Twitter and Facebook have been ablaze with stories and photos about the shooting of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri. (Check out the AZBlueMeanie’s poignant analysis here, photos from the New York Times here, and running updates here from Huffington Post.)
As you are well aware, Michael Brown’s shooting is just one in a very long and disturbing list of unarmed young blacks (primarily men) being shot by police or armed citizens. What the hell is going on?! Do ya think there are way too many guns out there?
In this world of smart phones and social media, everything from cute kittens playing with boxes to police violence is photographed and shared. Problem is: the police don’t like being photographed or videotaped. Journalists are citizens are often arrested or roughed up and cameras confiscated or broken when they try to record police behaving badly. That is illegal!
Following the arrest of two journalists in Ferguson today, I found this very helpful post from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about photographer rights. Here is an excerpt. Check out the link below for more.
Photographers Know Your Rights
Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties. Unfortunately, there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply. Learn more »
Your rights as a photographer:
- When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. That includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Such photography is a form of publicoversight over the government and is important in a free society.
- When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules about the taking of photographs. If you disobey the property owner’s rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not comply).
- Police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your digital photographs or video without a warrant. The Supreme Court has ruledthat police may not search your cell phone when they arrest you, unless they get a warrant. Although the court did not specifically rule on whether law enforcement may search other electronic devices such as a standalone camera, the ACLU believes that the constitution broadly prevents warrantless searches of your digital data. It is possible that courts may approve the temporary warrantless seizure of a camera in certain extreme “exigent” circumstances such as where necessary to save a life, or where police have a reasonable, good-faith belief that doing so is necessary to prevent the destruction of evidence of a crime while they seek a warrant.
- Police may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances. Officers have faced felony charges of evidence tampering as well as obstruction and theft for taking a photographer’s memory card.
- Police officers may legitimately order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations. Professional officers, however, realize that such operations are subject to public scrutiny, including by citizens photographing them.
- Note that the right to photograph does not give you a right to break any other laws. For example, if you are trespassing to take photographs, you may still be charged with trespass.
Go here for more. And be careful out there!