Police Internal Affairs Investigators Confirm that Filming Cops in Public is 100% Legal
SEE ALSO: LibertyFight Filming Cops Archive

This all started one sunny day in July 2008. I was pulling into a store parking lot and suddenly saw a shaved-headed cop violently push down a little teenaged kid. Shocked to witness such a thing, I got out my digital camera and started filming. A plain-clothed detective then saw me and unsuccessfully attempted to interfere with my right to film. I filed a complaint against him and a police internal affairs investigation was instigated. Since the police asked to speak with me and were filming the interview, I brought my own camera along and filmed it too.

Since few people are inclined to watch a 50 minute interview, I have broken down the specific segments in which the two internal affairs police investigators repeatedly affirm that filming police in public is everyone's right. The following are transcript excerpts and video from that West Covina, California interview. The text of the complaint along with photos and video of the original parking lot incident can be found here.
For clarity and identification purposes of the investigators, "Cop 2" is the black cop and "Cop 1" is the white cop.

Police Internal Affairs Interview Part 2 / 5

At minutes 0-2:

Cop 2: "Whether they're a reporter or not has no bearing, we WELCOME (filming)..."

Cop 1: "If you have the right to be there legally, you have the right to photograph or film whatever you can see."

Starting around At minute 6, I ask if it is the policy to allow people to film police detaining/questioning suspects in public.
Cop 2 explains: "we really don't operate in the dark. If you want to film it, and you're legally there and you're not gonna be in harms way, we dont have any problem with it..." The officer goes on to confirm "you could have (filmed) because you were within your rights and within our comfort zone."

In the following video segment, the investigators once again reinforce that filming police in public is completely legal.
Police Internal Affairs Interview Part 4/5

Q. In West Covina anybody could, they're free to film

Cop 1: Not just West Covina

Q. You're with West Covina.

Cop 1: Yes.

Q. So you can't answer for the other departments

Cop 1: I can answer for everybody, yes. I can answer for everybody in California and everybody in the United States. You are free to film anyplace you're allowed to be legally.

Q. Right. I know that, that's what I started with. but.. reinforcing that, if someone sees someone in West Covina being pulled over by an officer you're saying they would go up to that car and film without any repercussion?

Cop 2: Remember we talked about the part before; if you want to film from what we consider a safe place, what everybody considers a safe place that's fine. The issue you may have is with the person we stop. He or she may not want to be filmed and that's within their rights. We don't deal with that.

Q. That's also in a public place so whether they like it or not, is irrelevent.

Cop 2: I'm just telling ya. We're not in that business. You're in that business. And if someone gets mad at you or doesn't get mad at you because of you filming that's..

Cop 1: But you know if you're- just put yourself in the officer's place. You pull somebody over, it's a relatively, you know its night, it's a relatively dark street. You see a car pull up, you cant see inside of it because its dark, you're gonna wonder what that person's doing there.

Q. You have to use your discretion.

Cop 1: You have to use your discretion. I'm gonna shine my flashlight at ya, if I see you're filming, and I recognize it as a camera and not a weapon, you know it's gonna be- ya know, I'm gonna be nervous about it- but it's one thing if I see you over there and it looks like you've got a camera but it looks more like a weapon I'm gonna probably react a little differently. So you have to- it's not just what's legal. You got to remember what's in the officers' mind.

Q. Respect his position.

Cop 1: Yes. and their paranoia, which is justified at times.

Cop 2: It's very difficult for us when there's one vehicle we stop and there's a second vehicle.

Q. Right, you gotta watch your back.

Cop 1: I've had two friends shot to death. On this department. So it's- those things are real. You know. And you can overreact obviously, to that threat or that possibility. But you still have to take precautions. Even if you're not overreacting, you have to take precautions. You know. You want to go home at night. So it's a very very fine line officers walk between your rights and our responsibilities. And being safe. So it's a difficult job. But it's one that has to be constantly reinforced with our standards, the departments standards, besides the law. The law is fairly clear. But our standards and our, the things we want from our officers, the things we want our officers to do and say, have to be reinforced constantly. So that's what we use any complaint as. Even if it's something that the officer didn't do anything wrong, but he could have done something a little bit better. So we're looking for the A+. You know, C's not good enough. We'll tolerate B's. But we're always looking to give the officer additional ways of dealing with a situation that's gonna not only be legal, not only be right but be best possible way with the best possible outcome.


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Martin Hill is a Catholic paleoconservative and civil rights advocate. His work has been featured on LewRockwell.com, WhatReallyHappened, Infowars, PrisonPlanet, National Motorists Association, WorldNetDaily, The Orange County Register, KNBC4 Los Angeles, Los Angeles Catholic Lay Mission Newspaper, KFI 640, The Press Enterprise, Antiwar.com, IamtheWitness.com, FreedomsPhoenix, Rense, BlackBoxVoting, and many others. Archives can be found at LibertyFight.com

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