Monday, September 20, 2010

How to Record the Cops

Radley Balko at provides the Hows and Whys plus the Dos and Do Nots of keeping cops honest.

Amplify’d from

A guide to the technology for keeping government accountable

This summer the issue of recording on-duty police officers has
received a great deal of media attention. Camera-wielding citizens
were arrested in Maryland, Illinois, and Massachusetts under
interpretations of state wiretapping laws, while others were
arrested in New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Florida, and elsewhere
based on vaguer charges related to obstructing or interfering with
a police officer.

So far Massachusetts is the only state to explicitly uphold a
conviction for recording on-duty cops, and Illinois and
Massachusetts are the only states where it is clearly illegal. The
Illinois law has yet to be considered by the state's Supreme Court,
while the Massachusetts law has yet to be upheld by a federal
appeals court. Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler recently
issued an opinion concluding that arrests for recording cops are
based on a misreading of the state's wiretapping statute, but that
opinion isn't binding on local prosecutors.

In the remaining 47 states, the law is clearer: It is generally
legal to record the police, as long as you don't physically
interfere with them. You may be unfairly harassed, questioned, or
even arrested, but it's unlikely you will be charged, much less
convicted. (These are general observations and should not be
treated as legal advice.)

One reason this issue has heated up recently is that the
democratization of technology has made it easier than ever for just
about anyone to pull out a camera and quickly document an encounter
with police. So what's the best way to record cops? Here is a quick
rundown of the technology that's out there.