Is it OK to Video Record On Duty Police Officers?

Brandon Dimmel's picture

A case in New Hampshire has raised an important question in an age when just about everyone has a smartphone equipped with a digital video camera: should people be allowed to video or audio record the actions of on duty police officers?

The case in question involves New Hampshire woman Carla Gericke, who was arrested and charged with wiretapping in 2010. Gericke was caught recording her friend being questioned by the Weare Police Department during a late-night traffic stop.

Woman Never Ordered to Stop Recording Traffic Stop

Gericke was actually in a car behind her friend and announced to police on the scene that she planned to record the event. The police officer who pulled over Gericke's friend ordered Gericke to return to her car, but never ordered her to stop recording.

Somewhat ironically, Gericke's phone malfunctioned and the recording never worked. Nevertheless, she was charged by police. (Source:

Gericke was arrested but her case never made it to trial. She eventually sued the Weare Police Department, alleging that her arrest violated her constitutional rights. Now, the police department has settled the civil case; as a result, the Town of Weare (located in south-central New Hampshire) will have to pay Gericke $57,000. (Source:

Settlement Sets Important Precedent, Gericke's Attorney Says

Seth Hipple, Gericke's attorney, suggested that his client's settlement sets an important precedent.

"Sometimes, the only thing that changes entrenched behaviors is if it becomes too costly to continue those behaviors," Hipple said. "This settlement helps to make it clear that government agencies that choose to retaliate against videographers will pay for their retaliation in dollars and cents. We are confident that this settlement will help to make arrests of videographers a thing of the past."

Across the United States the growing trend is towards removing or altering laws that prevent citizens from filming on duty police officers. That said, some states are holding firmer than others; for example, Massachusetts has refused to remove a law barring the secret audio recording of police. There, one woman continues to face wiretapping charges after using her mobile phone's microphone to audio record her arrest last month.

In New Hampshire, where Gericke would have faced a trial, law bars people from recording police officers if cops have ordered people to disperse for safety reasons. Had the case gone to trial, the most critical question would have asked if police truly feared for their safety when Gericke video recorded their activity. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Should people be allowed to video or audio record on duty police officers? Is this an important part of ensuring that police officers respect the rights of U.S. citizens? Or, do you think the Gericke case sets a troubling precedent that puts police officers in danger?

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Alan Wade's picture

Here in Sweden (and proberly other parts of Europe) we watch the TV series cops can but only smile at the abuse of authority they show. It seems, from the tv programs I have watched, that everybody is guilty until they can prove their innocence! Fortunatly for the rest of the world, it is the opposite and cops in most other countries actually care more about the people than their arrest record. For a country that assumes they are the police of the world, they have a lot to learn!

Denalai_2494's picture

Always amazed how Europeans have a superior air about themselves when it comes to commenting on the US. After witnessing the tragedy in your country and how your police force behaved, I am not sure you have the right to criticize. You get your opinions from TV and act like you know all about the American legal system. Try educating yourself, and stop being a know it all. If it were not for the efforts of the US, countries like yours would have long ago fallen under the control of people like Putin. You manage to have the life you do because of the efforts and sacrifices made by countries like ours.

dlanthony's picture

They are public servants, not undercover cops. We pay their wages and salaries, we have every right to record any and all public incidents.
If law enforcement wishes to contend this, then they must also remove ALL recording devices from law enforcement vehicles including any and all computers, cell phones, video recording devices. In other words, "What's good for the Goose is good for the Gander.
What gives them the right to record arrests and use against individuals, but we can't record and use against a "Bad Cop"? In some countries the police are so corrupt that it is cameras that keep them from abusing their power.
So here is a question; Why are they so afraid of the public recording them?
And what about the Cop that was pictured doing a "Good Deed"? I believe that was in NY. If not for the person who took that shot no one would have known that most law enforcement officials do have a heart.

Denalai_2494's picture

I have mixed feelings about this. It is difficult to be on public display all the time and try to do things perfectly. Being recorded makes it even more challenging. As a teacher I would never allow students to record lessons after a student recorded the private conversation a student had with another student once a lesson was over. Do I think it can prevent abuse, yes, but too many are out there trying to bring the police down and try to set up the police. Just not sure about this.

toj1's picture

By all means this should be legal, are we in a Nazi Society now? Do the Police do things they should not? I hope not.

aquaman100_2510's picture

I don't feel there should be any problem. It is a record that procedures have been properly followed in making an arrest or negligence in following procedures. Now if it was in a situation of endangering an undercover policeman I would have a problem with that. The recording of a uniform cop making an arrest would be evidence that could have a case thrown out of court due to harrassment by the individual making the arrest. The police in turn should be able to supena the evidence in question to show whether arrest was proper and have it thrown out of the system and disapline or remove the officer in question.

jlinstrom's picture

If I can see it, why can't I video it?
Unless my video equipment is HUGE, how much more disruptive is my body than my body & a smart phone?
Why can they video me, but I can't video them?
What are THEY trying to hide?