Do citizens have a right to video record police offers?

The following article is a culmination of information generated by our research team at Primeau Forensics on how to record police officers. Our goal is to answer the question ‘do citizens have a right to video record police officers’? To best answer this question, Primeau Forensic staff surveyed police officers, law enforcement leadership, concerned citizens, and attorneys to present their answers about video recording and assisting police officers.  Their answers are included in the following article.  Concerned citizens can actually assist police officers and employ proper methods when video recording. Always remember, everyone’s safety is a top priority!

The specific details expressed in this post are based primarily on Michigan law. However, this information we have gathered and presented in this article is universal. If you are reading outside the United States of America, consider laws that may be enforced in your community or jurisdiction.

The department of homeland security has a saying “if you see something say something.” Our philosophy is, “if you see something, film something.”

In a public place where there is no expectation of privacy, a concerned citizen is allowed to record video police officers or take pictures. However, A concerned citizen cannot video record in a manner in which they are considered interfering with the event or investigation. This includes video recording or entering too close within the officer’s tactical operating area. Again, safety is priority. Interference to an investigation diverts the police officers attention or reduces their focus. In other words, “does the police officer consider that you are interfering with the investigation at that time” ? If you are warned by the officer during a video recording, adjust your approach, where you’re standing, and what you’re filming.

Working with a police officer and not against them

Be aware that an officer may have a tremendous amount on his or her mind. They may be in a heightened sense of awareness from this critical incident or a previous incident to the one you are currently video recording. Keep this in mind when you are video recording police officers.

If you are a video recording witness, write down your name and number for the police officer and mention you saw what happened. That way they will contact you later if you can assist with the investigation. If the police officer is unavailable or too busy at the time, you can supply this information to their shift supervisor.

On the other hand, you have a right to remain anonymous and video record police officers. As a concerned citizen, you can request to remain an anonymous witness. There are some witnesses whose employment may require that they present the recordings, statements, or anything heard to assist a police officer. These include nurses, social workers, security officers, paramedics, and first responders. Whether you record an event, or are an eye witness to one, you could be subpoenaed and ordered to go to court. If you are a witness, you may be asked to give a statement, and/or appear in court.

In order to protect the integrity of the parties involved as well as the investigation, it is crucial to remain unbiased to video record police officers

To remain an unbiased witness, record the entire event. Don’t be biased and record one party or part of an event. We find some recording witnesses focus on the police officer only. Pointing the camera directly at the officer introduces bias and makes the video you are recording difficult to view the entire event. Record the entire interaction of all parties. Don’t be offended if the police officer tells you to back up or to move away. You could in danger or a threat.

An other article that may help: http://www.videoforensicexpert.com/5-tips-for-preparing-digital-video-evidence-for-court/

The guidelines provided in this video are based primarily on Michigan case law. For more information, visit the Michigan legislature website.

To learn more about our expert security consultant, Theo Chalogianis, please feel free to contact Chalogianis Consulting LLC at chalogianis@gmail.com.

 

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