The NYPD sent video teams to film Black Lives Matter and Occupy protesters over 400 times

AP

The omnipresence of smartphones means that wherever police behave unjustly, it's possible that they could be filmed. Now that movements like Black Lives Matter are demanding police reform, the police are pulling out their cameras, too.

Since 2011, the New York Police Department has deployed officers with cameras to film protesters over 400 times, according to police documents obtained by the Verge

Police arrest protesters at a march for Freddie Gray.Source: RTNJennings/MediaPunch/AP
Police arrest protesters at a march for Freddie Gray.  RTNJennings/MediaPunch/AP

The documents were obtained by New York City lawyer David Thompson, who discovered that the NYPD's Technical Assistance Response Unit has been deployed to Occupy Wall Street protests as well as Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

The revelations come on the heels of a New York Supreme Court judge's ruling that police had to turn over the records of the NYPD's undercover surveillance of Black Lives Matter demonstrations after the death of Eric Garner.

What's most alarming isn't necessary the filming itself — filming protesters has become a routine part of police procedure for the NYPD, and Mic reporters have spotted officers with camcorders at multiple protests since Trump's inauguration.

But police are also supposed to submit requests to the deputy commissioner of legal matters in order to perform this filming, as per an internal rule called Interim Order 22. This is meant to ensure, as Thompson told the Verge, that "there's an adult in the room, a legally trained adult in this case."

But Thompson, the lawyer who filed the initial request for police documents, found that his requests for those records came up empty. This raises some troubling possibilities: the NYPD just lost those documents, they didn't hand them over, or when the NYPD decides to surveil protesters, they ask permission from no one.