Friday, June 29, 2012

7 Rules for Recording Police

I've seen many stories lately about persons arrested for daring to record police activity on their smart phone. Is it legal or not? The answer depends on where you live. For Simon Glik of Boston it was legal and he was awarded $170,000 in damages and legal fees in a civil rights lawsuit against his 2007 felony arrest for videotaping police roughing up a suspect. The First Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Glik had a “constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public.”

Reason.com gives this advice for filming the police ...
  1. Know your local Law
    The law in 38 states allows citizens to record police (provided you don’t physically interfere with their work.) The police don't always agree and may still object, take your camera, or arrest you.

    Twelve states, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington, require the consent of all parties for you to record a conversation but all but two of these states, Massachusetts and Illinois, have agreed in Court that the “expectation of privacy provision” does NOT apply to on-duty police.
  2. Don't record Police Secretly
    "Massachusetts is the only state to uphold a conviction for recording on-duty police, but that conviction was for a secret recording where the defendant failed to inform police he was recording."
  3. Be careful what you say if challenged by Police
    Don't piss off a policeman. Be polite.  For example, “Officer, I’m not interfering. I’m asserting my First Amendment rights. You’re being documented and recorded offsite.” Don't try to argue the law with a policemen. See the Reason article for more details on what to say or not to say.
  4. Don’t Share Your Video with Police
  5. Be Prepared to be Arrested
    If you refuse to stop filming or surrender your camera you may be arrested (perhaps wrongly). Do not resist arrest. You have the right to remain silent until you speak with a lawyer.
  6. Protect your Your Phone
    Passcode protect your smartphone. You may be forced to hand it over but you CANNOT be forced to surrender the password protecting it. Turn OFF your phone before surrendering it.

    Consider using Qik or Bambuser which immediately store your video offsite in case an officer "accidental" breaks your phone.
  7. Don't point the camera like a gun
    Don't make any moves that could get you shot
Reason concludes with the following,
If you’ve recently been arrested or charged with a crime after recording police, contact a lawyer with your state’s ACLU chapter for advice as soon as possible. (Do not publicly upload your video before then.) You may also contact Flex Your Rights via Facebook or Twitter. We’re not a law firm, but we’ll do our best to help you.
If your case is strong, the ACLU might offer to take you on as a litigant. If you accept, your brave stand could forever change the way police treat citizens asserting their First Amendment right to record police. This path is not for fools, and it might disrupt your life. But next time you see police in action, don’t forget that a powerful tool for truth and justice might literally be in your hands.

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