A modest proposal to lawyers, journalists, and drug dealers
I'm certain that I've seen at least a few police officers lie on the stand on search and seizure issues. Not to mention the occasionally questionable, and/or extremely illegal search inflicted on my friends, most recently Christopher. This has been bothering me for a while, and I think I've come up with a reasonable solution: surruptious taping. As everyone that's watched C.O.P.S. is aware, its completely acceptable to video and audio tape traffic stops: there is no reasonable expectation of privacy at the side of the highway.
Interestingly, the most questionable searches that I'm aware of were not recorded, even in departments that usually use such equipment. So, I propose that everyone that has a modern enough cell phone to record with, or an ipod in their car, or even a standalone recorder tape ALL traffic stops and similar interactions with the police. Especially in one-party consent states, (*cough* Ohio), this would be completely, absolutely legal, and even in a two party consent state, I think a decent lawyer could still use it to good effect. Among other things, no matter how questionably legal the recording itself would be in some states, I think it would always be admissible to impeach officer reports and testimony. As long as one isn't furtively digging at their recorder when the officer approaches the car, and shot for the nebulous “reaching for a weapon” I can't think of any downside at all.
Finally, I propose the ACLU, or NAACP or similar should consider distributing recorders, or at least encouraging the practice in problem areas. Heck, for that matter, it would be an interesting opportunity for journalists as well. (In a perfect world it would be an perfect opportunity for Internal Affairs investigators to keep tabs on their errant charges) Outfit an old beater with a $100 worth of hidden cameras and microphones, a racially suspect class set of passengers, maybe burn out a single taillight bulb (make sure a spare bulb is available, and the car is otherwise completely legal!), and troll for an illegal search. If one wanted to be extremely cruel to the police involved, and had the time on their hands to do it, some faked drugs would complete the picture, and nothing seems to bring out complete lies from corrupt cops faster than the scent of a drug bust.
Heck it might be even more fun in a big enough city to use a very new and nice car, with well dressed white occupants and make it look like a drug/prostitution buy. Of course there is the minor risk of wasting police resources, but to my mind, its worth the risk to eliminate the phrase “If you don't let me search your car, that would be suspicious behavior so I can search it anyway”. As a tangent, I think if I owned a urban criminal law practice, I'd be tempted to give out very cheap digital recorders (Say a 32mb keychain models) as imprinted advertising items.