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Recording Interaction with Law Enforcement

Following the many recent tragedies involving law enforcement around the country, the benefits of recording law enforcement’s interactions with citizens has become a hot topic again. In our opinion, recording law enforcement’s interactions with citizens is beneficial for all parties involved. Below is some information to help citizens understand this issue.

Recording by Law Enforcement. It has long been suggested that law enforcement should be required to film their interactions with citizens. While dash-cameras can be helpful and have been widely implemented, they are unable to capture many face to face interactions or any interactions which occur outside of their recording area. Thus, the focus has moved to law enforcement wearing Body Worn Cameras (“BWCs”). Many departments around the country have begun to implement these BWCs and the early results have been promising.  Perhaps the best study of BWCs has come out of Rialto, California, where – “[i]n the first year after the cameras’ introduction, the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%” (SOURCE). Given these statistics, it is hard to argue that BWCs have a positive impact on interactions between law enforcement and citizens.

Recording by Citizens. In North Carolina, it is legal to record police interaction with citizens so long as one of the involved parties consents. See N.C.G.S. § 15A-287. If you are the party involved you clearly can provide consent and if you are recording the interaction between law enforcement and another citizen, it is almost certain that your fellow citizen consents. However, it should be noted that when recording, you should not do anything to actually interfere with or obstruct an investigation.

Avoiding Deletion of Recordings. Many citizens complain that when they record their interactions with law enforcement, an officer will take their phone and delete the interaction and then lie about such actions. Thankfully, there are now Apps for your cell phones which will automatically upload videos to the internet to help combat such behaviors. One such app for Android is “Police Tape” another for Apple products is “Bambuser;” there are many others which record audio covertly.

The Recording Doesn’t Lie.          There are many reasons why law enforcement or a criminal suspect might not tell the whole truth. Even a third party witness potentially carries their own biases and scientific studies have shown that sometimes an eyewitness didn’t actually or accurately see what they believe occurred. In contrast, a recording is a completely neutral, completely accurate recitation of what truly happened. A recording can serve to convict or prove innocent the criminally accused and to vindicate or vilify a law enforcement officer accused of misconduct; but more than anything they will preserve a record of the truth.

Greensboro Police Department. It should be noted that the Greensboro Police Department often equips officers with Body Worn Cameras. (SOURCE)

For more information, contact the Clifford Division of Clifford, Clendenin & O’hale.


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