law and technology and rock and roll

recent | past | about | rss

In which the Ontario Court of Justice says it's okay to record police officers in the execution of their duties

Posted by Matt on November 09, 2013         Tagged with: crime

If you follow local news in the US (and if you follow the news at all in Canada, it's hard not to) then you've likely noticed the increasing and worrying trend of stories about police officers engaged in some truly awful conduct. (Of course, the fact that most of these stories come out of the US does not mean that Canadians are in any position to get all smug about it).

So it's nice to see a case like R. v. Zarafonitis come along and reaffirm that yes, you are allowed to record police officers in the execution of their duties. So when your constitional rights are being violated by a police officer with a very broad understanding of "appropriate use of force", you can at least take comfort in the fact that you are well on your way to becoming a YouTube sensation.

A brief excerpt from the judgment and a personal note after the jump.

[26] ... An officer who conducts himself reasonably has nothing to fear from an audio, video or photographic record of his interaction with the public. The public has a right to use means at their disposal to record their interactions with the police, something that many police services themselves do through in-car cameras and similar technology. The officer’s powers exist to allow him to protect the public and himself and to enforce the law; they do not extend to controlling the public record of what happened. The maintenance of that public record plays a significant role in the maintenance of the rule of law. The existence of this form of objective “oversight” has great potential to minimize abuses of authority and to maintain peaceable interaction between police and the citizenry, all of which is very much in the public interest. Interference by a police officer in the public’s exercise of that right is a significant abuse of authority.

Let me be clear: I don't hate cops. I personally know some very fine police officers who genuinely want to serve and protect the populace. But police officers have been placed in a position of power over regular citizens, and that power, like all power, needs to be kept in check.