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Timothy Roufa

Should It Be Illegal to Videotape Police Officers?

By November 27, 2012

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Should citizens be allowed to film cops? Some officers and politicians don't think so, and they've tried to pass laws banning it. Fortunately, federal courts in the United States have ruled that it should not be illegal to video tape police on duty.

Officers and advocates for the laws have argued that by taping police, criminals and even terrorists can gain insight into police tactics and practices. The argument goes that they could then use the tapes to study how police approach vehicles, interact with suspects and conduct traffic stops. Criminals could then devise ways to defeat the efforts of police officers to do their jobs and make arrests.

On the other hand, police have already allowed themselves to be taped time again, such as through reality television shows like Cops and World's Wildest Police Videos. In addition, in most states, dash cam videos are public records, meaning the public can easily gain access to all the police videos they want.

In reality, preventing the public from taping police helps no one. While most officers are good, hard-working and upstanding citizens, we all know there are some rogue cops out there. Police must be held to the highest ethical standards, and toward that end citizens should not be deprived of the means to hold officers accountable.

Videotaping police officers fits right in line with the right of the people to freely express themselves and to be free of undue oppression from government authorities. If law enforcement is truly serious about its duty to uphold the constitution and defend and protect individuals' rights, then it follows that officers should be proud of their careers and welcome being videotaped in all aspects of their jobs.

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