Before you read this article about police station auditors, I am making it clear that I do advocate that any interaction with the police should be recorded. Police will often lie about an incident and, without an independent recording (by you, not them), you will likely fall foul of a lying cop in a ‘one word against another battle’.
I maintain you should always record the police.
What I do not believe in is generating an artificial incident for the sole purpose of goading a police constable to commit a wrong. This is what is more commonly referred to as ‘police station auditors‘.
Police station auditors are a group of people who intentionally ‘test the law‘ on police constables at police stations, recording their interaction with the police, sometimes on a live feed, but often later on YouTube (or other social media platforms).
These auditors tend to lurk around police stations, often claiming to be ‘making a documentary‘, or ‘having an interest in police cars‘ or even suggesting to be ‘fascinated by the architecture of the police building‘.
They use this script as the basis for reasoning when ‘eventually’ approached by a police constable.
Recording the police in a public place is not unlawful, but it will without question raise suspicions. The police often claiming the risk of terrorism which is a stretch, but when a camera wielding auditor is pacing up and down outside a police station suspiciously recording everything police related, could give the police some reasonable suspicions.
The auditors tend to record anything lawful to get a reaction, usually recording police staff or police vehicles in car parks. These recordings often capture police staff persona vehicles. I personally do not condone the auditors, but equally, I have no problem with their actions if all above board and lawful.
Once confronted by police, the auditor then awaits the standard police questions,” what are you doing“, “why are you doing it“, “can we have your details” before striking.
The auditors then stand their ground, obstructively pointing out they are lawfully recording public property or public servants and have a right to do so. They often say they are making a documentary before bluntly stating you can’t have my details.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Of course, this is well within the law (for now), and being awkward is not a crime. Nevertheless, I would doubt any court in the land would accept the actions of the auditors were official, credible or warranted, and I firmly believe that a court may say the auditors are intentionally goading police for a reaction (legal or not).
France recently published a bill to make it illegal to record the police. While it was dropped after protests, this does show that governments are seeking to prevent recording of the police by civilians, and relentless auditors could give them (the police), more ammunitions to seek at least some restrictions on us.
The police are public servants, and like it or not, the courts would likely offer them a certain amount of leeway in mitigation if argued they were obstructed in their job by auditors sticking cameras in their face, for no other reason but to put them on YouTube.
Auditors are ‘unofficial’ and while they are unofficial, they have no regulation or accountability.
Could the public create an official police station auditors system?
I actually believe that an official audit system could be created by the public where members of the public are trained by the public in correct auditing techniques following strict guidelines.
If done correctly, an official audit program could be introduced where selected random incidents are recorded (and monitored), including occasional recording of police stations, constables and ensuring the auditor maintains professionalism at all times. The auditor should follow an agreed code of conduct and any questionable incidents published, giving the necessary police force, and constables involved, a right of reply.
This also ensures that the auditors themselves are audited and all good, as well as bad audits are published in full.
Such a system could be presented to police chiefs. Not seeking their permission, but notifying them of the clear intention to correctly audit, and showing the guidelines that the public intend to follow.
Police chiefs could be asked to ‘work with us’ to audit the police services that they provide, paid for by us.
Of course, they would not agree to this in a million years, but presenting them an offering and an agreeable plan of action would go some way to make auditing official and at least, defendable if action is taken.
This would give all independent auditors, who do this for what they believe to be the right reasons, a code to follow so they cannot be accused of goading police for a reaction.
I fear the day when recording the police becomes an offence, and if or when it does, we, (or the auditors) will have caused a major setback in our own protection from the bad apples in the police.
Please feel free to comment on this article.