Open letter: Allow the filming of racist police actions to preserve evidence!

We regularly hear from witnesses of racist police violence that they are criminalised when they film police actions. They are threatened, beaten, mobile phones are confiscated and video footage is deleted. It is not uncommon for them to be criminalised by charges such as “resisting law enforcement officers”. The police claim that filming is forbidden. In doing so, they repeatedly invoke the so-called “eavesdropping paragraph” § 201 of the German Criminal Code (violation of the confidentiality of the word). This states that anyone who unauthorisedly “records the non-public spoken word of another on a sound recording medium” commits a criminal offence. However, police actions in public spaces cannot be understood as “non-public”. “Protection of impartiality is not required for an officer whose actions are legally bound and as such subject to legal review […]” (Regional Court Osnabrück 10th Grand Criminal Chamber of 24.09.2021). We therefore criticise the misuse of this paragraph as a clear attempt to criminalise a critical public and witnesses.

Numerous courts have also adopted this legal opinion in recent years:

  • Hanseatic Higher Regional Court Hamburg 1st Criminal Division of 12.09.2018
  • Regional Court Munich I 25th Small Criminal Chamber of 11.02.2019
  • Regional Court Kassel 2nd Large Criminal Chamber of 23.09.2019
  • Regional Court Aachen 10th Grand Criminal Chamber of 19.08.2020
  • District Court Frankenthal of 16.10.2020

We are convinced that it is time to act as an alliance against this violent practice of the police and demand the decriminalisation of filming police actions. In a democratic constitutional state, citizens must have the possibility to document unlawful police behaviour. Only in this way can the police be controlled in their work and made accountable. It must be made politically clear that video recordings of police actions are admissible as evidence in court. They serve to make racist police violence visible and to identify and convict violent police officers. Filming must not be prevented.

We demand:

  • Video recordings of police interventions by witnesses and those affected to be decriminalised;
  • To prohibit the confiscation of mobile phones and/or the deletion deletion of video recordings by the police;
  • To allow video recordings to be used as evidence in court; and to identify and convict suspected police officers.

Initial signatories:

KOP – Kampagne für Opfer rassistischer Polizeigewalt
ISD Bund
ISD Berlin
Decolonize Berlin
Wrangelkiez United!
FACQ Berlin
Migrantifa Berlin
ReachOut Berlin
Antirassistische Initiative
Bürgerrechte & Polizei/ CILIP
BVG – Weil wir uns fürchten

Berlin, 30 November 2022