Cops are public servants, right? That’s what it says on the sides of the cars, anyway: “To Protect and Serve.” Is there any doubt about whom they’re supposed to serve? Isn’t that We the People, a.k.a. the Public? We do pay their salaries, after all.
However, a lot of cops have become averse to that status. Not only would they prefer to be free to do as they please; they’d also very much prefer not to be recorded while doing it. Such recordings have caused them quite a lot of inconvenience. A few of them have wound up wearing orange jumpsuits, though not always justly.
So when a story such as this one comes along, it gooses me in a sensitive place:
The Adams County Sheriff’s Office is suing Afroman for using video footage of their January raid on his home in his music video.
Several deputies have sued the artist claiming he was profiting from the sale of merchandise that included their images, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawsuit, obtained by The Daily Caller, indicates Afroman was not at his residence at the time of the raid, but his wife was inside the home and managed to record the police in action. Residential surveillance footage also recorded the raid as it unfolded. Members of Adams County Sheriff’s Office insist they didn’t provide consent for their images to be used or profited from.
The pictures and videos make the raid look fearsome: men in military-style camouflage toting what appear to be automatic weapons. Apparently it was performed in search of narcotics. But the cops didn’t find any, so the sanctity of Afroman’s home was breached to no good end. But for Afroman to make use of the recordings to turn a profit? That’s beyond the pale, according to the cops:
The officers claim the artist proceeded to release music videos, social media posts and physical merchandise products without their approval, and are calling this an invasion of privacy and misappropriation of their likenesses.
They said Afroman’s actions were “willful, wanton, malicious, and done with conscious or reckless,” according to the legal documents provided to Daily Caller.
They also claimed to have suffered emotional distress and said they fell victim to ridicule, humiliation and irreparable loss of reputation. The Adams County Sheriff’s Office cites feelings of embarrassment over the matter, according to the legal documents.
The sheriffs allege they were “subjected to threats, including death threats, by anonymous members of the public” that viewed social media posts” made by Afroman.
Their case is a non-starter, as far as I can tell. A public servant engaged in an action warranted under the law inherently does so in public. Supreme Court decisions have not only affirmed the right of any citizen to record such an action; it has ruled that the public shall have full and unfettered access to such records without let or hindrance. The cops’ approval of said recordings, or of their use in any form or for any purpose, is not legally required.
If the Adams County sheriff’s department has the services of a lawyer, he’ll probably disabuse them of any notion that they might prevail in court. But as has been said on many other occasions, “the process is the punishment.” We can expect the department to mount a full-scale campaign of defamation against Afroman, though it might be subtle and / or indirect. Cops who’ve had their feelings hurt are notoriously unforgiving. There will surely be a backblast, albeit without the smell of burnt gunpowder.
And remember this: Should Afroman counterclaim against the cops for their pointless breach of his Fourth Amendment rights and win a monetary judgment against them, the cops won’t be the ones to pay the bill. That will fall upon the shoulders of Adams County taxpayers, and possibly other California taxpayers as well. Heads they win, tails the public loses. It’s all very neat in these latter days of post-Constitutional America.
We had women and a mirror ball, we had a DJ
We used to eat pretty much all came this way
Ever since the goons came in took apart the place
I keep a tire iron in the corner just in case
Gave you a magic bullet on a little chain
Keep you safe from the chilly winds and the howl of the rain
We’re gonna might need bullets, should we get stuck
Any which way, we’re gonna need a little luck
You can still get gas in heaven and drink in kingdom come…
In the meantime, I’m cleaning my gun
— Mark Knopfler —