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Do Citizens Have a Right to Video Record Police Offers?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

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: https://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.

 

How to Video Record a Police Officer PT 2

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

pew How to Video Record a Police Officer PT 2

In part two of How to Video Record a Police Officer, Primeau Forensics wants to share some video recording techniques. Many police encounters often involve many videos that were recorded using a smart phone.

Statistics show that 77% of Americans use a smartphone. Couple that with the vast amount of apps on the market that make recording and sharing videos one of the easiest parts of a person’s day, it’s no surprise that an average of 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

“What does that have to do with video recording police officers and video forensics?” Because the ease of recording videos has become so prevalent in our society, more and more citizens are capturing both criminal activity and law enforcement interactions with their smartphones.

see How to Video Record a Police Officer PT 2

These videos become an integral part of the investigation. If they are poor quality, only so much can be done to forensically enhance them. Our goal is to give you the necessary solutions to common problems that we encounter to assist you in acquiring the best recording possible.

 

ls-phone How to Video Record a Police Officer PT 2

Problem #1: Unstable footage
Solution: Try to stay calm and focus on keeping the camera steady. Don’t zoom in too much on the subject to where your camera is unable to properly auto focus. Be sure to keep a safe distance. Should the video need additional zooming, it can be forensically enhanced.

Problem #2: Landscape vs Portrait
Solution: Always film in landscape mode. Filming in landscape offers a wider view of the situation. This provides investigators with valuable information, like point of entry, outside factors, and other surroundings. Filming in landscape mode also provides a clearer image for forensic experts.

 

Problem #3: The citizen who is filming does not “blend in” and in turn escalates the situation.mp How to Video Record a Police Officer PT 2

Solution: If you feel like you are too close to the situation, you probably are. Safety of you and everyone else is most important. So, when in doubt, back up. Also, don’t feel the need to use any equipment more than your smartphone. As technology advances, smartphone cameras are advancing with it. Most smartphones use a 1080p resolution, which is sufficient for forensic enhancement.

 

Problem #4: The video is edited or uploaded to social media before it is handed off to the proper authorities.
Solution: Don’t alter the video in anyway. Whether it is: shortening the video, using apps or software to enhance the video or the audio, or adding effects. All of these adjustments effect the Chain of Custody (he order in which a piece of criminal evidence should be handled by persons investigating a case, specif. the unbroken trail of accountability that ensures the physical security of samples, data, and records in a criminal investigation.) as well as the forensic experts ability to identify and/or authenticate the video. We have all seen viral videos on social media or news outlets of criminal activity or law enforcement interactions. While these are important to start what could be difficult conversations in our society, it is imperative that the investigation betactical-2 How to Video Record a Police Officer PT 2 complete before a video is made public. Posting the video online could give suspects important details that could hinder the investigation and put lives at risk. It is important to remember that what you film could affect people’s lives. Think how you would want someone to handle the footage if it was you or a loved one in the video.

 

Problem #5: The video is not unbiased and only focuses on one subject and not the entire situation.
Solution: While you may be emotionally invested in the situation, it is crucial that the video evidence be unbiased. In order for the investigation to be as accurate as possible, investigators need to see the event in its entirety. It is a good idea to begin filming as soon as you see a problem arising and continue filming until the interaction is finalized. Another good idea is to use multiple cameras when available. This provides multiple viewpoints as well as the ability to have multiple versions of the recording to have the best possible outcome.

 

If you are filming an interaction with law enforcement, be mindful and respectful of the officer’s tactical operating area. If you have concerns regarding an officer’s actions, take the appropriate measures to speak directly with their supervisor. If the officer asks you to back up, he/she is doing so for your safety. It is always best to work with the officer and not against them, and to Quote How to Video Record a Police Officer PT 2keep in mind that the officer may be in a heightened state of emotion from a previous incident. As Barrack Obama, once said, “Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law.”

 

 

 

 

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.

Video Evidence – South Carolina Officer Shooting Unarmed Black Man

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

891495_84762078-300x202 Video Evidence – South Carolina Officer Shooting Unarmed Black ManA South Carolina police officer was arrested yesterday for the murder of an unarmed black man. This is all because of a video that surfaced of the North Charleston officer, Michael Slager, firing eight times at the unarmed man as the man fled in an open field.

According to police reports, the victim in question, 50-year-old Walter L. Scott, continued to flee after being hit by the officer’s stun gun. Police report that Mr. Scott had taken Officer Slager’s stun gun, which lead to a reasonable pursuit.

However, the video seems to show a different story. The stun gun is dropped, and after Mr. Scott is gunned down and the officer is seen dropping something next to the unarmed man. It is not clear as to what was dropped; however, some fear that this was planted on the man after his shooting, as police report that the officer’s taser was taken.

Whatever the case, the innocent bystander who recorded Good Samaritan video aided in this investigation. Not only did he take the responsibility to record the events, but he also utilized landscape mode on his cell phone to record the altercation. This provided additional digital video evidence for this investigation.

As you see in the first few seconds of the video, his shot in “portrait” orientation would not have accurately captured the events as they occurred. Mr. Scott would have run off screen, and we never would have seen this happen. However, because he shot the video in landscape mode, we’re able to see the shooting clearly.

Situations like this help reinforce the importance of the little devices in our pockets. Smartphone video can make or break a case like this, and we need to understand why it’s so crucial to utilize the tools we have when an unlawful event occurs. If it weren’t for this Good Samaritan, this story may have gone unseen and unnoticed. It really shows how important video can be.

You can watch the video below via the NY Times:

 

Video Forensic Expert Edward J Primeau Curriculum Vitae

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