Can a police officer tell you not to record an arrest or traffic - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Can a police officer tell you not to record an arrest or traffic stop?

Picture of Facebook live video from Danny Oliver, Jan. 24. (Source: Facebook) Picture of Facebook live video from Danny Oliver, Jan. 24. (Source: Facebook)
PARMA, OH (WOIO) -

Virtually everyone has a cell phone. With the push of a button you can record what's going on around you, even put it out live on the internet.

But where is the line? When can police tell you to stop, or even seize your phone? The easy answer is that you can record anything you want as long as it is in public view. 

YouTube is packed with confrontations between police officers and citizens videotaping their actions. Some of them violent. Typically, they feature officers demanding that the video recording stop, or that the camera be handed over because it may contain evidence.  What are your rights?

"A policeman has the right to tell you to stop recording in only an extreme case," said Tim Dimoff, a former police officer and security expert.

For example, taping undercover officers could compromise their safety. Other than rare exceptions, attorney and Harvard Law Professor Neil Shouse said tape all you want.

"Courts have said that the police do not have an expectation of privacy in their public activities," said Shouse.  

He said what you can't do is interfere with an investigation in any way, and that is where things get cloudy. 

"Problem is there is no clear definition of what it means to interfere with their investigation," Shouse added. "Essentially they're using this 'interfering with our investigation' as a pretext to back you up so far that you cannot videotape them. Stay across the street.  Stay at least 10 feet away."

Deo Odolecki knows the subject well. He's been arrested by Parma Police while taping them more than once. 

"It doesn't matter cause you move back 10 feet they tell ya to move back 15.  You move back 15 they tell ya to move back 20." 

He spent 93 days in jail and has time remaining to serve but is out till an appeal is decided.  He is defiant.

"It's all based on their discretion and if they want to take you they'll figure out a way to take you."

There is a flip side to all of this according to Dimoff. 

More police have the use of body cams. 

"We're seeing citizens saying wait a minute.  I'm on camera I can't just walk down and file a lawsuit, so all this frivolous lawsuit stuff has decreased by 20, 30 percent," said Dimoff.  

No one knows that better than now retired Cleveland Police Officer Jim Simone, who kept the camera running in his cruiser from the beginning of a shift till the end.

"Because if I'm right I can prove it and if I'm wrong you got me," said Simone.

But not everyone in uniform feels that way, and that is where problems arise.  Another word of advice.  Watch your tone, don't inflame.

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