Protect People’s Right to Videotape the Police

Our firm represents many citizens abused at the hands of police.  These cases are difficult to win, because normally it is a victim’s word against a police officer’s.  In one of our recent cases, Hammick v. City of Portland, we were awarded $175,000 against the City of Portland (the largest jury verdict ever against the City of Portland for police using excessive force). In that case, the police pointed their guns for no valid reason at three young African American men in a parking garage back on St. Patrick’s Day, 2007.   The jurors told our clients afterwords that they reached their verdict by relying on the testimony of two independent Portland State University students who witnessed the encounter. The jurors were clear: independent witnesses made the difference.

We advise people that if they are abused by police officers, they should find witnesses to back up their claims.  In our modern world, nearly everyone uses cell phones. Police officers across the country have been videotaped by cell phone cameras abusing citizens. However, police and state legislators are fighting back to prevent citizens from videotaping police officers.  Relying upon existing wire-tapping or eavesdropping laws, police officers are arguing in 12 states that all parties must consent for a recording to be legal.  Most state laws allow recording in public places where “no expectation of privacy exists,” however, many state officials are not recognizing this exception when it comes to filming the police.  Read this article regarding district attorneys prosecuting citizens for videotaping police in Massachusetts and Maryland.

Here in Oregon, citizens and attorneys need to be on the alert in the 2011 legislative cycle to ensure that police do not attempt to block citizens from documenting police abuse.  If you or someone you know has witnessed police abusing a citizen, or has been abused at the hands of an officer, please do not hesitate to contact our firm for a free legal consultation by calling 503-224-2647.