Police had better get used to starring in amateur movies
It is not illegal to film the police on a public street, and the police are going to have to get used to it.
So long as video footage or photos do not influence the outcome of a trial, no one can tell you to put the phone down. And the only time police should be confiscating phones is if they feel they can use the content as evidence.
Police are calling the reaction to the arrest of an 18-year-old man at the Mardi Gras on Saturday a case of trial by social media.
Ten years ago, in the age before smartphones, the police would have released a press release saying “18-year-old charged with resisting arrest”. End of story.
Thanks to smartphones, we now know there’s another side to this story that at least one police officer didn’t want us to see.
Far from being a tool designed to show “selective” versions of events, the smartphone has ushered in a new, sometimes uncomfortable, level of transparancy.
Some people have asked why the person who filmed the incident didn’t give the footage to the cops, instead opting to upload the footage to YouTube.
Others have said they were right not to hand over the footage because they couldn’t guarantee it wouldn’t disappear.
The point is, pressing record was the most powerful thing bystanders could do on Saturday night.
If police don’t want to be filmed, they should ensure they’re following the letter of the law - just like every other law abiding citizen.
Police should not be above the law. Just like the public had to adjust to the presence of CCTV cameras, police need to adjust to the presence of smartphones.
In a press conference this morning Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch said it was “naive” of the officer on the recording to demand the bystanders stop filming. But Mr Murdoch may be surprised by how often police officers tell people to put down the phone.
Perhaps a little education is in order.
Follow Claire on Twitter: @ClaireRPorter
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