Filming the Police is not a Crime
June 27, 2013
HAVANA TIMES — With respect to Cuban police officers, my Spanish friends
and acquaintances more or less unanimously agree on one thing: compared
to cops in Spain, all of them look like nice guys.
After hearing several anecdotes about the Spanish police, I couldn't
help but agree with this impression.
During my last, unpleasant encounter with "law and order officials", the
news about the Spanish police and the use of video cameras during
protests came to mind.
I was chatting with my husband Eduardo and some friends at the park
located on the intersection of G and 23 streets. Suddenly, a teenager
(who looked mentally unstable) began to curse and throw kicks about him,
fighting, perhaps, with an imaginary rival.
A few seconds later, a mob of somewhat surprised and jovial people
encircled the youngster, which had suddenly become a source of amusement
for them. A young man, who apparently knew him, was doing a fairly good
job of calming him down.
The commotion was interpreted as a brawl by the more than numerous
police officers posted at G street, most of whom have nothing with which
to fill their boring weekend nights on duty and usually end up
recreating themselves (and justifying their salaries) by fining people
who accidentally step on the park's lawn.
Though talking to the kid would have sufficed to put an end to the whole
show and get him out of the middle of the street, two of the cops
(evidently quite bored) ended up throwing him to the ground, holding his
hands down and driving a knee into his back.
This free martial arts demonstration sparked off quite a scene.
The kid tried to break loose as the cops pushed his head down against
the sidewalk, deaf to his pitiful cries of "I'm gonna tell my doctor you
did this to me!" The people in the crowd began to yell "pigs!" in unison.
Eduardo pulled out his Ipod and began taping what was happening. Seeing
this, some teenagers encouraged him.
Almost immediately, one of the police officers took Eduardo by the arm
and began to interrogate him and threaten to arrest him.
It was thanks to the fact this same cop was trying to contain the crowd
that grew and lunged towards him that we managed to tear Eduardo from
his grasp and quickly get away.
Last year, Spain's Ministry of the Interior attempted to pass a law that
would make it illegal for people to film police officers while on duty.
Several sectors of civil society, including different lawyers
associations, immediately spoke out against the measure, calling it an
unconstitutional bill which dissuaded people from exercising their right
to protest. The initiative was unsuccessful.
The "crime" of filming a police officer is nowhere to be found in Cuba´s
Penal Code, but Eduardo didn't spend a night in the Zapata street
slammer out of sheer luck.
It is clear that, in order to combat the growing impunity with which
Cuba's National Revolutionary Police abuses its power, we need a
stronger, better-informed civil society.
Cuban cops may look like nice guys but they have far too much
self-confidence and imagination: if they can't fall back on an existing
law, they make it up, confident they will not be held accountable for this.
Source: "Filming the police is not a crime but..." -