In Trying Times, Know Your Rights!

It’s the first time in a decade that police across the nation are being held accountable for wrongfully arresting and seizing the work of photographers and videographers; in a recent PDN article entitled “Department of Justice Warns Police Against Violating Photographers’ Rights,” the Civil Rights Division of the DoJ warns Baltimore Police Department —but, more generally warns all police departments —that depriving citizens to their media rights thereby violates several Constitutional Amendments. 

It’s the first time in a decade that police across the nation are being held accountable for wrongfully arresting and seizing the work of photographers and videographers; in a recent PDN article entitled “Department of Justice Warns Police Against Violating Photographers’ Rights,” the Civil Rights Division of the DoJ warns Baltimore Police Department —but, more generally warns all police departments —that depriving citizens to their media rights thereby violates several Constitutional Amendments.  The “right to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties” is protected by the 1st Amendment, and that 4th and 14th Amendment rights are violated when police “seize and destroy such recordings without a warrant or due process.”
In the case of Christopher Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Department, Mr. Sharp’s cell phone was taken from him and the film —of his friend being arrested —he was making deleted.  Due to this incident, Baltimore PD is forced to change its policies, providing improved training for its staff regarding media rights.
Similar stories in Berkeley, CA and Boston, MA show that it actually pays to know your rights: about 170 thousand dollars, actually.  A man in Boston was awarded $170,000 in a civil suit regarding a wrongful arrest that took place while he was filming an arrest —and a man photographing a protest in Berkeley was awarded $162,500 in a civil suit of the same kind!  In the latter case, as well, the police of UC Berkeley are required to undergo mandatory training in media rights.  We think it’s a pretty great idea, really.
From photojournalists to press photographers to videographers, it’s good to know what does —and doesn’t —go!  So, to quote the Dept. of Justice:
+ Citizens have a right to record public officials, which is not limited to streets and sidewalks – it includes areas where individuals have a legal right to be present, including an individual’s home or business, and common areas of public and private facilities and buildings.
+ Except under limited circumstances, officers must not search or seize a camera or recording device without a warrant; a supervisor’s presence at the scene should be required before an officer takes any significant action involving cameras or recording devices, including a warrantless search or seizure.
+ Officers should be advised not to threaten, intimidate, or otherwise discourage an individual from recording police officer enforcement activities or intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices.
+ Policies should prohibit officers from destroying recording devices or cameras and deleting recordings or photographs under any circumstances.
+ If a general order permits individuals to record the police unless their actions interfere with police activity, the order should define what it means for an individual to interfere with police activity and, when possible, provide specific examples.
NOTE: An individual’s recording of police activity from a safe
distance without any attendant action intended to obstruct the
activity or threaten the safety of others does not amount to
interference. Nor does an individual’s conduct amount to
interference if he or she expresses criticism of the police
or the police activity being observed.
+ A general order should provide officers with guidance on how to lawfully seek an individual’s consent to review photographs or recordings…and policies should include language to ensure that consent is not coerced, implicitly or explicitly.
The first step in changing anything is being informed: now that you know your rights, make sure they’re being protected.

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See full post here: reneerhyner.com/node-feed2012-08-02.