By: Juliana Shaw
2015-2016 Regional Attorney General
They are the ones we are taught to call when we are in trouble. The ones who swore to protect and serve you, me, and anyone else in the presence of threat or fear. They are the police. Recent events such as the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland have started a nationwide discussion of distrust toward police officers and what we as citizens have to do in the presence of law enforcement. Yet proving police brutality is no easy feat. In earlier years before the age of technology, this task was nearly impossible. However, with the help of major inventions such as cellphones and tablets, with recording devices attached, this task can be accomplished with the push of a single button. In 21st century America, technology is everywhere.  Kept close in pockets and purses, technology has given any and every person access to one thing if nothing else, a camera.  With this accessibility a door was opened; allowing society an opportunity to shine light on a group that was once deemed untouchable, the police.  As society hangs in the balance at a tipping point, the lack of knowledge of one’s rights and the inability to exercise them, can literally cost someone their life, liberty, and justice. 
Today, “police are relying on state wiretapping statutes to arrest citizens who film them in public.”  At one point in time, states such as Illinois even had laws in which it was a “Class-One felony to record a police officer, and if the person was convicted they faced twelve years in prison.” Although the federal government and several states have passed laws forbidding non-consensual recording of confidential communications, such statutes do not apply to an officer’s performance of official duties in public.  Regardless, a privilege has been recognized that all citizens of the United States have the right to film matters of public interest. Part of that public interest is filming law enforcement officers while they are conducting job related activities in public areas.  The U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged the importance of such a right. Yet, although this is a right written into the very foundation of our judicial system, officers nation-wide have used other means of getting around it. In accordance with wiretapping statutes from their prospective states, prior to such legislation, law enforcement officers relied on the doctrine of plain view to confiscate recording devices as well.  However, battling doctrines such as “plain view” is not where most find victory against their confiscators. Many are able to sufficiently find justice under one of the oldest laws of the land, the Constitution.