Via ArsTechnica, I see that DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier has issued a broad, lawful, Constitution-friendly, photography-protective policy instructing the officers under her command that they are not to interfere with folks taking pictures, including pictures of officers, and specifically including pictures of officers arresting people.
“A bystander has the same right to take photographs or make recordings as a member of the media,” Chief Lanier writes. The First Amendment protects the right to record the activities of police officers, not only in public places such as parks and sidewalks, but also in “an individual’s home or business, common areas of public and private facilities and buildings, and any other public or private facility at which the individual has a legal right to be present.”
Lanier says that if an officer sees an individual recording his or her actions, the officer may not use that as a basis to ask the citizen for ID, demand an explanation for the recording, deliberately obstruct the camera, or arrest the citizen. And she stresses that under no circumstances should the citizen be asked to stop recording.
The story goes on to say that the policy explicitly reaffirms the right to criticize police, says that officer concerns that photographers are “obstructing” police business are to be handled narrowly by asking the photographer to move, and specifically states that police are not to delete photos or video under any circumstances.
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! The police are starting to understand! Good things are going to start happening to us now! Law enforcement has had an epiphany about the rights of citizens and about the proper limitations on police power!
Update: The order was part of a settlement with Jerome Vorus, who sued the city after he was told to stop taking pictures of a traffic stop in Georgetown two years ago. The lawsuit was filed with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Well, compliance is compliance, I guess. As any police officer will tell you, it can’t always be voluntary.
[Hat tip to Popehat Commenter Jonathan]