BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Bakersfield Police Department partnered with the Bakersfield Community Policing Organization to host a panel discussion about how to record police officers in the line of duty. First responders say step one is knowing your first amendment rights.
“A member of the public has an absolute right to record officers in public places, or places that they have the right to be,” said Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry. “But what you don’t have an absolute right to, is to impede or interfere in a police investigation.”
BPD says keeping a safe distance from officers can help these encounters go smoothly.
“Interference can be direct interference, when you walk up on an officer in a traffic stop,” said Terry. The law also prohibits interference in other ways, such as doing something that distracts, delays or substantially interferes with the investigation that takes place.”
The panel says you’re within your rights to record during a traffic stop. Police say they’re not allowed tell you to stop recording on public property or take your phone under any circumstances … unless you’re being arrested.
“They absolutely should not do that unless they’re going to make an arrest,” said terry “That would really be the only conditions or circumstances where they would interfere in that way.”
If you record a police officer and think they broke the law, experts say you should call the department.
“Ask to speak to the officer in charge, whatever when things calm down,” said Nadine Escalante, a member of the Bakersfield Community Policing Organization. “Ask to talk to them so BPD can investigate and be aware.”
Some community organizers say recording police officers safely can help keep the community safe.
“There’s an importance to recording, it’s a tool for accountability,” said NaTesha Johnson, a member of the Bakersfield Police Community Collaborative. “So we know that there’s no guaranteed action of prosecution for an officer, but it doesn’t mean we should stop.”