ADVICE ON RECORDING A POLICE STOP AND AND SEARCH
If police officers are acting unlawfully, filming them can provide evidence and help the victim get justice or compensation.
It also helps HISSMG improve practice and training.
Can I legally film the police?
Sometimes the Police themselves don’t know the law and ask people to stop filming when they have no right to do so.
There is no law stopping anyone filming in a public place, so if you are on the streets you can film without asking permission. The Metropolitan Police’s own guidelines state that “police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel”.
There is ONE exception, under Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000. The police can stop you filming if they have a reasonable suspicion that the video will be used for terrorist purposes. However, this would not apply to the vast majority of stop and search situations. Police guidelines state:
“it would ordinarily be unlawful to use section 58A to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities… An arrest would only be lawful if an arresting officer had a reasonable suspicion that the photographs were being taken in order to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.
For more information, the following website provides a summary of the Metropolitan Police Service’s official guidance to police officers and PCSOs around photography in public places.
WHAT TO REMEMBER WHEN FILMING
Get the consent of the person being searched, if possible
A stop & search is often a humiliating experience for the person who’s been stopped, so it is best to ask them first if it’s OK to film – while assuring them you are just filming the actions of the police to ensure that the search is conducted fairly.
Example: “I’m here to make sure the police don’t do anything to you that they are not supposed to. Is it ok if I film what the police are doing?”
Most people will say yes. If they say ‘No’ you should respect their privacy. That does not mean you cannot continue to watch what the police are doing from a respectful distance.
Keep calm and focus on recording what you see. Do not get in the way and do not get involved in what you are filming, or you risk being arrested for obstruction.
If police officers say that you are obstructing them in their duties, simply step back but carry on filming. Remember that legally they have no power to stop you from doing so.
Focus on the actions of the officers. Your priority is to collect evidence. Make sure you are close enough to record any police abuse, threats or orders. If you are concerned that the sound may not have been picked up, then repeat what the officer said as exactly as possible on camera.
Film the officers’ numbers: police officers are supposed to wear numbers, which are usually on their shoulders and will help identify to them. You can also read out their numbers on camera, to help ensure this information gets recorded.
Film some sort of landmark, such as a street sign or major building immediately after the event and state on camera the date and time.
When the person who has been stopped & searched is let go by the police, ask them if they want to swap details so you can pass them the footage if they need it.
Uploading to You Tube or other websites: You should not do this unless you have the person’s prior permission to upload the film to YouTube or other website. Where uploading the film may be in the public interest – e.g. because it shows illegal behaviour by police, then you should make sure the person being stopped cannot be identified by blobbing out their face or distinctive items of clothing..
Basics tips to help you capture better video footage:
- Keep the camera still! Don’t move it around all the time, you need a clear and steady shot. A good tip is to hold a shot for 10 seconds minimum, before moving to another.
- It’s best to keep a steady shot that shows all the action. Don’t zoom in and out all the time. If you do zoom in – to film something important like a police number – make sure you zoom out again to make sure the video catches the end of the encounter.
- After you’ve finished filming, keep the footage safe and back it up as soon as you can.