Police Commissioners review drafted policy of citizens filming officers

A group of Police Commissioners from the City of Eugene reviewed a draft policy last night regarding citizens filming police officers.

Prior to Policy 415, most departments did not have a policy to dictate the rules associated with recording police, said Pete Kerns, Eugene’s Chief of Police.

Police Commissioner Bill Whalen said an important part of the policy is that members of the public are able to record freely.

The drafted policy respects that citizens have a First Amendment right to video and audio record police on duty in a public place.

The drafted policy states that “officers should assume that they are being recorded at all times when on duty in public.”

Police Commissioners discussed and edited the policy, proposed changes to the language, and voted upon them at the meeting.

Commissioner Claire Syrett said she is in favor with the overall gist of the policy.

Syrett said the policy essentially states that citizens can videotape officers except in certain situations.

According to the draft policy, citizens may record as long as they do not get in the way of police actions. For example, getting in the way of an officer can include tampering with a witness, or jeopardizing the safety of an officer or victim.

Kerns attended the meeting and said students at UO recorded him when he went out on a ride-along on Halloween night and had to interact with students.

“It violates social norms but it’s not against the law, so I did not tell them to stop,” Kerns said.
Kerns also said in situations when an officer is in danger or has to use force, citizens should not feel violated if the officer tells them to move away.

“It is common for citizens to assume when they are told to step away that it is because the officer is afraid of being recorded, when in reality officers just don’t want to be distracted from what they are doing,” Kerns said.

The Police Commission will meet again in April to further discuss the precise language used in the policy and vote upon any further changes.

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Daniel Bieker

Daniel Bieker