“Recordings of law enforcement activity benefit victims and innocent police officers by creating clear evidentiary accounts of what took place.”
– Larry Doyle, a legislative representative of the Conference of California Bar Associations.
The law is clear that police do not have a right to privacy when engaging in their duties. A bystander may videotape a police investigation so long as he/she does not interfere with the police investigation. To protect your rights and not cause interference we suggest you follow the 5 simple rules highlighted below.
The police will likely ask you to turn off your camera if you are filming them, however you have the right to do so if you are in a public place. Be polite and patient with the officers in your response to them. Do not escalate the situation. So long as you remain calm and know your rights, and speak respectfully and politely with the police your videotaping should not interfere with the police investigation.
You have the right to videotape a police investigation so long as you are not interfering with the police’s investigation. The easiest way to show your compliance with the investigation is to keep your distance and be mindful of the space. Do not stand too close to the police while videotaping. Stand back and allow them to proceed with their duties. So long as you are mindful of your space and theirs and cause no interference, the videotaping is lawful.
This is similar to being mindful of the space between you and the officers during their investigation, however this holds true to those around you. If you are on the street you do not want to interfere with traffic. Likewise you do not want to impede the ability for first responders such as emergency assistance vehicles or other law enforcement from reaching the scene.
If you wish to film a police investigation, asking repeated questions or causing a distraction would interfere with their investigation. Remember filming is allowable until it interferes with the police investigation. Thus if you are going to do so, try and do so quietly and without distraction to the officers.
When filming police you want to avoid any aggressive posture. Hold your camera close to your body at a level lower than your face so you can speak with the officer if necessary and maintain eye contact. Stay in control of your camera or phone before the officer approaches. Avoid suddenly reaching or grasping it. This way the officer can see what you are doing and not feel his safety is at risk.