Vancouver police are serving warrants to collect hockey riot footage from media outlets. British media recently faced the same dilemma in the wake of the London riots. How things change: in 2008, a Quebec court ordered police to return Radio-Canada’s raw footage of a hockey riot. But that same year, the Hamilton Spectator lost its court bid to protect photos of the Caledonian protests. The courts have steadily tipped the balance toward the police ever since, leaving journalists to ask: are we reporters or are we deputies? Already the law of disclosure can turn journalists’ conversations with police into court evidence, while the McIntosh ruling makes it clear police investigations trump source protection. When police are the ones caught on tape, though, they seem to have few qualms about erasing the visual evidence. That’s when it’s important for photographers and videographers to know their rights. At least this time Vancouver police realized they needed a warrant – small progress since they issued this apology in 2009.     


Patricia W. Elliott is a magazine journalist and assistant professor at the School of Journalism, University of Regina. You can visit her at