It seems, more and more, that we are witnessing incidents of police overstepping their authority. Sometimes, this goes as far as the death of an innocent citizen. Often, police are abusive towards the very people they are supposed to be protecting.
In the past two months alone, we have documented police officers abusing a 6th grader, shooting and killing a special needs teen, assaulting a man recording police abuse of his friend, shooting a mentally ill man, and assaulting a gay teen. These incident often lead to settlements, which costs the taxpayers a lot of money.
What can you do about it? Learn how to use the video recorder on your phone or tablet and use it. If you see an incident, record it. If you get pulled over, record it. If you are in a protest, record it. The First Circuit Court Of Appeals has ruled that we have a “constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public.” Still, it can be dangerous if you don’t cover your a$$.
Steve Silverman is the founder & executive director of FlexYourRights.org and co-creator of the film 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. Two years ago, he wrote this list for Reason Magazine. Read this list and follow it. Be safe and legal when you record the police.
Rule #1: Know the Law (Wherever You Are)
Conceived at a time when pocket-sized recording devices were available only to James Bond types, most eavesdropping laws were originally intended to protect people against snoops, spies, and peeping Toms. Now with this technology in the hands of average citizens, police and prosecutors are abusing these outdated laws to punish citizens merely attempting to document on-duty police.
The law in 38 states plainly allows citizens to record police, as long as you don’t physically interfere with their work. Police might still unfairly harass you, detain you, or confiscate your camera. They might even arrest you for some catchall misdemeanor such as obstruction of justice or disorderly conduct. But you will not be charged for illegally recording police.
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.
However, all but 2 of these states—Massachusetts and Illinois—have an “expectation of privacy provision” to their all-party laws that courts have ruled does not apply to on-duty police (or anyone in public). In other words, it’s technically legal in those 48 states to openly record on-duty police.
To read the other 6 rules, go to Reason Magazine
Remember, these rules are there for your protection.
As a great TV policeman used to say:
“Stay safe out there!”