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Police officials defend taking video at political rallies and protests

Police officials defend taking video at political rallies and protests

Dustin Hurst
May 4, 2010
Dustin Hurst
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May 4, 2010

Many who attended a rally in downtown Boise Saturday were wary of a uniformed female police officer taking video of the event.  The protest was in response to a recently-passed law in Arizona that allows police officers to determine the immigration status of anyone they have suspicion could be in the country illegally.  The rally, held at Boise's City Hall, was sponsored by the ACLU and an immigrant-rights group from Boise State University, and was attended by about 350 people.

Lynn Hightower, spokesperson for the Boise Police Department (BPD), said the practice of videotaping certain large events is a standard operating procedure for police.  She explained that officers will often take video at events that draw large amounts of participants.  In cases where there are controversial protests, which often times draw counter-protesters, Hightower said that supervisors will review videos with subordinate officers to ensure security details were handled correctly.  The videos can also be a valuable resource for officers if there are disturbances at rallies, noted Hightower.  Videos provide investigators with the ability to clearly see who may have instigated trouble during events.  If there are no problems during protests, BPD will tape over previous event videos and will not keep them for an extended period of time.

The anti-Arizona law event was not the first protest that BPD has taken video of this year.  An officer at the immigration rally said that officers took video of the Tax Day Rally, held on April 15.  That gathering was sponsored by Tea Party Boise Inc. and drew a crowd estimated at 1,200 people.

BPD is not the only police department in the state open to using video to document large rallies or gatherings.  Phil Grimes, spokesman for the Idaho Falls Police Department (IFPD), said that his department is open to using video as way to gather accurate video evidence, though it hasn't taken video of events in the past.  "I don't have a problem with it," said Grimes.  He said that the Tea Party rally held in Idaho Falls on April 15 was not taped by officers.  He said that in the future, if supervisors within his department feel the need to take video of a rally or protest, they would likely do so.

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