Last Friday, Washington, DC’s police chief issued new general orders to all its police officers. Entitled, Video Recording, Photographing, and Audio Recording of Metropolitan Police Department Members by the Public, it aims to make clear how police are to act when encountering individuals using such electronic equipment.
The order, which was part of the settlement of an ACLU lawsuit, includes some very interesting, groundbreaking provisions.
The order reminds police officers in Washington that:
• Still and video photography “of places, buildings, structures and events are common and lawful activities.”
• A bystander has the right under the First Amendment to observe and record members [of the police force] in the public discharge of their duties.”
• A bystander has the same right to take photographs or make records as a member of the media” as long as the bystander has a right to be where he or she is.
These orders are in effect as long as the general public do not impede or interfere with normal police duties. The police can also still confiscate a cell phone if they believe there is evidence of a crime on it.
1. If a person is photographing or recording police activity from a position that impedes or interferes with the safety of members or their ability to perform their duties, a member may direct the person to move to a position that will not interfere. However, a member shall not order the person to stop photographing or recording.
2. If a person is photographing or recording police activity from a position that impedes or threatens the safety of members of the public, a member shall direct the person to move to a position that will not interfere. However, members shall not order the person to stop photographing or recording.
3. A person’s recording of members’ activity from a safe distance, and absent any attendant action that obstructs the activity or threatens the safety of the member(s), does not constitute interference.
4. A person has the right to express criticism of the police activity being observed. So long as that expression does not jeopardize the safety of any member, suspect or bystander; and so long as that expression does not violate the law or incite others to violate the law, the expression does not constitute interference.
They are not to tell you to stop recording and they cannot take your camera. If probable cause exists, the police officer is required to have his/her supervisor present and, under no circumstances is anything to be erased.
You can read more at the ACLU and Ars Technica.