Justice Dept.: Individuals have right to record police activity

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The U.S. Justice Department asserts there is a “First Amendment right to record police activity.”

Wired.com reports that the Justice Department, in a May 14 letter to the Baltimore Police Department, affirmed individuals’ First Amendment right to record police officers in the course of their duties. Wired.com characterized the letter as “surprising” and reported that the department “also strongly asserted that officers who seize and destroy such recordings without a warrant or without due process are in strict violation of the individual’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.”

According to a report today in The Baltimore Sun, the Justice Department says the police department’s new policy on recording police activity doesn’t go far enough to protect individuals’ constitutional rights.

The department rewrote its policy in the wake of a lawsuit brought by Christopher Sharp, a Howard County man who claimed his First Amendment rights were violated when a police officer deleted his cell-phone video of a confrontation between police and his friend at the 2010 Preakness Stakes.  The Sun reports that a settlement conference in the lawsuit is scheduled for May 30.

The newspaper also notes:  “The case is believed to be the first where the Justice Department has weighed in on citizens’ right to record police officers, an issue that has exploded in recent years with the growing prevalence of camera phones.”

Also see: Public has a right to keep an eye on police

 

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