A Rough Guide to Filming the Police during a Stop & Search
However, there are a few basic suggestions that may help you to be better prepared, can ensure that deciding to film the police makes a difference and can mean any footage has genuine value as possible evidence.
Why stop and film?
Ordinary people stopping and filming the police can mean that officers behave differently than they would if no-one was watching and recording their actions. This might make the experience for the person who has been stopped far less intimidating or threatening.
The more often the police are filmed stopping people, the more officers may come to expect that they may be filmed in the future, which can influence the way they generally treat people and whether stop & search powers are routinely used indiscriminately.
If police officers have acted unlawfully, filming them can help provide evidence if there is a formal complaint or if someone is arrested.
Can I legally film the police?
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 (adopted by all police forces in Britain) make clear that “police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel”.
There is a law – Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000 – that says police officers can stop you filming them if they believe that the video will be used for purposes of terrorism. However, police guidelines state that:
“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”.
This does not apply when you stop to film the police stopping and searching people.
What to remember when filming
A stop & search is already a humiliating experience for the person who has been stopped, so it is worthwhile asking them if it’s OK to film and assuring them you are just filming the actions of the police. Sometimes the police will try and stop you filming by saying it ‘breaches the privacy’ of the person being searched. You can get round this simply by asking the person who has been stopped, “I’m here to make sure the police don’t do anything to you they are not supposed to. Is it OK if I film what the police are doing?”
If there are two people with cameras, it is worthwhile both of you filming. Either both film the officers conducting the stop & search, or one person can focus on filming the other person with a camera if the police are harassing them.
Remember, police officers don’t want incriminating footage of them if they are acting unlawfully. This can sometimes leave you as a target so be mindful of what this when you are recording in case they try to arrest you.
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