First Amendment Audits
Category: Law Enforcement
Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for law enforcement.
People have been trying to bait or goad police officers into acting unprofessionally since long before video cameras were even invented.
Today’s tip is mostly for law enforcement officers, but it applies to other government employees too. Today tip is about something that has been called the “First Amendment Audit.”
Unfortunately, we have all seen videos online of officers saying and doing things that they shouldn’t. Unprofessional things. Rude things. Stupid things. And even illegal things.
The idea of people video-recording police officers, police buildings, and other public spaces is nothing new. And people have been trying to bait or goad police officers into acting unprofessionally since long before video cameras were even invented.
In the last few years, a variation of this seems to be increasing in popularity. It is something called a “First Amendment Audit.” If you haven’t been “audited” yet, and even if you have been, you should expect to be. Basically, a person (or more often a group of people), will enter a public building while openly video recording. Many times, the cameraperson will also be narrating. They will engage in discussion or banter with employees and with police officers who respond.
As a proud citizen of this great county, I have great respect for people who sincerely desire to hold their government accountable. Frankly, we should welcome this idea. The vast majority of law enforcement professionals are up to the test. But unfortunately, videos of officers “passing”, and doing everything right, don’t go viral.
Many of these folks seem to pre-plan their words and actions. It’s probably safe to say that at least some of them expect, and even hope for, a certain response. Some may try to bait you into an argument. Some may be disrespectful, rude, and condescending.
It doesn’t matter if you think you are being recorded or not. Be polite. Be friendly. Be professional. Be helpful. Do not engage in debate or argument. You might give a stellar speech. Well-founded in law, fact, and logic. But there really is no “winning” an argument in this setting.
The public’s right to record in public spaces is guaranteed by the First Amendment. When you took your oath, you swore to uphold the Constitution. This includes the First Amendment. Be vigilant in protecting this important right. Look forward to your next opportunity to pass an audit with flying colors.
And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.