Recording police encounters

Student beating caught on tape

Student beating caught on tape

Anybody who has done street pro-life work very long has encountered the police.  The overwhelming number of police officers do a great job, but there are some who really like to throw their weight around.  Others are confused about your rights.  And, as this video makes clear, there are some police officers who will lie and tamper with evidence to cover up their own misconduct.


For your own protection, we recommend you audio-record all of your public activities and, where possible, videotape.  It is your right to do this.  It creates an indisputable record of what you did and didn’t do.  It also discourages people from assaulting you on the street.

If an officer tells us to stop recording, we comply.  When approached by officers, we tell them that we are wearing audio recording devices and are recording the conversation.  If a video recorder is operating, we tell him that, too.  If he tells us to turn them off, we reply, “Officer, I will comply with your demand, but I need to ask you by what law or regulation you are compelling me to turn it off.”  Whatever he answers, we turn it off.  If he tells us to leave, we leave.  There will be plenty of time later to bring a civil rights action against the police/city, and it’s better to be a plaintiff in a civil rights action than a defendant in a criminal complaint.

By the way, we save ourselves a whole lot of trouble by formally notifying the police when we are planning to conduct operations within their jurisdiction.  This gives the chiefs a chance to check us out and tell the street cops to leave us alone.

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