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It used to be rare to capture police brutality and misconduct on video. However, now that everyone is carrying around a camera in their pocket and have the ability to go live on social media platforms, recording police interactions with the public have become more common. People are often met with hostility from the police when they are attempting to record an interaction. Sometimes the police say that you can’t record them. That’s not true. You have a right to record the police in public. 

In Illinois, it was once illegal to record the police without their consent. However, that law was successfully changed in 2012 to allow for the public to record police officers who are in public performing their duties. Citizens in Illinois can now lawfully record police interactions with the public without fear of being arrested. This is a valuable tool in the fight against injustice and racism that is often inflicted upon Black and Brown citizens by the police. Chicago is notorious for police brutality and misconduct against its Black population. Over 70% of time a Chicago police officer uses force on a citizen it’s against a Black citizen. 

Capturing police brutality and misconduct has helped victims and civil rights attorneys in Chicago get justice against the police. When recording the police, it’s important to be careful in your actions to avoid putting yourself in harm’s way or gets you arrested. Here are a few tips to follow when recording the police. 

Record From A Safe Distance 

Police interactions can sometimes end with someone being seriously injured or even killed. Because of this, it is important that you record from a safe distance. Oftentimes, people try to get close to the incident to capture every detail of what is occurring. However, this can be dangerous for the person recording. First, the police might not know whether you are recording or trying to involve yourself in the incident. For this reason, keep your distance. Stand across the street or from a distance that clearly indicates you are not trying to interfere. 

Record In An Obvious Way

Just as it’s important to record from a safe distance, it is equally important to make your recording obvious. Don’t sneak around or lurk in the shadows. Let it be known and obvious that you are recording. This can help the police know your presence is not hostile to their actions and it might help to deescalate a situation that might overwise end in police brutality and misconduct. 

Narrate The Events

Video recordings of police excessive force incidents have become very common. The most helpful are those that are narrated by the person recording. As a Chicago police brutality attorney, I’ve seen police officers and their attorneys attempt to discredit video evidence by making false statements about the distance the recorder stood or the angle the video was recorded from. They have even suggested that the incident was longer and the person recording started recording after the person injured by the police supposedly took actions that required the police to injure or shoot them. Narrating the video to state things such as your distance, when you started recording, and what you observed that led to you recording can help a victim of police brutality and misconduct prove the police were wrong and unlawful in their actions. 

Do Not Engage The Police Directly 

You have a right to record. But you do not have a right to involve yourself in the police officers’ actions. That means you should never try to stop a police interaction or do anything that the officers could perceive as being a threat or trying to prevent them from carrying out their duties. You risk being arrested and prosecuted if you interfere in the interaction. Likewise, if the police tell you to move back, do not try to stop them. You can move back and continue recording. 

Lock Your Phone 

In my work as a Chicago police brutality attorney, I’ve seen many instances where police officers try to take a person’s phone to delete the video of them brutalizing a citizen. To prevent this, always lock your after recording a police interaction. This will prevent the police officers from easily gaining access to your phone and destroying the evidence. 

Save The Video & Consider Sharing It

Evidence of police brutality and misconduct is crucial in helping to combat police injustice. After recording the incident, save the video or download it. You can also email the video to yourself to ensure that it’s preserved in the event you accidentally delete it or get a new phone. Also, consider sharing the video. Even if you do not know the victim of police brutality, sharing the video with a police brutality attorney or with the media could help to identify the person and the officers. 

Recording the police is a right that you should exercise if you can do so safely. If you’ve been the victim or police brutality or recorded an instance of police brutality, you should speak to an experienced civil rights attorney that handles police brutality and misconduct cases. An attorney can advise you of your rights and help you to get justice. 

Can I record the police?
Can I record the police?

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