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Radio News: A few rules from Reason for recording police

Apr 20, 2015 11:17 pm
Video recordings of police officers on the job are now ubiquitous, with dash-cams and body-cams being installed constantly in new precincts, municipal and private security cameras everywhere, and citizens with cell phone cameras on every corner. The New York Times reports that a lawyer representing Feidin Santana, the North Charleston, South Carolina man who recorded police office Michael Slager killing Walter Scott on his cell phone, is sending out cease-and-desist orders to media organizations for their continued airings of the video. Fair use allows footage of such news value to be aired around the time of the news, but the copyright holder regains more rights after the initial newsworthiness wears off. The rights of citizens to record the police are not wearing off, and if anything are becoming clearer. A few years back Reason rounded up rules for recording the police that still apply. Most importantly, look up what the law in your state is. Many states allow one-party consent recording. A few states require both parties to consent to any recordings, such as in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. No matter, look up the exact laws in your state before attempting to record police officers. The Reporter's Committee for the Freedom of the Press has a detailed "Reporter's Recording Guide" that also applies to any citizen. So, if possible, record police encounters visibly in the open, and remain calm, and do not lie to police officers if approached. You may be ordered away from the scene for other reasons, such as security. In the United States there’s no law requiring you to carry a government ID. In 24 states if police have reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity they may require you to identify yourself. You may have to ask an officer “Are you detaining me, or am I free to go?” to find out if they have a reasonable suspicion of you. It is best to cooperate as much as you can and move as far away from the officer's attention to still record whatever is going on. Reason recommends posting any video to YouTube rather then turning it over to police. If an officer orders you to stop recording or you will be arrested, they may be wrong, but you still are likely to be arrested if you continue recording. Reason recommends using streaming apps that automatically show the video instantly as well as archive a recording for later and always passcode smartphones. Reason stresses that phones, cameras, or any devices should never be pointed as guns.
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