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Ear to the Ground

ACLU Educates Cops on the Public’s Right to Film

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Posted on Jul 25, 2012
Byflickr (CC BY 2.0)

An ACLU lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., has paid off in issuance of a set of principles that guide the behavior of officers dealing with people photographing or recording them on the street. In short, it’s legal.

The suit was filed on behalf of a young black student named Jerome Vorus, who was detained last year for filming police officers on a Georgetown street.

“… What we’re interested in is getting the police to understand how they should behave: When someone’s taking their picture, basically they should just smile,” wrote the ACLU’s Art Spitzer, the attorney who handled the case.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

ACLU’s Free Future blog:

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.

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