COPS and cameras

Why doesn’t the camera crew constitute a violation of the rights of the people?

Even if the faces are blurred out, when the cops come in a house and there is garbage strewn everywhere, that’s an embarrassing thing. And isn’t privacy the whole point of the constitution? How come a TV camera can film the cops busting down someone’s door? Even if there is a warrant, that warrant says that Law Enforcement can enter, not guys with cameras working for Fox News. Has any case ever said, hey, the cameras violated your rights, so your officially let off.

If not, why not?


I’m pretty sure that the clips shown on COPS are only those for which the subjects have agreed to allow. I don’t know if they just say “Sure, you can use my clip!” or if the COPS producers actually pay them…

In 1999, the Supreme Court held that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment for police to bring third parties (to include the media) into a home during the execution of a warrant, unless the third party’s presence is to aid in the execution of the warrant, as in a software expert to search computer storage.

However, the remedy for violation of this does not seem to be exclusion of the evidence. In fact, the case I allude to above was a civil damages case, not a criminal appeal.

If the police are lawfully present, the violation of the Fourth Amendment is the presence of the media and not the presence of the police in the home. In an “unlawful media presence” case, then, the exclusionary rule might be held to apply to evidence that media representatives helped recover, but not to evidence that the police lawfully recovered without media help.

The mere showing of a messy home does not rise to the level of evidence exclusion, in other words.

  • Rick

I think the OP was asking about the invasion of privacy by the press and whether the subject can prevent the cameras from entering or prevent the broadcast of the footage, not whether the presence of the press can be used to suppress evidence in a criminal proceeding.

Unfortunately, I don’t know much about this. I would be inclined to think that fatdave is right and the television producers pay the subject to sign a release.


I took the above quote to suggest that the OP was questioning possible exclusion of evidence.

  • Rick

This article talks about the 1999 ruling and the effect it has on the media. Of particular interest is this quote:

In fact, if you watch COPS these days, you will notice that the camera usually stops at the front door. The police run inside and do whatever, and then the footage picks back up when the suspect is brought outside. At least, that’s been true the last five or six times I saw COPS. (I watch it pretty rarely, so this may not be a good sample.)

Not that it matters much after they broadcast the footage nationwide, but I always assumed there were actual cops manning the cameras.


The camera crew for COPS are not police officers.

The footage for “World’s Wildest Police Videos” and similar shows are drawn from squad car cameras and helicopter cameras, but the ride-along, chase-'em footage is not done by police officer.

  • Rick