Photo and video coverage of the action can help to deter police violence and provide valuable evidence later.
Remember that footage you record can be evidence that cuts both ways. If accurate, the footage will reflect the conduct of all participants at an action, e.g. police, activists, violent and nonviolent.
Be aware of what is and isn’t appropriate to document through video or photo. For example, it is generally not appropriate to photograph a meeting between activists unless you have explicit consent. If activist are undertaking actions with which they do not necessarily want to be linked or identified it is likewise inappropriate to take photos.
Think about what the purposes of the photographs you are taking are. For example, if your aim is to document police violence or harassment (if there is any) make sure you focus on that. You may want to focus on taking photos of police attending the protest who are not wearing proper identification. Use them to: provide some deterrence to police brutality; take pictures of the licence plates that you want to record; take pictures of the police, both plain clothes and uniformed. Later witnesses may want to identify the officer; take pictures of those you only suspect are police. They may show up later in more interesting circumstances; take pictures of those who seem to be provocateurs; take pictures of any "incident", including arrests. These can be useful for media and in court; stand back and get shots of the whole area and general layout. This helps in court too.
Your photos of an action, especially when distributed strategically on the Internet and social media can provide a useful counterpoint representation of the protest to some of the biased reporting that is common in the mainstream press.
You can take any person's picture without their permission. The camera just has to be visible. The camera is a powerful weapon. At rallies and demonstrations they are essential.
But note that police can act violently in order to seize cameras or tape. Violent assaults on photographers or independent media by police do happen.
Plan to prevent police from seizing your camera, disk or tape. If you have a useful image, keep it safe from police and make it available to those involved in the Legal Support Team.
However, when there are many cameras it is possible to get pictures of these "accidents" where cameras are destroyed or of the police officer posing his palm for a photograph.
Preserving the photographic evidence for the court is critical. The main problem is that of "continuity". In the court it is necessary to show a continuous chain of possession of the film, negatives and prints. This must be done to counter any suggestion that these items have been tampered with.
It is useful to develop a relationship with people in independent media so that you can have access to the film if needed. Note that police may also have camera units present. Make sure people in the action know that they will be filmed so they don't mistake an independent media person or legal observer for a police camera operator.
Note that you will generally have to call to court the person who took the image if you want to use it as evidence.