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Crime scene video: A federal court reaffirms the right to film police | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Another federal appeals court has ruled that people have a First 6a00d8341bf7d953ef01b7c8ac5ce3970b-100wiAmendment right to videotape police in public and that it is illegal for officers to interfere with those doing so. The ruling, by the 3rd U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Philadelphia, is a welcome development and police departments should make sure their officers understand it.

This is the sixth time a federal appeals court has upheld the public’s right to photograph and film officers in public. Even without the ruling, it would be virtually impossible, given the proliferation of smartphones, for officers to halt the videotaping of major incidents unfolding in crowded public settings. In those situations, there are too many people recording from too many angles for police to shut down all recording.

The ruling is more likely to afford protection to the lone bystander who pulls out a phone and starts filming. At the center of the 3rd Circuit ruling, for example, were the cases of a college student cited for filming police as they broke up a party outside of a Philadelphia house and an activist who recorded officers arresting a fracking demonstrator.