Personal Attention.
Aggressive Defense.

Photo of Thomas C. Mooney

Recording the police can be a tricky matter

On Behalf of | Jul 25, 2020 | Firm News

Recording the actions of authority figures who overstep the law is a not-so-new but all the more prevalent way to hopefully hold these enforcers accountable. With the ubiquity of cell phones to both record the videos as well as consume them, it’s a cycle that’s leading to bitter headlines that many hope spur progress. But with the quantity of videos available, it raises the question about what conduct should also be on display by the recorder themselves.

This might seem strange to say. After all, the recorder is simply wishing to document what they perceive to be egregious conduct. But still, there are rules that they have to abide by, to make sure that their prerogative, keeping enforcers accountable, happens through educated conduct.

Luckily, there is information to inform the public and keep their pursuit of social justice within legal bounds.

An officer cannot stop recording, as long as it’s legally allowed

Recordings are legal in public spaces, if the image is in “plain view.” Now, notice that critical phrase: “public spaces.” While the call to justice might be strong, if one is on private property, there is the definite risk of a trespassing claim. While the owner may give mercy when the intention of the recording is known, this is wishful thinking.

When recorders get too close, they might be in trouble

While it can tie one’s stomach in knots seeing perceived injustice play out, interfering with police matters can lead to the recorder getting charges of their own. While there may be footage of officers asking pedestrians to “stop recording” perhaps the more troublesome cousin of this event is when an officer yells at a civilian to “back up.” That civilian might want to listen.

If recorders follow the rules but an officer threatens arrest?

The ACLU guide brings up the interesting problem that even distanced recorders might find themselves faced with. If an offending officer seems to be overstepping their bounds, what’s to say they’ll respect the rules of those who simply held their phones up? As stated in the previous paragraph, there are grounds for an officer to say that someone was interfering with an arrest. In moments like these, it’s a judgment call, and walking away may be the best option.

While this blog and the ACLU’s guide is able to dip into the possibilities that could result when one records the police, any number of factors could influence a situation and its results. Being aware of one’s rights can be a great foundation going forward, but in trying times, especially after an arrest, it might be time seek out counsel that can educate on how matters perhaps should have progressed.