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Are Police Officers Given the Right of Privacy When On Duty?

Most everyone has a cellphone with a built-in video recording device, and it has become increasingly common for people to use these devices to record a variety of confrontations. Having video proof of how an accident or altercation occurred can prove useful in trials and civil litigation, but are there rules or regulations for when and how to record police officers who are acting engaged in performing their duties? The following outlines the rights of Portland residents in making these recordings, as well as guidelines to ensure you do not cross any lines when recording officer interactions.

The Right To Record On-Duty Officers

In June of 2015, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 2704, which amended the current statutes regarding police recordings. Prior to the amendment, it was an invasion of privacy that rose to the level of criminal activity to videotape or record a police officer carrying out their duties without specifically notifying the officer prior to the recording. While this may sound like a reasonable request, it served to prevent Portland residents from recording interactions at a distance, or from capturing unethical or aggressive conduct of officers without them being aware they were being filmed.

The revised law now allows citizens to record at will and without having to give notice, provided they adhere to the following:

  • The recording is made while the officer is on duty and engaged in official duties;
  • The recording is not concealed, but is made openly and in plain view of those being filmed;
  • The interaction being recorded occurs within hearing range, without requiring any technical eavesdropping equipment;
  • The person recording is in a location in which they are authorized to be.

This last requirement means that you cannot record in areas that have been roped off as a crime scene and where your presence could interfere with an investigation, and that you must obey law enforcement instructions on maintaining a safe distance from any accident or incident that has taken place. Provided you abide by these legal requirements, videotaped evidence by private citizens may be admissible in court.

ACLU Mobile Justice App

As a means of empowering citizens and holding officers accountable for their actions, the ACLU of Oregon has developed a mobile application that records both audio and video, while saving a copy to your device and automatically emailing a copy to the ACLU.  The app also provides a brief guide to your legal rights in Oregon and a way to alert other mobile users in the area so they can witness and document any interaction you are involved in. The ACLU offers these guidelines when using the app:

  • Announce that you are reaching for your phone;
  • Inform the officer you are accessing the app;
  • DO NOT resist if they attempt to restrain you from doing so.

If your rights have been violated in a traffic stop or altercation, or if you have video evidence that may apply in another case, contact the Johnston Law Firm right away. Request a free consultation where we can discuss the situation and advise you on the best course of action.


Marc Johnston

Lead Attorney at Johnston Law Firm, P.C.

Based in downtown Portland, Marc A. Johnston is the owner and managing attorney of the award-winning, internationally-known personal injury law firm, Johnston Law Firm, P.C. Marc's career has been dedicated to representing the injured and individuals who have been treated unfairly by an insurance company. His focus on trial law creates the backbone of the Johnston Law Firm — a firm that is ready to go the distance in seeking justice for its clients.