Given the recent discussion of the legality of recording your local police officers in action, I couldn’t help but think of some high profile cases and a few lesser known stories. Charges were dropped against Emily Good, the Rochester, N.Y. resident who was arrested and charged with obstruction of governmental administration while filming police officers conducting an arrest from her front yard last year. That doesn’t change the fact that she now has a police record. Read the article and then watch the video and tell me what you think about whether you are willing to risk an arrest and jail time even when you know you are in the right.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2012-02-07/police-video-tape-crime/53001432/1

13 thoughts on “Citizen Rights to Record the Police

  1. I think that regardless of what the law says about video taping police activity; the police were entirely in the wrong in this situation. In the video you can hear and see the officer warning her about stepping back, however she was on her property . The officer also does not give her a valid reason for her to go back into her house, nor does he have the right to enforce someone to do so. She asked a number of times what she was doing wrong, and the only answer the officer gave her was he did not feel safe with her standing behind him. When a citizen is on their own property regardless of where the police are, that citizen has the right to be wherever they want to be on their property.

    The last part of the video you can hear one of the witnesses saying that they let the guy they initially pulled over go free after cuffing him, for no apparent reason and then arrested her, possibly because she was taping an unlawful search and arrest. I normally have positive feelings about police activity and want to believe that most of them work this job to actually serve the people. With instances like this and the police actions during Occupy Berkley, there is no doubt there are police officers that have power egos and their own reservations, or have become jaded from the job that they no longer see what is right and wrong and why they became police officers.

    The question of whether it is worth a police record or not, I don’t think is the main focus point here. We live in a Nation where our freedom is one of the most crucial parts of our lives and we base our history as a Nation on a notion that we as a country will fight to protect this freedom, so when it is subjected to unfair ruling as skeptical police activity, this women was not thinking about being arrested, because she was doing anything wrong. So, obviously i would not like to risk a arrest for something like this, but I think the point is why should i have too?

  2. “So, obviously i would not like to risk a arrest for something like this, but I think the point is why should i have too?”

    Spot on! Great post. I agree whole-heartedly.

    I do think citizens should be allowed to record police arrests and activity. If the police are following procedure, there should be no issues.

    I would risk an arrest and jail time for something that I believed in (and also if I was not “in the wrong”)

    1. Lauren I agree too. I would add that one of our duties as citizens is to recognize and report any misdoings. This is why we have such things as the citizen’s arrest.

      My roommate once followed a bus in order to get the number he needed to alert the authorities. The bus didn’t stop at the railroad tracks. So the driver broke the law. I do not think it is any different when one is reporting via recording the authorities.

  3. I agree that citizens should (and do) have the right to record what public officials do, and like the article said, this action is protected by three Constitutional Amendments. While I think it’s obvious that this officer was in the wrong (and he knew it), I think she acted a bit irrationally. It was hard for me to listen to her speak as the video progressed, she was allowing too much emotion into her voice. While I was not there, and don’t know exactly how I would have acted, I think she could have been far more effective in convincing the police that she was within her rights if she would have kept her voice at an even tone. In my opinion, she began to sound very whiny. Then, when she began to cry, I think she really lost her credibility. If she really felt she was doing the right thing, she should have remained strong through her arrest.
    I absolutely would risk an arrest if I was standing up for something that I believed in, especially if I were not in the wrong. If people don’t do this, how will awareness be raised?

  4. Now lets play devil’s advocate here, How would you all feel if you were trying to do your job and someone was videotaping your every move? I think that people are overly critical of police officers in general. For instance, everyone hates to be pulled over and ticketed for speeding, however, if you see someone else speed by you it makes you happy to see them get pulled over and punished for violating the law. My brother in law was a police officer in the past and he was paid very little in my opinion to deal with some pretty disturbing people and issues. Police officers really don’t bother Citizens at work so I don’t see why anyone needs to disrespect them while they are just trying to do what they have been hired to do. This lady clearly needs to find a hobby or something. I am a firm believer that just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean you need to do it to prove a point. I will stop venting but people like this drive me a little crazy.

  5. Noah,
    I am a nanny and I am sure everyone has heard stories about “Nanny Cams.” I also work for a stay at home mother, so over 90% of the time she can hear everything that I say to her child and what activities we do. I don’t mind this at all, because while I don’t feel like I need to be “policed”, I do feel like I am doing a good job and therefore don’t mind her presence. As I said before, if you are following procedure and what your supposed to do, you probably wouldn’t mind.

  6. I would not risk an arrest and jail time when I know I am right in this situation. First, I would not waste my time to do this. Second, the police already mentioned the consequence of doing it. I do not see a benefit arguing with the police officers. It is believed they have been in their jobs for a period of time, they better understand the law than us. Police officers are paid to protect the citizens; whatever they do is protecting us. If they do not feel safe, it would disrupt them to perform their duties. The police officer in the video has given her many warnings to step a foot behind to her house. However, she rejected to do that. She resisted she has a right to videotape. I think she has done nothing wrong, but she made a lot of troubles to both police officers and herself. Moreover, in the police officers’ perspective, they risk themselves to protect citizens. They also want to be in safe, as a citizen, we should be cooperative with them to make a peaceful environment.

  7. Police officers need to realize is that they are under constant scrutiny, and the way they handle themselves and treat others is going to be how publics perceive police in general. First, police officers need to run through the opportunity cost of giving in to someone recording them. The longer they try to keep that person from filming, the more likes will be clicked on the youtube video that person is eventually going to post. Secondly, police officers are here to serve and protect citizens, not act superior when things don’t go their way. Making positive relations and not going beyond your power is going to end up in your favor. Thirdly, if you don’t want to be videotaped, don’t be a police officer. People are attracted to disaster: if they see someone get arrested, they’re going to pull out their cameras. If you react to them recording, you are going to look as if you are doing something wrong and you don’t want to be seen doing it.

    In short, stick to the golden rule, and don’t make things more complicated than before.

  8. I would you like to say that if my video capturing is going to capture an illegal or discrimination move from any law enforcement, I believe it is worth going to jail because I am going to jail for the right reason or by showing a wrong actions. I think the idea of her videoing on her property is legal because in the law you can do whatever you want with out any problems on your own property, so taking a video of something that’s not affecting anybody wouldn’t lead to any arrest. In this case, it wasn’t normal because the officer has asked her respectably at the beginning to stop recording and go inside, she should have followed the orders and cut the problems short, but I think that the officers are hiding something or they were doing something unethical to the state law and they were trying to stop those acts.

    In conclusion, if any person witnesses any wrong actions not only from Police officers but any law enforcement or safety forces, and can capture them do not fear to record those incidents because it helps our country honor their value and meanings of freedom and how to fight for it.

  9. I would be willing to risk jail time simply because this policy needs to be challenged. Simply recording an officer does not impede them in any way it merely hold them accountable for their actions. If you do decide to record an officer use an application on your smart phone that auto uploads the video. Should they confiscate the phone they will be unable to delete the video.

    The extent to which some police departments will go to prevent recording of their actions is astonishing. This American Life did a segment on a police officer, Adrian Schoolcraft who recorded himself and fellow officers being instructed by supervisors to break the law. What they did to him in retaliation is pretty astounding

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/414/right-to-remain-silent?act=2

  10. Unfortunately having an arrest on someone’s record can have a negative effect when applying for jobs, colleges etc. Therefore the risk may not be worth it. However, citizens should have every right to film with no consequences particularly when no laws are being violated. Cops tend to abuse their power more often than not and being able to film is a way to fight back and protect ourselves. Unfortunately in the United States laws over protect cops and they often get away with behavior that is unethical and many times illegal.

  11. Personally- there is a big difference between starting to record something because you feel it’s not ethical, and continuing after an authority figure tells you to stop. Did this cop take it to the extreme? Yes. Was this girl out of line? Possibly. Was she adequately warned to stop before being arrested? Absolutely.

    I agree that some authority figures misuse their power, but at the same time, some things cops/military do are for citizen safety.

  12. it’s really complicated to know your rights, and what shocked me it a law student in texas walking on the street with a GUN on him and a police stopped him, at the end he took his gun and went away without even telling his name to the police man

    here is the video

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