Obama Justice Dept. Supports Citizens’ Right to Record Police
The U.S. Department of Justice under President Barack Obama has made it clear to police departments that citizens have the constitutional right to record law enforcement activities, including arrests.
In a letter to the Baltimore Police Department, the Justice Department stated that officers cannot seize and destroy video recordings made by individuals without a warrant or due process of law. To otherwise do so might constitute a violation of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
The letter comes at a time when Baltimore police are trying to resolve a lawsuit brought by Christopher Sharp, who had his cell phone seized when he used it to record officers arresting his friend.
Jonathan Smith, head of the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section, cited in his letter the famous 1991 Rodney King incident in which Los Angeles police officers brutally beat King after pulling him over during a traffic stop. Smith said the recording of the assault exemplified the importance of public oversight of police activities.
To Learn More:
Justice Dept. Defends Public’s Constitutional ‘Right to Record’ Cops (by Kim Zetter, Wired)
Letter to Baltimore Police (U.S. Department of Justice) (pdf)
Why are Americans Arrested for Videotaping Police in Public Places? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Police Arrest Bystanders Who Use Phones to Video Arrests of Others (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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