- Written by Flex Your Rights
Videotaping or photographing police in public places is usually legal, so long as you don't interfere with their activities. Nonetheless, doing so will often get you arrested.
Police don't like to be watched or documented in any way, so they'll sometimes bend the rules to stop you. We've heard many stories about people who got arrested for taping police, and the charges are usually dropped. If you're taping or photographing police, make sure you don't interfere, because "obstruction" is the most likely charge, and you'll need to be able to defend against it.
Despite the risk of arrest, we don't discourage the taping and photographing of police. Video evidence is uniquely effective in exposing police misconduct. If you acquire video or photographic evidence that warrants an official investigation, create and secure copies of the evidence, then forward it to local police monitoring groups such as civilian review boards, ACLU, and NAACP chapters. You should also obtain legal representation for yourself in case the police department retaliates against you.
This article by Steve Silverman originally appeared April 5, 2012 at Reason.com. It's been updated to include new information regarding recent rulings in favor of citizens' right to record. -- "7 Rules for Recording Police"