The police are breaking the law when they over-step their authority and abuse and/or kill people only because they have the power to do so. When the police commit crimes, citizens must gather evidence.
The police are breaking the law when they use their authority to stop someone from taking pictures and filming a 'police action'. They know that they are breaking the law. They claim to be sworn to uphold the law. What can a citizen do when the police are the criminals... gather evidence by taking pictures and shooting film of the crime being committed.
from Common Dreams by Abby Zimet
With the ongoing police killings of unarmed African-Americans - and the little-reported, all-too-common police targeting, harassment and arrest of those who record them - dozens of high-profile documentary filmmakers have published an open letter calling on their community to defend those citizen journalists who have "shattered America’s myth of racial equality (and) moved white Americans closer to conscience and consciousness." Signatories to the letter, organized by "(T)ERROR" director David Felix Sutcliffe and published at The Talkhouse, include Laura Poitras, Alex Gibney and many other prize-winning filmmakers, some of whom have won Courage Under Fire awards for making politically explosive works. All stand behind what Sutcliffe calls their "core belief that images have insurmountable power" to create change, and demand accountability.
Sutcliffe cites the importance of that power when confronting the "systematic and vindictive targeting of citizen journalists by law enforcement." The examples of those persecuted, prosecuted and traumatized for an entirely legal act are many: From Diamond Reynolds livestreaming the shooting of Philando Castile to Abdullah Muflahi documenting Alton Sterling's death to Kevin Moore filming Baltimore police dragging Freddie Gray to the van to Ramsey Orta, who filmed police choking Eric Garner and has been persistently stalked and arrested ever since. Sutcliffe calls on the Department of Justice to investigate these abuses against what are largely black and brown citizens who have taken on their task without the protection enjoyed by professional filmmakers. "By hurtling these images through the front windshield of public consciousness," he writes, "they have made it impossible for white Americans to continue ignoring a truth our leaders have spent centuries obfuscating: black lives matter. While our society struggles to absorb this truth, police departments nationwide have maneuvered to asphyxiate the efforts of those whose cameras and courage have revealed it." Similarly, multiple groups - Filming Cops, We Cop Watch, Photography Is Not A Crime - have formed in recent years to affirm his message: "Be the media."
from Cop Block
Documenting the actions of police employees can help protect you and others because it creates an objective record. You have the right to record anything in public – including, and some would say, especially – police employees.
Though police employees are people just like you and me, courts have ruled that police can lie to you, and that they may not be held accountable for their actions per unfair legal doctrines and practice like “sovereign immunity” and “acting under color of law”.
Recording your interaction preserves the truth for anyone to see. The camera is the new gun. It is the great equalizer. Film the police!