TORONTO – Two Toronto police officers are under scrutiny for interfering with a civilian attempting to record an arrest.
Local videographer Mike Miller used his cellphone to film an arrest at Jane Street and Lawrence Avenue West in September, when two backup officers got very up close and personal.
The two officers, identified as constables Brian Smith and Shawn Gill, repeatedly ask Miller why he’s recording and claimed they were just “having a conversation” but used their heads and hands to block his lens.
At one point, Miller says “I have the right to record,” and Gill says, “Yes, you do,” even as Smith holds his hand up to block the lens, asking “Are you getting my palm print?”
Later, Smith feigns dance moves to stay in front of the camera and says “I got some moves, eh? You didn’t think I had some moves!”
Miller asks the officers to “get out of my personal space,” but they stay in front of his lens until the arresting officers have the suspects in a cruiser and drive off.
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There’s no law to forbid Canadians from filming police while on duty and police do not have a legal right to privacy while on the job.
However, police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said the officers were not trying to interfere with Miller’s right to film, but to protect the identities of the suspects.
“The officers were concerned that the people who were being videotaped… were young people and as such their identities are protected under the law,” she explained.
“That being said, [the officers] didn’t take the opportunity to explain that to [Miller] and quite frankly we feel that they should have.”
The Youth Criminal Justice Act protects the identities of suspects under 18, and violating that law is a criminal offence.
However, Gray says the officers erred by simply obstructing Miller without explaining their intention.
“They can and should have explained to [Miller] that he was filming young people,” she said. “They should have and while their intent in approaching [Miller] was entirely appropriate their way of doing so was entirely inappropriate.”
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Gray said the video has been brought to the attention of Gill and Smith’s unit commander, but did not say if a formal investigation was underway. She added that any such review would not be made public unless the officers face formal charges.
She added that Gill and Smith remain on active duty.