Sunday, April 21, 2013

Right To Record Police Officers Re-visited

There is an on-going punchline about the Internet. It goes something like "It must be true, it is on the Internet." Ah, no. Not everything you see and hear on the Internet is true

I'd be a little queasy to have law enforcement cite it as a reason you can't do something. I did not get the memo that Smartphones are now weapons of destruction.

I saw this video on Boing Boing about the San Diego cops that smashed the phone and then the person using the phone to record his ticket.

People, let's go over the rules of the road.

In California there is an expectation of privacy; meaning that you have to have permission of both parties to record. However police officers are exempt and you do have the right to record video of their public behaviors.

On the Federal level we have the right to record police officers. It is indeed a 1st Amendment right. Both the Department of Justice and the U.S. Court of Appeals have repeatedly smacked down attempts by police departments to stop recording their activities.

It does not stop certain officers from trying to stop you from recording. Or saying making ridiculous proclamations or more to the point physical threats to get you to stop.

Safety First!

If you are at a distance from the action and you are in no way interfering with police operations or investigations you are good to go. Be subtle and keep it on the down low until you can upload your content.

If you are in the middle of the action and you notice that the police are a bit revved up you need to record what you can and then leave. Yes, you have the right to record. That will not stop some cop from trying to get your phone or recording media. Even if they have to bust your head to get it.

This is where SocialCam for Android or YouTube Capture App can be handy. Click and upload so that if the police do a grab and smash the content is protected.

Others disagree by saying that you should passcode your phone and not upload content until you leave the situation or your retrieve your device from the cops. 

For more info on recording police officers safely I would suggest reading 7 Rules for Recording Police Officers at

You also want to make time to hang out at Photography is Not A Crime, where you can see what police offers and some ding-a-ling judges around the country are doing with folks that record their activities.

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