Recording the Police

April 5th, 2016 by Attorney Dan Carman

KY Criminal Defense Lawyer

Credibility is an important attribute to have in life. The quality of being believable or worthy of trust can make a big difference in many situations. Some members of society are assumed to be more trustworthy than others just by virtue of their job. For example, a recent Gallup poll examined a sample of occupations and found that nurses got the highest rating for being honest and having ethical standards. Number five on the list? Police officers. Certainly there is something inherent in wearing a law enforcement uniform and having the authority that goes along with it that can be quite intimidating, but is that equivalent to being credible? Why is it that an ordinary citizen who opposes a police officer’s version of events is unlikely to be believed?

Whatever the reasons may be, the availability and popularity of cameras on smartphones have helped level the playing field. They’ve been used by people passing a disturbance on the street, watching a friend or family member get arrested, being pulled over while driving, and in many other instances as a way of monitoring law enforcement and encouraging transparency. Filming police officers is not legal in every state, but it is allowed in Kentucky and can be a powerful incentive for them to behave honorably. Bullying innocent people into compliance or turning them into suspects inappropriately (for example, based on skin color) is police harassment that can be hard to prove without evidence.

There have been instances of people recording police encounters on their phones, having their phones confiscated, and then finding that the SIM card has been removed when the phone is returned (if it is returned at all). To help hold law enforcement accountable, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has developed a smartphone app to empower citizens, the Mobile Justice App. In tense situations, police officers may not be thinking as clearly as may be hoped, so protect yourself by announcing that you are reaching for your phone and explaining that you are accessing it in order to record the encounter. Do not argue or resist if the officer prevents you from doing getting or using your phone – your safety is more important than potential evidence and your attorney will be able to argue on your behalf later. Whether using a specific app or just your camera, be careful not to interfere with police duties.

If you or someone you care about is facing criminal charges, or if you have any questions about this topic, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Lexington, KY-based Carman Law Firm. As criminal defense lawyers with years of experience, we offer thorough, experienced representation. Call today at (859) 685-1055 or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.