Street Smarts reader Phillip Jefferies, of Bothell, asks: Does Washington state law allow citizens to record police stops?
This was in response to a video from a North Carolina Uber driver, who took video of a traffic stop and was challenged by the officer on its legality. The video quickly circulated on social media.
For the record, it is legal to take video of police doing their work in North Carolina — and everywhere else. (Two of my favorite words: First Amendment.)
Washington State Patrol Sgt. Mark Francis gave the confirmation for our evergreen environs: “It is not against the law in Washington. People can record to their heart’s content. The only guidance is it can’t interfere with a crime scene or investigation. For example, someone from the outside getting too close to a crime scene and we ask them to stay back, but they can continue to record.”
“On that note,” Francis added, “most agencies now audio and video record stops which is available via public disclosure. So anyone can get a copy of the stop.”
Troopers have dashboard cameras, commonly called dashcams. One captured video of Mukilteo shooter Allen Ivanov, for example, after a trooper took him into custody following the deadly July 30, 2016 attack.
Some local police agencies also use dashcams. No local police agencies currently use bodycams, cameras that are attached to officers’ uniforms.