Teen Vogue: How to safely and ethically film police misconduct

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/05/28/teen-vogue-how-to-safely-and.html


Have a white friend hold the camera, the police are less likely to assault them.


“Safely” is debatable at best. I’ve read of plenty of instances of bystanders that were documenting the police get roughed up, or intimidated/targeted after the fact. Not to mention that journalists also purposefully get targeted by law enforcement and its not uncommon for their gear to get smashed/damaged and if at a protest it’s likely that they will “accidentally” get shot by rubber bullets.


If the police officer tells you to back up, comply with their orders.

As a first approximation this is useful advice, but if you are 30 feet away and nobody else is being asked to back up maybe not.


I would argue to be as discrete as possible when filming. Do we really need to be holding the phone camera at arms length, as though we’re taking a selfie, when filming video? Does the phone camera have to be at head-height to get the best shot? How about holding it lower so it’s not so obvious what you’re doing? Or holding it like you are checking the latest karen subreddits rather than filming the cops?


You might also want to consider using one of the apps that streams your video to the cloud so police can’t just confiscate your phone and delete it. The ACLU created an app for Android and iOS specifically for this purpose.



Depends on your primary goal. Are you just trying to capture misconduct with the idea of exposing it later, or are you actually trying to stop that act of abuse by letting the police know their actions are being recorded and broadcast, so maybe they should exercise a tiny bit of constraint?

Obviously if you take the latter approach you’re probably putting yourself at a higher degree of risk, but some would consider that worthwhile if it has any chance of stopping someone from being beaten to death.


As man in his 50s this is rather awkward to say, but I’m in love with Teen Vogue.

I have been an activist trainer. Where demonstrations or affinity groups with a specific goal are preparing ahead of time, a lot can be done to minimize risks.

One is that you bring in legal observers. Law students, law professors and pro-bono lawyers are great insurance and can help with the training as well as setting the heads straight of people who seem intent on creating a confrontation that could muddle the intended message of the demonstration. If you’re -not- demonstrating against police brutality, and your event turns into a battle with the police, that becomes the story rather than what you were there to protest.

Next, if you are going to an event and can foresee yourself being in this position of recording the event, consider a role that is separate from the demonstration. As the article suggests around avoiding biased language while filming, you can establish yourself as an “observer” even without formal press credentials by having a big sticker or pin that says OBSERVER or (if you have an established blog etc.) PRESS. Your actions leading up to your filming could possibly help or hinder charges of bias. This also doesn’t absolve you of all the other advice in the article.

You can also apply to law enforcement offices for a press credential/pass but there’s a sold argument that such a “requirement” is BS. If you do get one of these from the same agency that’s policing the event, though, you are much less likely to be hassled or shut down so long as you do comply with a direct request from an officer to stand elsewhere. If you are truly there as an observer, being in the middle of the crowd is not the best place anyway - and that’s where those orders are usually directed. If it were me in the recording role, I’d try to stay within visual range of the legal observers and be sure they know who I am.


True, that. Before the advent of smart phones or cheap video recording capabilities, I found myself in a few situations where the misconduct and injustice being done to others required me to stand witness or else be a trash person. No one was recording, and I was unjustly arrested more than once, spent the night in jail more than once. The legal system told me that unless I had the wherewithal to take the matter to the Supreme Court (state level) I’d get nowhere because the local judge was brother in law of the arresting officer or some such.
“Safely” calling law enforcement to justice or accountability is tenuous, but a noble pursuit. Keep on keeping on, teen vogue and all you warriors! It’s a battle worth fighting. Best to be smart about it.


Shit, they just arrested the CNN crew on live TV in Minneapolis!


Police and National Guard patrolling neighborhood and shooting civilians on their own property. [Minneapolis]

Well, they did not loudly say “officer, I am going inside”, so they are to blame, right? I mean, it is definitely their fault. Living on a street where this happens, what are they thinking?

Disclaimer: I have no idea what happened before, and what the current rules and regulations are.

But frankly, I don’t give a fuck.


I think that in long ago times, say before 03-March-1991, recording police murdering someone on a public street might have been a deterrent. These days, now that they have a proven record of getting acquitted despite video evidence, I think it would likely result in two beatings (or deaths) instead of one: the original victim and the person trying to prevent it.

I’m sure as hell not saying people shouldn’t use whatever privilege they may have to deter the police from harming others, I’m just saying it may not be as effective as we might hope.


I’ll say it again; it’s time to start using drones to record police brutality.

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Permalink for a redditor collecting videos of police misconduct into a comment.

In one recent case at least it looks like the realization they were being filmed prompted a cop to remove a fellow officer‘s knee from a citizen’s neck.

It probably also helped that the witnesses outnumbered the cops and made themselves hard to ignore.


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