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Police Misconduct, Video Recording, and Procedural Barriers to Rights Enforcement

39 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2017 Last revised: 19 Dec 2017

Howard Wasserman

Florida International University (FIU) - College of Law

Date Written: December 11, 2017


The story of police reform and of "policing the police" has become the story of video and video evidence, and "record everything to know the truth" has become the singular mantra. Video, both police-created and citizen-created, has become the singular tool for ensuring police accountability, reforming law enforcement, and enforcing the rights of victims of police misconduct. This Article explores procedural problems surrounding the use of video recording and video evidence to counter police misconduct, hold individual officers and governments accountable, and reform departmental policies, regulations, and practices. It considers four issues: 1) the mistaken belief that video can "speak for itself" and the procedural and evidentiary problems flowing from that mistaken belief; 2) the evidentiary advantages video provides police and prosecutors; 3) procedural limits on efforts to enforce a First Amendment right to record, such as qualified immunity and standing; and 4) the effects of video on government decisions to pursue criminal charges against police officers and to settle civil-rights suits alleging police misconduct.

Keywords: First Amendment, free speech, qualified immunity, procedure, body cameras, police reform

Suggested Citation

Wasserman, Howard, Police Misconduct, Video Recording, and Procedural Barriers to Rights Enforcement (December 11, 2017). North Carolina Law Review (2018 Forthcoming); Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-48. Available at SSRN:

Howard Wasserman (Contact Author)

Florida International University (FIU) - College of Law ( email )

University Park, DB 2065
Miami, FL 33199
United States
305-348-7482 (Phone)

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