If you frequent our site, you’ll know that a few weeks back I featured an app by the ACLU that will allow you to discreetly video/audio record your run-ins with police officers. As many of our readers brought up, this isn’t always “legal” in every state. Well, I can tell you where it is legal: Washington, D-freakin’-C.
According to an announcement from Washington DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier cops in the DC area are just going to have to live with regular folks like you and me snapping photos and recording video of them in public. A 6-page General Order provided members of the Metropolitan Police Department with a code of conduct that must be adhered to when dealing with civilians during official business, or when “acting in an official capacity in any public space.”
The General Order says police cannot interfere with citizens recording in a public or private places, can no longer seize a smartphone or camera and/or delete the recorded media, and will have to obtain a search warrant before even accessing information stored inside the device. That’s to say as long as the recording isn’t of an actual crime, in which case a device can be taken as “evidence.” Here’s a little snippet from that General Order:
As long as the photographing or recording takes place in a setting at which the individual has a legal right to be present and does not interfere with a member’s safety, members shall not inform or instruct people that photographing or recording of police officers, police activity or individuals who are the subject of police action (such as a Terry stop or an arrest) is not allowed; requires a permit; or requires the member’s consent. Additionally, members shall not:
- Order that person to cease such activity;
- Demand that person’s identification;
- Demand that the person state a reason why he or she is taking photographs or recording;
- Detain that person;
- Intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices; or
- In any way threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage an individual from recording members’ enforcement activities.
The fact that Lanier is recognizing the general public’s First Amendment right to record video, photograph or record audio of her staff, says a whole lot for her and her integrity. I guess it all comes to down to accountability. Can’t say I’ve ever understood why regular citizens wouldn’t be allowed to record interactions with local police. Apparently, this is a trend that’s starting to catch on across the US and a welcomed one at that.