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Taking Photos Of Police

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Is it illegal to photograph the police?

A photojournalist in Montgomery County, Maryland began photographing two police officers whom he believed might be using excessive force. With no apparent understanding of the irony, the police officers showed him excessive force – they threw him to the ground, arrested him, and took his photo card. He has sued.

This may be one the few cases you’ll see where the Department of Justice writes to the judge to tell the judge that the arrest was unwarranted (so to speak). Is it illegal to photograph the police?

The answer is, it’s usually legal. Taking photographs and video of things that are plainly visible in public spaces is a constitutional right, including taking pictures of the police. That said, it can be a violation of the law to take photos where doing so would compromise an investigation, or where you would be risking the safety of a police officer or others.

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One Comment

  1. dreamsonthehill says:

    Reblogged this on dreams on the hill and commented:
    Unfortunately, exercising this right can mean arrest or confiscation and if you sue later, so be it. Recently, it has been reported that some police departments are being trained they can confiscate cell phones under the premise it could be used as a weapon. I was with a friend during a recent traffic stop after pulling off from checking his mail box. The officer indicated he was being stopped because one of the two tag lights was not working. The officer issued a 100 dollar ticket. When my friends cell phone that had been in his shirt pocket the entire time made a beep because he received a text message the officer got upset. The officer accused him of recording a conversation without his permission. First, that only applies to telephones and meetings in buildings not in a public place. Anyways, my friend indicated that was his text alert tone. Meanwhile the officer is recording the even with a clipped microphone to his shirt and video in his car. My friend drove the district office and spoke with the shift commander who advised my friend had got caught up in one of their “campaigns” of zero tolerance and that he really shouldn’t have been given a ticket for that. A 100 dollar ticket for inoperable tag light of two tag lights the other working and the tag was still visibly lit. A ticket for a proactive citizen that had pictures with the Chief for so many assists in neighborhood watch.

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