What you have to do if you record the police
Know your rights - Your obligations
Recording the police – your obligations
Do I have to tell the police I am recording them?
Not if you are in public. Everywhere in Australia, the law says you can freely record in public, even if the police tell you to stop, but you need to be aware of the legal obligations in this section.
It is a bit more complicated if you are on private property, or the conversation or activity is private. Have a look at the section ‘Can I record the police on private property’ for more information.
Keep in mind though, one of the reasons for recording police is to improve their behaviour and stop harassment. If the police know they are being recorded this may be enough to stop any unwanted or unlawful behaviour, but sometimes it can anger them. It is important to hold people in authority accountable for their actions, and it can achieve real change. But in the moment, keeping your friends, family and yourself safe is the most important thing. Even if you have a legal right to do something never put yourself or your property in danger and always de-escalate a situation by following orders and moving back if requested. Standing away from the immediate action and observing is safer and more effective than using a camera in someone’s face like a weapon.
What if the police ask me to move back or move on?
While you are recording, you must keep a safe distance, not obstruct traffic or police, and obey reasonable police instructions, like moving back if asked.
You can keep recording while you do this. It might be a good idea to point the camera down for a moment to record the steps back you are taking.
How far back is reasonable? There is no exact rule, just be sensible and use your good judgement.
‘Move on’ orders are more formal powers for the police to direct you to leave a public place. The rules are a bit different across Australia, but generally the police have this power if they reasonably believe that a person:
has committed, or is about to commit, an offence
is blocking traffic or other people
is in danger, or making someone else feel in danger
is stopping other people enjoying or using the public place
Just like any incident in a public place, you can record your interaction subject to your obligations.
What happens if I am on someone else’s private property?
If you are on private property and the owner (or occupier, for example the tenant in a rented property) asks you to leave, then you should leave. If you don’t, you might be trespassing.
However, trespass requires you to physically be on the property. If you are standing outside the property, say on the footpath, you can keep recording without committing trespass.
Before recording someone on their own property though, make sure you understand the rules about stalking covered in section on ‘What if someone records me without consent, or shares a recording of me?’, and private conversations covered in section ‘Can I record the police on private property?’