How to Safely and Ethically Film Police Misconduct

The human rights organization WITNESS provides guidance on exposing violent and discriminatory policing.
Police dressed in tactical gear attempt to disperse crowds gathered to protest the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd...
Stephen Maturen

Over the past six years we’ve seen how critical video documentation can be in exposing violent and discriminatory policing, galvanizing public support around calls for accountability, and on rare occasions, even helping to secure justice in a courtroom. But far too often videos of police violence don’t lead to convictions, despite what appears to be clear evidence of abuse. While people are inclined to whip out their phones and film when they see something alarming happening, those videos are not always recorded in a way that can be used as evidence in a legal proceeding or to support advocacy tactics.

At the human rights organization WITNESS, where I work as the senior U.S. program coordinator, we’ve learned that video has a greater chance of making an impact when it’s filmed ethically and strategically, and released in coordination with advocacy and legal efforts. Using the camera in your pocket can be a valuable way to ensure the world bears witness to abusive policing and systemic racism, help hold authorities accountable, and advocate for the real safety of our communities. To help you film safely, ethically, and effectively, see the guidance below:

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