Recording police with your smartphone is a Constitutional right, says DoJ

Police Arrest Recording

In a win for technology, citizen journalism, and our Constitutional rights, the U.S. Department of Justice has issued a letter to the Baltimore City Police Department reconfirming that photographing, video- and audio-recording on-duty police officers is a Constitutional right protected by the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

“Because recording police officers in the public discharge of their duties is protected by the First Amendment, policies should prohibit interference with recording of police activities except in narrowly circumscribed situations,” reads the DoJ’s letter (pdf). “More particularly, policies should instruct officers that, except under limited circumstances, officers must not search or seize a camera or recording device without a warrant. In addition, policies should prohibit more subtle actions that may nonetheless infringe upon individuals’ First Amendment rights. 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.”

The letter, which was brought to our attention via photojournalist Carlos Miller of PixIQ (who says in his bio that he’s been arrested three times for recording police), comes in response to a lawsuit brought forth by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Christopher Sharp, against the BPD, whose officers confiscated Sharp’s cellphone and deleted a video of police arresting his friend at the 2010 Preakness Stakes horse race.

After the DoJ first took interest in the lawsuit earlier this year, the BPD issued a seven-page General Order to officers stating that citizens have the “absolute right” to record police doing their duties, provided the recording does not violate any other laws, like obstruction of justice. Rather than stick to these principles, however, BPD simply adopted a broader interpretation of the law, which led to further crackdowns on recording. The DoJ’s most recent letter, issued on May 14, says that the BPD’s order does not go far enough to protect the rights of citizens.

The DoJ’s letter, written by Jonathan Smith, chief of the special litigation section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, also reconfirms that members of the press and other private citizens share the same right to record police, and that displaying press credentials should not be a prerequisite for recording police officers.

“This principal is particularly important in the current age where widespread access to recording devices and online media have provided private individuals with the capacity to gather and disseminate newsworthy information with an ease that rivals that of the traditional news media,” writes Smith.

So for those of you wondering whether or not you should turn on your smartphone’s video camera when you see the police doing something you think isn’t right, feel free to hit the “record” button — you clearly have the right to do so. Just make sure to stay out of the officers’ way, or you might not have a leg to stand on (legally speaking, of course).

Image via homeros/Shutterstock

Product Review

It's a camera! It's a printer! And it's more fun than it has any right to be

By going digital and adding a built-in mobile printer, the Instax Mini LiPlay puts more features into a smaller form factor than previous Instax cameras, while still being every bit as fun.
Mobile

Save up to $100 on Samsung MicroSD EVO Select memory cards at Amazon

MicroSD memory cards can transform your mobile devices into massive digital storage units. Whether you create or carry your content, Amazon cut the prices on three Samsung Evo Select MicroSD cards in time for summer fun.
Photography

Sony’s new full-frame 600mm f/4 is a $13,000 monster of a lens

More expensive than a new Apple Mac Pro and Pro Display, Sony's $13,000, 600mm f/4 is a dream telephoto lens for professional sports and wildlife photographers. For the rest of us, Sony also announced a $2,000, 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3.
Photography

Fujifilm black-and-white film returns from the dead — thanks to millennials

After discontinuing black and white film, Fujifilm is bringing back the monochrome thanks to demand from younger photographers. The updated Neopan 100 Across II is designed for sharpness and minimal grain.
Social Media

Will this deepfake of a power-hungry Zuckerberg make Facebook rethink fake news?

Just how committed is Facebook to earlier statements on leaving deepfake videos intact but demoted? A fake video of Mark Zuckerberg proclaiming power over your data has lasted for four days on the platform.
Deals

The GoPro Hero7 action camera gets price cut on Amazon ahead of Father’s Day

Got an adventurous Dad? If so, a GoPro action camera will make a great Father’s Day gifts. Ahead of Father’s Day, capture the GoPro Hero7 Black on Amazon for just $329, down from its normal $400. Don't just settle for socks again this…
Photography

The Loupedeck Plus custom keyboard will make you feel like a pro video editor

With recently added support for Final Cut Pro X, the Loupedeck Plus improves speed and accuracy for video editors. With a collection of customizable buttons and dials, the Loupedeck can almost completely replace a mouse and keyboard setup.
Social Media

These are the best ways to make your own animated GIF to share

Love sharing GIFs with your friends and peers, but wish you could make your own? Here's how to do so in Photoshop, or using a few other methods that don't require you to shell out a premium fee with each calendar year.
Photography

You don't need an epic budget to shoot epic photos with the best cheap cameras

You don't need a huge budget to shoot epic photos with the best cheap cameras. There are great deals to be found on both lower-end cameras and older versions of high-end cameras that you can still find new.
Photography

Can’t afford this $150 tripod head? Just 3D print the Edelkrone Ortak FlexTilt

Edelkrone's FlexTilt tripod head retails for about $150 — or you could 3D print your own with a $30 part kit and the cost of materials. The Edelkrone Ortak FlexTilt Head 3D is a 3D-printed tripod head.
Photography

What’s the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic?

Lightroom CC has evolved into a capable photo editor, but is it enough to supplant Lightroom Classic? We took each program for a test drive to compare the two versions and see which is faster, more powerful, and better organized.
Photography

Tapped out? Edit faster with 5 gesture shortcuts in Lightroom CC on mobile

Missing those keyboard shortcuts when photo editing on a smartphone or iPad? Lightroom has a handful of gesture-based controls that can help fill the gaps, if you know where to find them.
Mobile

Learn how to create a 360-degree panorama with your phone and Google Street View

Google Street View encourages you to explore the great outdoors, including landmarks, natural wonders, and even your own neighborhood. Learn how to create 360-degree imagery using your smartphone camera to add locations to Google Maps.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!