Do you have a right to record officers?
It is not unusual these days to see online videos of law enforcement recorded by someone stopped by them or by a bystander watching an interaction unfold. While often the recording shows nefarious acts by these officers, sometimes, they show acts of kindness. Obviously, if nothing of note happens when someone records a video, they will not post it. After all, they want the views, and a boring video of a routine traffic stop will not cut it.
You may have also seen officers telling someone who is recording that he or she must stop. This has led to a lot of confusion about rights when it comes to recording officers in the line of duty. According to the New York Times, in general, you have the right to record law enforcement activity. However, it is not a blanket right without restrictions.
Only certain areas
The main restriction is that you can only record when you are on public property or private property, such as your home. Officers should know your right to record in New York because the police manual directly explains this right and outlines it for officers.
The court gives the right to restrict recording to officers when you are in law enforcement buildings. The justification is that these may be public areas, but they also serve as protected areas because people there may be crime victims who do not want to be on a recording. Furthermore, there may also be undercover officers in the area who cannot be on video for their own safety.
There are those who say that such a legal restriction is not fair and violates your rights. They say that justifying it on the basis that people need protection within the building does not stand up because they could easily keep those people out of the public areas of such buildings.
Neil S. Ruskin
188 Montague Street Suite 900
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Local: (718) 237-1547