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Whole World is Watching: Camera Phones Put Law Enforcement Under Surveillance

NCJ Number
Law EnforcementTechnology Volume: 35 Issue: 2 Dated: February 2008 Pages: 40,42,47
Mary Erpenbach
Date Published
February 2008
7 pages
This article discusses the widespread practice of videotaping law enforcement activities.
People are recording encounters with law enforcement with increasing frequency, leaving some officers to feel as if the public now has police departments under surveillance. Law enforcement professionals say that whatever their feelings about being videotaped while they work, most officers are fully aware of the ramifications of how the Internet can be used to generate unfair judgment and publicity; fears about how they will be portrayed in videotape could conceivably affect their on-the-job decisionmaking. For all the concern about camera phones and anti-police videos, though, virtually all law enforcement professionals say the cameras are here to stay and that the positives of the public’s ability to record police officers on the job still outweigh the negatives. The negatives for law enforcement have to do with whether the public is properly informed with respect to the context in which the video is shot. The positives are that the widespread practice of videotaping law enforcement activities may ultimately contribute to a greater public understanding of police work. While police officers do a public job in the public sphere and have little right to any expectation of privacy, many people will stop recording police officers if asked; further, if the recording captures a criminal matter, officers might seize the camera to review for any evidentiary material. Whether departments are affected by camera phones or not, many are implementing venues for disseminating information regarding camera phones, either during roll call or as part of their formal training.