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The "Problem" Of Citizen Surveillance of Police

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, December 15 2011

This "Law Enforcement Today" post describes a rising menace in American society: civilians with mobile phone cameras. From Jean Reynolds, a professor emeritus at Polk State College:

The problem goes beyond the surveillance cameras that many communities have installed in public places. Thanks to recent advances in technology, many citizens carry cell phones with video capability–and they don’t hesitate to make video recordings of police officers at work, often in chaotic situations where excessive noise and awkward camera angles can preserve a distorted record of what was said or done.

Legal experts are still arguing about whether officers are Constitutionally protected from unauthorized videotaping. A recent LA Times article (November 8, 2011) notes that a number of judges have affirmed citizens’ right to videotape police actions without consent.

Reynolds suggests that police take four steps to "head off the liability problems arising from citizen videotaping." They are:

1. Always identify yourself immediately as a police officer.

2. Speak clearly and courteously, avoiding inflammatory slang and street talk.

3. Use positive words like “cooperate” and “protect” whenever possible.

4. Describe what you’re doing and why.

These simple steps can go a long way toward protecting you from charges of prejudice, unprofessional behavior, and excessive force.

Does anybody else notice that the premise here is that citizens with cameras, and not officers engaging in questionable use of force, present "liability problems?"

Via Nathan Jurgenson