At Cop Block, we’re big advocates of filming the police and this video from the Cato Institute provides one of the clearest explanations as to why we hold this position.
Judges and juries will often take the word of a police officers above the word of a non-police officers despite the fact that police are just as capable of lying and committing crimes as the rest of us. Because of this, it’s important for people to keep reliable records of their encounters with the police. Video cameras are one of the best ways to do this.
Furthermore, the mere presence of a camera can be enough to deter a cop from using excessive force, making false arrests, lying on a police report or in court, or engaging in other illegal behavior. Police are much less likely to lie or commit crimes if they know that a judge or jury might end up seeing video of the incident in question.
Even when police record encounters with dash cams or surveillance cameras, individuals should still film the police. As the video shows, there’s always a possibility of the dash cam/surveillance footage “disappearing” due to a mysterious “technical error.”
Not only is filming police legal under most circumstances, there are no compelling reasons for banning it. Police are public servants, so members of the public need to be able to hold them accountable for their behavior in the same way that a business owner or manager must have ways to hold his/her employees accountable. Indeed, it’s not particularly uncommon for people working private sector jobs to be filmed constantly while working, so I have a hard time acknowledging complaints about members of the public filming police as anything other than whining. If police don’t want people to make records of their on-the-job behavior, then they’re welcome to quit.