Filming the Police — Right or Wrong?

March 27, 2012

Police officers work in a very scrutinized world. A camera mounted on the front windshield of their police vehicles films every move they make. However, with camera phones becoming accessible, it now seems that citizen journalists are watching police, too.

In 1961, Illinois passed a state Eavesdropping Law, which banned citizens from filming police officers conducting official business, without the consent of the officer. People who violated this law were subject to being charged with a Class 1 felony.

However, according to the Huffington Post, different sectors of the legal system differed on what the law was supposed to mean. This meant that there was inconsistency in the law, who was charged with the crime and the punishment they faced when charged.

Recently, State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, proposed a bill – which was just recently passed – that would make the filming of police officers in public places legal. Surprisingly, the Chicago Police Superintendent, Garry McCarthy, supported the bill. His reasoning? It was just as bad for the citizens as it would be for the police.

The biggest issue with the ban on filming officers in a public place is that it violated people’s first amendment right.

Last year, in Boston, a court ruled that a man arrested for filming the police while making a drug arrest was not guilty of breaking a state law that bans audio recordings without the consent of both parties. The reason? Because past court rulings, coupled with the first amendment, make it a legal action.

An excerpt from the court ruling read, “Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting ‘the free discussion of governmental affairs.’”

After the Illinois law on Eavesdropping was overturned, there are currently no states who ban the filming of police officers while conducting their duties in a public place.


Using Photos and Slideshows Effectively

February 27, 2012

Pictures, put into a slideshow, can help a person tell a story. Whether that story is used to teach a lesson, or show the highlights of a recent family vacation, slideshows can be very useful.

Mindy McAdams, a journalism professor at the University of Florida, combined a series of 15 blog posts, which gave young journalists tools to become a better multimedia journalist. These are the five that I think are most important.

First, take multiple photographs of the person, or object, you are photographing. If it is a person, this allows that person to get more comfortable, or, it gives you, as the photographer, more opportunities to capture that person acting “natural.” It’s also important to understand that unused pictures can just be deleted.

The second and third keys go hand-in-hand, because they both revolve around learning the photo editing program, Photoshop. According to McAdams, this is the industry standard for photo editing and needs to be learned. Although it is an expensive program, most universities, including Oakland, offer it in their computer labs. It is highly important for journalism students to take advantage of this and learn the basics, especially how to: crop, tone, resize, sharpen and save in an optimized format.

The optimized format for Photoshop is the “save for web” option, because the other formats may corrupt the image being used.

Copyright laws are very important for a journalist to understand, especially if they are going to use an image that somebody else captured. McAdams stressed that using, “Photo courtesy of,” was not enough to protect a journalist form infringing on copyright law. A suggestion, for those working under Michigan media laws, would be to look at the Michigan Compiled Law in regards to digital copyright.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, it’s important for the journalist to understand what they are trying the story and images to convey to the reader. There is a popular saying that, “A photograph can speak 1,000 words.” That is true in photojournalism as well, but the journalist must understand what they what the readers to comprehend. If they can do that, then the photos, or slideshow used, will accomplish its goal.