May 15, 2013

Courthouse News Service | Photography Is Not a Crime | Reason

Makia Smith says a Baltimore police officer smashed her phone, then beat her after she filmed him beating up a man.

The Baltimore Police Department issued guidelines last year instructing officers “DO NOT seize or otherwise demand to take possession of any camera or video recording device the bystander may possess based solely on your discovery of his/her presence.” (Presumably, beatings are also frowned upon.)

Carlos Miller, who has a long history of tangling with police departments over privacy rights, has a copy of the suit on his blog.

The Department of Justice wrote a letter to the Baltimore police last May that stated “recording police officers in the public discharge of their duties is protected by the First Amendment.” Baltimore police threatened a man who was videotaping them with arrest last year (for loitering, they said), and U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Gauvey said the department had conducted a “veritable witch hunt” of a man who said officers deleted images from his camera after he witnessed them beating someone they arrested.

Last summer, New York police arrested a freelance photographer for The New York Times who was covering an arrest. The police claimed the photographer, Robert Stolarik, “inadvertently” struck an officer in the face with his camera.

Related: What to Do When Police Tell You to Stop Taking Photos, Video

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

More News

Back to News