Filming the Police: Be Prepared (Stop and Search)

 Filming the Police: Be Prepared (Stop and Search)

Pretty much everybody now carries a camera with them these days in the form of their cell phone. With this, more people than ever before are able to record the actions of the police.

While anybody can pull their phone out, switch to camera and start recording, there are a few things that you can do to be better prepared and that mean the footage recorded can be used as evidence should it ever be needed.

Why Should You Film the Police?

There are many good men and women in the world that are working to make the streets a better and safer place to be. There are also others out there that think they are above the law and act in ways they shouldn’t.

By simply flicking the camera to record could mean that the police officers behave and act exactly how they should. This can make it a much less intimidating and threatening experience.

The police need to realize that there is always somebody watching their actions and possibly recording them too. To help reinforce this, more people need to start recording the actions of the police.

If an officer chooses to act unlawfully, the footage can be used as evidence when making a complaint or if someone is arrested.

Is it Legal to Film the Police?

It is completely legal for anybody to film in a public area and this means that you can legally film the police without needing permission to do so.

The Metropolitan Police’s own guidelines make it clear that “police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel”.

There is a law – Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000 – that says police officers can stop you filming them if they believe that the video will be used for purposes of terrorism. However, police guidelines state that:

it would ordinarily be unlawful to use section 58A to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities… An arrest would only be lawful if an arresting officer had a reasonable suspicion that the photographs were being taken in order to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.

By filming the police during a stop and search, they can’t use that against you.

When Filming

Being stopped and searched is never really a very nice experience. It can be quite humiliating. If you see somebody getting stopped and searched, ask the person being searched if they mind you filming and tell them that you are just filming the actions of the police.

There are times when the police officers make false claims and try to stop you from filming them. They will often say that it ‘breaches the privacy’ of the person being searched. This is why you ask the person first and get their permission to film. Ask them:

I’m here to make sure the police don’t do anything to you they are not supposed to. Is it OK if I film what the police are doing?

Even if the person being stopped and searched is happy for you to film them, it is best to avoid filming their face. It may not be in that person’s interest to be identified on YouTube undergoing a stop and search.

The police don’t want to be caught doing anything on film that can be used as evidence against them. You do need to understand that for this reason, it can make you a target.

To avoid giving the police a reason to arrest you, don’t use your time to get involved in ‘what‘ you’re filming focus only on recording what you see.

If you are told that you are obstructing them in their duties, take a step back but keep filming. They have absolutely no power to stop you from doing so.

Focus only on the actions of the officers. The reason for filming in the first place is to collect evidence. By focusing on their actions, you can be sure that you record any and all abuse, threats or orders.

Always make sure that you record the officers’ number on camera too which is usually on their shoulders and is used to identify them even if they don’t give a name.

Here are some tips to remember when filming the police:

  • Inform the officer that you are going to get your phone out to film the search
  • Don’t obstruct the police and if told you are doing so, take a step back but keep recording. Keep your phone at a safe distance, don’t push it in their faces and make sure they can still reach everywhere they need to.
  • Try not to move around too much. Keep the camera still so you can get a clear and steady shot of the event.
  • Avoid constantly zooming in and out. You only really need to zoom in for the police numbers
  • If you are being searched, ask a friend or passer-by to film the encounter for you. If the witness uses their own phone to record, make sure they share the video with you afterwards

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