Rules for recording the police

Published: Jul. 7, 2016 at 6:48 PM EDT
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The investigations continue into two police shootings that left two victims dead. The two incidents, shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile of Minneapolis, both of those shootings were made public because someone nearby saw what was happening and took action.

"See he's down, why, why are they pulling the gun," said Christine Church, Cooley Law School Dean, as she watches of video of Sterling.

"That was that one piece of video where they've got him down" Church says watching the video.

She says if that video wasn't filmed it's likely it'd be years before we saw what happened.

"I think cellphone video has changed american justice" she said. "Now we have videotape, rather than a he said/she said kind of testimony."

You have the right to record the police as long as you don't get involved and interfere.

"If it's a bystander who is simply recording what's going on then that's been held to have to be constitutionally protected by the First Amendment," Church explains.

She said after a 2012 case with Christopher Sharp against the Baltimore City Police Department.

The Department of Justice's opinion said, "the application of this right to the conduct of law enforcement officers is critically important because officers are 'granted substantial discretion that may be used to deprive individuals of their liberties.'"

Since officers know it's the public's right to record them. they've made it part of their training.

"That's the nature of the job," said Sgt. Michael McDonald. "No matter what you're doing it's always been that way even before this time where we have cameras that everybody is always watching."

And that's what they teach their recruits. As State Police training commander, Sgt. McDonald says he tells future officers that they like politicians, athletes, and celebrities live in a fishbowl -- under constant scrutiny.

"No matter where we're at. If we walk into a restaurant, sit down to try and eat or have something to eat, people are watching what you're doing" Sgt. McDonald said.

He says the possibility of being taped should remind him and future offices that they represent the law.

A law that says filming is legal, "cameras are here to stay. They are a part of our society," Sgt. McDonald.