Is this even legal?
Admittedly I remain rather perplexed that the general public, referring specifically to the camera handlers, seem to be far more schooled on the state and federal laws that govern such activity, as well as the protections provided under the United States Constitution, than are many officers themselves regarding the matter filming in public.
Filming police officers on duty has become almost common place with the advent of the smart phone. The Internet is well fertilized with video of police officers and sheriff deputies performing their duties. New YouTube accounts are being generated monthly, loaded with video posted by people often referred to as “cop chasers.”
The legality and legitimacy of capturing video of these public servants, when done by the media or a well-established entertainment outlet, seldom if ever creates controversy of any kind.
The equation changes dramatically however, when private citizen John Doe wields a video camera or smart phone anywhere near an on-duty officer.
A very cursory glance of YouTube yields hundreds of videos made and posted by would-be, amateur journalists. Opinions as to whether or not anyone should so much as even engage in such activity, runs the gamut.
While I won’t necessarily join the debate by jumping in with both feet, I’ll likely put my toe in the water by the end of this article.
Oral board question – Being filmed while on duty…?
In the event that being filmed on duty, by a member of the public, should come up in your interview, how will you respond?
Chances are 100%, that if you’re asked this question, the oral panel knows that the filming of police, in a public place, by a member of the public, is legal.
Chances are also very likely that if they ask you a “filming the police question,” that agency or a neighboring agency, has had an issue of some sort in the past.
Presumably with one of their officers having been filmed. The outcome then, likely resulted in a policy being developed by that agency.
Recognizing that my statements are speculative it’s important to note that much of what comes out in the form of agency policy is the direct result of an “oops” moment by one of their officers.
With that, goes hand-in-hand, the reason that many agencies ask some of the interview questions they do. “Hot topic questions” are common on oral boards and so, I encourage you to keep abreast of what’s going on in the media as it relates to police news.
I can’t begin to count the times that I’ve read an official press release of an agency, after the crap hit the fan.
The press release will often go something like this “have reviewed and revised policy in order to…” in essence, prevent this issue from occurring again or to guide officer on how to manage these types of situations etc.
I’m openly suggesting that, as a police applicant, keeping up on current topics and the agency outcomes will only make you a stronger candidate when it’s your turn to sit down and interview.
What you need to know before your interview
Quick but powerful, this is what you’ll need to know for your interview. If you’re asked about the public filming police officers in the course of their duties, please know this.
It’s entirely legal!
While it may be irritating, obnoxious, weird, uncomfortable or even downright aggravating, it’s legal. Why?
Police officers, like anyone and everyone else in public, have no “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
So be prepared to tell the panel that you take no issue with being filmed by a curious citizen when you’re in public.
A bit of extra credit in your answer would include your desire to use that opportunity as a community policing event by making contact, time permitting, with the person filming you.
You’d do well to tell the panel that you’d introduce yourself and invite them to contact department administration should they wish to learn more about your agency.
You could also invite them to apply for a ride along or attend the next citizen police academy etc., should your agency officer such services to the public.
Finally, always keep this in mind. When you’re armed with knowledge of constitutionally protected activity and you know how to properly and diplomatically present that knowledge during your interview, your answers will carry an element that most other applicants’ answers won’t.
And that’s a good thing.