D.C. Police Chief orders officers to not interfere with citizens recording them

In what is sure to be hailed as a giant leap forward in the work against corrupted police officers, Washington D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier has laid down a set of guidelines for her officers to follow in the event of having their actions recorded.

To begin with, asking a citizen to stop recording violates their first amendment rights, and in no way should they be asked to stop, even if their tactical view is compromised because of it. The argument that people filming cops get in their way and bring danger to a situation is not only an outright and bald-faced lie, it is also the exact opposite of the truth. More cameras, (unlike, perhaps say, more guns) is bringing about a safer and more accountable society. No longer can the police hide their crimes.

The statement goes on to outline specific examples, saying that officers could not ask a citizen journalist for their I.D., hamper them from filming in any way, or arrest them.

The full statement, from Timothy Lee at Ars Technica: 

“A bystander has the same right to take photographs or make recordings as a member of the media,” Chief Lanier writes. The First Amendment protects the right to record the activities of police officers, not only in public places such as parks and sidewalks, but also in “an individual’s home or business, common areas of public and private facilities and buildings, and any other public or private facility at which the individual has a legal right to be present.”

Lanier says that if an officer sees an individual recording his or her actions, the officer may not use that as a basis to ask the citizen for ID, demand an explanation for the recording, deliberately obstruct the camera, or arrest the citizen. And she stresses that under no circumstances should the citizen be asked to stop recording.

That applies even in cases where the citizen is recording “from a position that impedes or interferes with the safety of members or their ability to perform their duties.” In that situation, she says, the officer may ask the person to move out of the way, but the officer “shall not order the person to stop photographing or recording.”

As a point of distressing information, the day after the statement was released, a man in D.C.’s phone was taken from him after photographing an officer. Though the phone was apparently given back to him, it’s memory card was not. D.C. officials say they are looking into the matter.

-Ethan I. Solomon

-Pictured is Washington Chief of Police Cathy Lanier




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