What to Say When the Police Tell You to Stop Filming Them

First of all, they shouldn’t ask.

“As a basic principle, we can’t tell you to stop recording,” says Delroy Burton, chairman of D.C.’s metropolitan police union and a 21-year veteran on the force. “If you’re standing across the street videotaping, and I’m in a public place, carrying out my public functions, [then] I’m subject to recording, and there’s nothing legally the police officer can do to stop you from recording.”

“What you don’t have a right to do is interfere,” he says. “Record from a distance, stay out of the scene, and the officer doesn’t have the right to come over and take your camera, confiscate it.”

Officers do have a right to tell you to stop interfering with their work, Burton told me, but they still aren’t allowed to destroy film.

Yet still some officers do. Last week, an amateur video appeared to show a U.S. Marshal confiscating and destroying a woman’s camera as she filmed him.

“Photography is a form of power, and people are loath to give up power, including police officers. It’s a power struggle where the citizen is protected by the law but, because it is a power struggle, sometimes that’s not enough,” saysJay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Stanley wrote the ACLU’s “Know Your Rights” guide for photographers, which lays out in plain language the legal protections that are assured people filming in public. Among these: Photographers can take pictures of anything in plain view from public space—including public officials—but private land owners may set rules for photography on their property. Cops also can’t “confiscate or demand to view” audio or video without a warrant, and they can’t ever delete images.

The ACLU’s guide does caution that “police officers may legitimately order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations.”

What if that happens, and you disagree with the officer?

“If it were me, and an officer came up and said, ‘You need to turn that camera off, sir,’ I would strive to calmly and politely yet firmly remind the officer of my rights while continuing to record the interaction, and not turn the camera off,” Stanley told me.

Read more at The Atlantic, http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/04/what-to-say-when-t...