October 6, 2020

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Law Enforcement Use of Recording Devices

 
Gordon Graham
Category: Law Enforcement

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol.

Today’s Tip is for all my friends in law enforcement. It has to do with using portable recording devices. Whether using in-car video systems or body-worn cameras, these devices should be utilized to document interactions with the public early and often.

Recording every encounter with the public can help increase professionalism, reduce citizen complaints, and build trust.

Your agency probably has policies in place that let officers know how much discretion they have when turning these devices on or off. Some of you may not be required to record every public interaction. I encourage you to record your encounters with the public as often as you legally and reasonably can. It’s a good idea to activate your recording device before each encounter. And let the other person know he or she is being recorded as soon as possible. Here’s why.

I’ve spoken before about the benefits of recording encounters with the public. Law enforcement personnel may be less inclined to do or say something questionable if they know the camera is on. Citizens are more reluctant to make false claims of misconduct when they know they’re being recorded. Mobile recording devices can also provide useful information during encounters that require the use of force.

But there’s another reason to record every encounter. It has to do with maintaining public trust. It’s common nowadays to see recorded uses of force on the news or on social media. These are typically followed by opinions and perceptions of whether the force was justified. Now, there are also instances where force was used, sometimes deadly force, and the officer’s recording device wasn’t activated. Usually, there’s a reasonable explanation for why the recording device wasn’t activated. But to some members of the public, the lack of a video looks like we’re hiding something. Just be sure to follow the laws and your policy regarding the activation of these devices.

Recording every encounter with the public can help increase professionalism, reduce citizen complaints, and build trust. And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Until next time, Gordon Graham signing off.

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