Motorists fighting wrongful infringements or inappropriate police action don't stand much chance in court if all they have is their own verbal testimony and nothing else. Even if motorists have witnesses, their testimonies can be challenged and countered, simply because people do forget the details of incidents with the passage of time. Experienced police and government prosecutors have field days with defendants and their witnesses who cannot quite recall precise details of encounters with police, who make notes of those encounters to use in court. Of course if a prosecutor disproves one part of a witness's testimony, it brings into question the witness's entire testimony that may be rendered inadmissible.
There is only one sure-fire way for motorists to protect themselves against inappropriate police action and uphold their legal rights and that is by obtaining hard evidence in the form of video recordings with audio. There are many fairly inexpensive ways to do this.
These days it is rare that a person would not have a mobile phone and nearly all fairly recent models have integrated cameras that take both still shots and video clips. This means that a motorist possessing a phone with this facility already has one of the best weapons in his arsenal to gather hard evidence when confronted by police. It is completely legal for people to make video recordings in public places and police do not have any right to try and stop people from doing so.
If a motorist is pulled over by police, the first thing he should do is to get out of his car and lock it and grab his mobile phone and start recording a video of the encounter. The phone's preferences should always be set to time and date-stamp any videos or photos, so that there can be no question as to when these crucial pieces of evidence were obtained. The phone should be held horizontally so that the video is not chopped off, as it would be if the phone was held vertically while recording. Of course if the police demand that a motorist stop recording them, that is quite outside their powers and that demand should be completely ignored.
Motorists who are confronted by cops demanding that they stop recording them should quote the Listening Devices Act and the Surveillance Devices act and state that recording in public places is completely legal and nobody, including cops, have any expectation of privacy in public places.
Apart from that, the NSW Police Force Media Policy publication (pages 42 and 43) proves beyond a shadow of doubt that recording police in public places is completely legal and this applies throughout Australia. It states the following and the relevant section important to us is in red:
So never be intimidated by cops into not recording them anywhere in public, whether you have been pulled over by them or you just observed them entrapping or assaulting people and decided to record them. You have every right to do this and you should always exercise that right. In fact if a cop tries to stop you doing this, record him and lay a formal complaint against him under your state's relevant Crimes Act.
More ambitious motorists with an interest in photography may employ dedicated photographic equipment, such as one of the excellent GoPro camera range. The GoPro is very small and rugged and is often used by skydivers, skiers and other action sports participants. It can be easily mounted to helmets or just kept handy in cars to record any interesting encounters, such as when being pulled over by police or when involved in accidents.
Of course pulling out a video camera and recording such encounters is rather obvious to the people being recorded and although it is perfectly legal to do so in public places, there may be times when a video recording should be made without anybody knowing that this is happening.
There will be instances when a person wishes to make recordings without anybody else knowing about it. This is completely legal in public places and a person recording an encounter with somebody, such as police or parking rangers, does not have to inform them that they are being filmed or audio recorded. Such video and photographic evidence can be crucial in a court case and many police and parking officer testimonies have been destroyed when defendants suddenly produced photographic and video evidence that proved that the police or parking rangers were lying.
With advanced video technology and miniaturisation being commonplace these days, there are many cameras built into everyday items that can be used to make secret recordings. This technology is not expensive, nor is it confined to secret agents and spies anymore. For instance, the camera pen in the above picture costs just $25 and the camera watch is around $30.
Anybody can legally purchase such equipment from electronic stores, on-line vendors and even dedicated retail spy shops. The secret camera range available nowadays are astounding, such as cameras built into key fobs, pens, watches, buttons, tiepins, sunglasses and many other devices.
Whether motorists decide to visibly use their smartphones to record encounters with police or they use secret hidden cameras, the results will be the same. Motorists will be able to take such evidence to court to prove to magistrates and judges exactly what happened. They don't have to rely on faulty memories of the incidents. However, these cameras are not just useful for dealing with rogue cops. They are fabulous for gathering evidence in car accidents and proving to insurance companies who was at fault.
Being out in the modern world is like the sport of boxing, where the mantra is "protect yourself at all times". In this era of police entrapment and harassment, motorists need to protect themselves at all times and the best way to do this is to obtain hard evidence of any dealings with police. A video clip or a photograph is far better than a million words of testimony in any courtroom. Coupled with recordings from car black boxes, motorists will well and truly be able to deal with any situation on the road.