio part of the recording violated state law because the officer didn't give his
In both cases, police were citing ORS 165.540, which makes it generally illegal to tape-record a conversation
without first obtaining permission except in cases where a person wouldn't reasonably expect privacy, such as at a public
meeting or sporting event.
Portland police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz said he believes the public doesn't have a right to record
officers' conversations --on or off the job --without their consent.
"Just because somebody is a police officer doesn't mean they give up their rights," Schmautz said.
The videotaping incident that netted Tabor a ticket unfolded when he spotted Officers Dane Reister
and Nicholas Ragona stopping two men on March 25 next to the Portland Art Museum. On the nine-minute video, one of the officers
can be heard accusing one man of being a drug dealer and the other a drug buyer. The officer repeatedly asks one of the men
for his ID and to allow himself to be patted down. At one point, the officer --identified by Tabor as Reister --tells the
man to back away. And when the man takes a step back, Reister takes two or three steps forward and shoves the man in the chest.
"That bugged me," said Tabor. "It really looked like intimidation --bully-type stuff."
After patting the man down, the officers let both men go. Then Reister walks over to Tabor, asks him
whether the camera was also recording sound, and when Tabor says yes, tells Tabor to hand over the camera.
"I was just totally surprised," Tabor said.
Tabor began to walk to Central Precinct to file a complaint. The officers pulled up in their patrol
car and asked what he was doing and then said they would meet him in the lobby.
Tabor claims that after he waited about 20 minutes, the officers returned his camera and handed him
a ticket. Tabor said the officers told him he was standing too close and making them nervous in what could have been a dangerous
Tabor said he doesn't think he was standing too close --and if the officers thought he was, they should
have said so.
Deputy City Attorney Dave Woboril said he'll review the incident, but said that Oregon's law is "pretty
complicated." Woboril said his reading of the statute is that people can't surreptitiously make an audio recording of others
who think their conversations are private. But Woboril said most people assume that someone holding a video camera out in
the open is recording sound as well as video. In general, he believes civilians have the right to record officers in public
places in that way.
In 1991, then-Police Chief Tom Potter issued a training bulletin stating that the public had the right
to record video and audio of police arresting suspects in a public place. Woboril, Schmautz and Police Chief Rosie Sizer weren't
aware of the bulletin, but Tabor's attorney, Haile, dug up it up in his research.
Haile said he wants the bureau to specify that police stops --not just arrests --can be recorded. He
also wants the policy put in the bureau's policy and procedures manual, so it won't be forgotten.
Haile noted that Potter's bulletin was issued shortly after a bystander videotaped the beating of Rodney
King, a black man who was stopped for speeding, by four Los Angeles police officers. The videotape spurred widespread discussion
about police brutality.
Dan Handelman, of Portland Copwatch, said he hears about a few cases each year in which video cameras
are seized by police. He says if police are acting professionally and lawfully, they should have no objection to being videotaped.
"It could end up exonerating the police --it could be good for them."
Aimee Green: 503-294-5119; firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's the second story:
Public can record video of Portland police By Aimee Green The Oregonian
Thursday,December 4, 2008
Edition: Sunrise, Section: Local News, Page B03
SUMMARY: Rights | The city attorney's office rules after a man is cited and his camera is seized Public
can record video of Portland police The city attorney's office rules after a man is cited and his camera is seized Public
can record video of Portland police
Portland police officers don't have the right to seize video cameras and cite people for recording
them in public in all but the rarest of circumstances, according to the Portland city attorney's office.
Mike Tabor, who considers himself an independent journalist, tangled with police last March outside
the Portland Art Museum, when he videotaped two officers rousting a pair of suspected drug dealers.
One of the officers seized his camera and gave him a ticket, citing the state's eavesdropping law,
ORS 165.540. The Multnomah County district attorney's office declined to prosecute.
Deputy City Attorney David Woboril conceded in a letter to Tabor on Wednesday that Oregon's law on
recording police is confusing and that officers have had difficulty interpreting it. Woboril said that under state law, all
someone has to do to lawfully record is to inform officers --and holding a video camera or a cell phone in plain sight is
enough to do that.
"Oregon law and the Portland Police Bureau recognize that recording has come to be expected in our
public lives --a fact that even the microphone-shy must accept," Woboril wrote.
Woboril said one of the only times such a recording would be illegal is if the officers requested privacy
and then someone secretly recorded them using a hidden device.
In September, attorney Benjamin Haile informed the city of Tabor's intent to sue for $100 and a written
policy saying that citizens have the right to make video and audio records of police. Haile took on the case at no cost, saying
he believed that recording officers doing their jobs in public is fundamental to holding police accountable and is protected
by the First Amendment.
Haile and Tabor were pleased with the city's response Wednesday.
"All and all, I feel good," said Tabor, who frequently posts videotapes of police stops on his Web
"We can film the police, and they don't have to treat us as criminals."
Tabor figured the cop who seized his camera was annoyed at being videotaped because he may have been
pushing the bounds of good police work.
Woboril said the Police Bureau didn't plan to write clarifications about the law into policy --as requested
--but it did plan to clarify the law in training bulletins and possibly the bureau's manuals of standard operating procedures.
Woboril also said officers would receive a refresher about the law as they cycle through their upcoming in-service training
Haile is pushing for the clarification to be written into the bureau's manuals of standard operating
procedures because he doesn't want it to fade again from institutional memory.
In 1991, then-Police Chief Tom Potter issued a training bulletin referring to the public's right to
record police, but Chief Rosie Sizer and the bureau's public information officer weren't aware of it when Haile filed the
tort claim notice.
"A lot of police officers think it's illegal to record them with audio, and I think this should clear
that up," Haile said.
Aimee Green: 503-294-5119; email@example.com