Last week, federal courts issued two decisions affirming the right of citizens to record police under the First Amendment. In Atlanta, a court held the police department in contempt of court for violating a prior court order to allow citizens to record police.
In New York, a court held that recording police is a “clearly established right” under the U.S. Constitution, and that if a police officer violates that right, he or she can be sued in federal court.
First, in Anderson v. Atlanta, the court addressed a prior court order that had ordered the Atlanta police to implement reforms to their training policies and conduct mandatory in-person training for all officers regarding those reforms. In part, the new required policy states: “All employees shall be prohibited from interfering with a citizen’s right to record police activity by photographic, video, or audio means.
This prohibition is in effect only as long as the recording by the citizen does not physically interfere with the performance of an officer’s duties.” An officer’s violation of this policy would result in dismissal.
In the court’s contempt order, it found that the Atlanta police had not made the required changes to its policy, and therefore had also failed to implement and enforce the required changes.