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You Can And Should Record Police Encounters: It’s The Law

December 3, 2012 by  

You Can And Should Record Police Encounters: It’s The Law

Your best defense against abusive law enforcement officers is a video recorder. Almost everyone now has a recorder with them at all times, thanks to advances in smartphone technology. People should use them.

The recorder is bane to the abusive badge-wielding enforcers who resort to force, intimidation, Tasers or worse if their subject doesn’t immediately comply with all demands, no matter how ridiculous or illegal. Because of this, many civilians who have recorded their own or other people’s encounters with police have found themselves handcuffed and sitting in the back of a patrol car.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a citizen’s right to record encounters with law enforcement by letting stand a Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling making the practice legal. It overturned an anti-eavesdropping law in Illinois that made it a class 1 felony — punishable by up to 15 years in prison — for anyone to record individuals performing their duties as law enforcement officers.

The case, ACLU v. Anita Alvarez, was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which helped to set up the case by providing cheap video cameras to potential litigants to help them record their police encounters.

The law barred the recording of any conversations without the consent of all parties. It was passed as an insurance policy for corrupt Illinois politicians as recorders became more prevalent in the 1950s. It often ensnared innocent victims who were simply recording their conversations in which promises or presentations were made.

Now you can record without fear. But it would be prudent to remember the words “ACLU v. Anita Alvarez” in the likely event the enforcer you encounter is unfamiliar with the ruling. And printing out a copy and keeping it in your vehicle would be prudent. Another relevant case is Glik v. Cunniffe.

Bob Livingston

is an ultra-conservative American and author of The Bob Livingston Letter™, founded in 1969. Bob has devoted much of his life to research and the quest for truth on a variety of subjects. Bob specializes in health issues such as nutritional supplements and alternatives to drugs, as well as issues of privacy (both personal and financial), asset protection and the preservation of freedom.

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  • Buster the Anatolian

    Perhaps folks that can manage it should install video cameras and recorders in their vehicles. There is also a ball point pen on the market that records 2 hours of video. I do not know how effective or what quality it is though.

    • eddie47d

      Good point. The best action is to be as nonchalant about any recording as you can so the cops or even a stranger won’t come after you and destroy the evidence. If you are the one being harassed by the police hopefully some good samaritan is quietly recording the act. Once again the ACLU is doing battle for our civil rights and all help is appreciated in protecting those rights.

      • Smoovious Laxness

        Also, if you have the technical ability to do so, while recording, have the footage streamed live to another location to be recorded there.

        That way, if your phone or camera is confiscated, they are unable to just delete the footage you took easily. You would still have the footage off-site.

        – Smoov

      • Bungal

        We should remember that the ACLU has access to tax funding where other lawyer organizations do not. We must also remember a very important point and that is the founder of the ACLU was a Communist. They are constantly trying to take away the items that local citizens in an area desire and, also, remembrance of our heroes that fought and died to keep us free. Our Nation was founded as a Christian nation and 85% that signed our Declaration were open to being “Born Again” Christians. Any religious group should have the right to express their beliefs. We even allow satanic worship in some of our military. Not good, but we are a free people unless we allow others to take them away, no matter what our beliefs.

  • Harold Olsen

    Even if the cop is aware of the ruling, if they are doing something they aren’t supposed to be doing, they’ll claim you are violating the law by recording them. Your cell phone or camera will be confiscated and the recording, most likely, will be erased. Their department will support them. Cops these days are little better than crooks. Most departments in big cities amount to organized crime agencies.

    • Bungal

      You are very correct in connecting organized crime and many police in our Country. But we also need to know where that pressure comes from on them. It comes from their friends in the Democratic Party. True, not all elected Democrats are corrupt in this, but many are in our larger cities. All major unions have MOB affiliations as we may know. Even the UAW has connections to the MOB. How serious is it?

      The FBI released tapped phone calls, tapped between Detroit and Louisiana before JFK or Bobby were killed. “You get the head and you get the tail!” Take out JFK and the appointee, Bobby, will move on. Also a video with Oswald exercising with the MOB in Louisiana was released. Gee, Warren Commission looked at CIA but not our FBI? We know JFK was considered a Moderate, but was Conservative in stopping some from attacking our rights. We note that the Liberal media is always painting JFK as a women chaser, but what does that have to do with murder?

  • Combat seabee

    You need to know the laws of the state that you are in., They differ from state to state!. For example, you can video tape someone in secret in N.Y., but if you include sound, it is illegal. To audio tape an encounter, the other party must be made aware of such taping, prior to the taping.
    This is how I have been led to believe the law in N.Y. works, but I may be mistaken!

    • Nancy in Nebraska

      I understand that that’s what they are claiming. But in truth, some states require that you inform others that PRIVATE conversations are being recorded but conversations held in PUBLIC are not protected!!! Nothing done IN PUBLIC is protected! Many times police have arrested bystanders who take videos, for “obstruction of justice”. They are later released because they are doing nothing illegal, but consider that they end up having to pay big bucks for a lawyer and have the inconvenience of spending a night in jail. In these instances, the officers should be punished by losing their jobs AND personally having to pay damages to the person they harmed! Bullying by the police should not be allowed!

      • Robert

        I agree with you, any cops doing illegal arrestted, should be fired and pay all the damages and loss jobs.

      • GRusling

        No matter what anyone tells you, and no matter what State you’re in, it’s NEVER illegal to video and/or audio record ANY public servant in the performance of his/her official duties, as long as you are legally in their presence. The one exception to that MIGHT be when a Judge is in their chambers, and that’s also legal if the Judge is doing something illegal.

        I work in law enforcement and our officers all welcome any and all such recording. To object would cost them their job. IMMEDIATELY if not sooner…

        George in Texas…

      • ibcamn

        one thing you have to remember about the police,they are the biggest gang in the usa!they are only as corrupt as the people they work with and they get away with as much as you allow them to!..learn what questions to ask and which not to ask and how to act!recording is all good and well but can be gone around by a swarm of cops at youre location or by the corrupt judges they work with!go to web sites they tell you how to interact with the police in your state or states you frequent!trust me,im a lifetime biker and i can tell you right now knowlage is your best weapon against corrupt cops and judges!..not wanting to stoop to their level but sometims digging up dirt on your favorate judge or cop is your best weapon against corrupt cops and judges!.i knew about a judge that took 5 martinee lunches(i dated the waitress at the uppedy pub he drank at),so my lawyer took advantage of that and made a deal with the DA(who already knew it)to reduce the charges against me!!(please try not to stoop to that level,it does come with nasty consequences!)

  • Patriot higgins

    The criminals can take your camera BUT now you can upload the video instantly
    to u tube for just that reason.

  • dan

    ….and NOTHING electronic is erased until recorded over…and THEN it can STILL be partially recovered by forensic experts.

    • Mr Diesel

      Wrong. Disk drives for the last 5 or 6 years are unrecoverable after writing over. Solid state memory is even worse.

  • RichE

    I’m amazed the original eavesdropping law was ever passed.

    • Mr Diesel

      Why? Anytime a government can take away any of its citizen’s rights they will do so and with great frequency. All in the name of security…..

      • RichE

        You’re right, I shouldn’t be amazed.

    • GRusling

      Unconstitutional laws are a dime a dozen… at both the State and Federal levels… 99.9% of the Patriot Act is TOTALLY unconstitutional because most aspects of it violates the Bill of Rights… Under NO circumstances can any federal or State lawmaking entity create a legitimate law if it violates the US Constitution or any of it’s Amendments…

  • justathinker

    stream your encounter to the internet or your attorney: Qik Video, upload to your cloud service & YouTube. There are other services.


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