Filming The Police


Phones and other devices have given people the ability to record and expose police misconduct. Sometimes, these recordings provide evidence for bringing charges against brutality, such as in the case of Oscar Grant. However, as this article explores, existing wiretapping and eavesdropping laws are being used to make it illegal to record on-duty officers.

Cases of arrest has been on the rise and prosecution has been most extreme in Illinois, where, incredibly, “the sentence for recording a police officer is considered a class 1 felony—on par with a rape charge—and can land a person behind bars for more than a decade.”

While an ACLU suit against the Illinois Eavesdropping act was dismissed in January, they have appealed and will resume in the fall.  Here is the ACLU on why the eavesdropping law is unconstitutional:

“The First Amendment protects the right to gather information for the purpose of sharing it with other people and for the purpose of using it to petition government for redress of grievances. And so for a long time courts have protected the right to record by various means what government officials are doing in public, so the press can publish that and so that citizens can use it to petition government.”

Lisa Dusenbery is the former managing editor of The Rumpus. More from this author →