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Ventura County Sheriff's Office
Friday February 23rd, 2024 :: 11:40 a.m. PST


First Amendment Auditors – Tips for Citizens, Businesses and Government Agencies

Nature of Incident: First Amendment Auditors – Tips for Citizens, Businesses and Government Agencies
Location: City of Camarillo
Date & Time: February 2024
Unit(s) Responsible: Camarillo Community Resources Unit
The Camarillo Police Department would like to provide information and tips on how to interact with First Amendment auditors who appear at private businesses and government buildings within the county. There have been recent events that generated public concern, involving auditors at locations in the city of Camarillo.
Over the last few years, there has been a nationwide increase of “citizen journalists,” who practice “First Amendment audits” by publicly filming law enforcement officers in an attempt to provoke a response. Most of these encounters involve some sort of confrontation on the part of the auditor and often involve the auditor’s use of degrading language toward the intended target. The city of Camarillo has seen a trend where auditors are targeting non-governmental businesses and churches, in addition to law enforcement, in the hope of inciting an inappropriate response.
The Camarillo Police Department would like to share the following common practices of First Amendment “auditors.”
First, “auditors” show up in a public area where filming is legal, but also where the filming is unusual and will draw the attention of the public or people working in the business. Filming at public locations is out of the ordinary and makes business owners, employees or the public uncomfortable knowing they are being filmed, and the actions make it more likely that the “auditors” will be confronted.
Second, when the “auditors” are questioned by employees or owners, they either refuse to answer questions or hurl insults at people. The “auditors” know that as long as they are filming in a public place, they do not owe an explanation to anyone, but they also know that the behavior will likely result in the police being called to investigate. This serves to meet their goal of involving law enforcement in the incident and hoping for some sort of confrontation.
Third, when police respond to the scene, “auditors” employ the same tactics, either refusing to respond to questions about their activities or making offensive comments to the law enforcement officers or to the person who called police.
The Camarillo Police Department has several recommendations on how members of the public, private businesses and government employees should respond and react when encountering the “auditors.” 
First, it is important to know that in general, a person who is in a public place does not have a legal expectation of privacy. That means any person who is recording something occurring in a public place or in view from the public place has a lawful right to record. There are some exceptions to this rule.
Second, the “auditors” are looking for a confrontation. Do not engage people who are filming unless they directly contact you.  If, for some reason, you must come into contact with an “auditor” be courteous and professional, and once it becomes clear they are not present for a legitimate reason, disengage from them.  If a confrontation does not occur, they will likely pack up their equipment and go somewhere else. 
Third, if you have any questions about the actions of the “auditors,” call the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. We are trained to deal with these people and have learned the best way to respond to them is to quickly determine whether or not a crime has occurred, and if not, disengage from the encounter with them.
Finally, we would like to remind the public that this is a money-making venture for these subjects. A sure way for them to make money is to record a confrontation and generate outrage. Outrage can take on many forms. When a member of the public watches one of these videos, it is very easy to become outraged at the rude, crude and demeaning comments the “auditors” make to unsuspecting citizens and government employees. Another form of outrage is generated when followers of the “auditors” see behavior they like or don’t like. All of these generate clicks on the “auditors” websites, which translate to income for them. A lack of confrontation leads to fewer videos of interest, fewer clicks on their pages and less income.
Our best advice is to simply ignore or disengage and walk away.
Prepared by: Sergeant Thomas Miller  
News Release Date: 2/23/2024  
Media Follow-Up Contact: Sergeant Thomas Miller
[email protected]
(805) 947-9363
Approved by:
Commander Eric Tennessen

Ventura County Sheriff's Office
800 S Victoria Ave
Ventura, CA 93003

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 805-654-9511

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