Saturday, July 22, 2017

29.2 - Good News: 3rd Circuit recognizes "right to record" cops in public

Good News: 3rd Circuit recognizes "right to record" cops in public

In another bit of tempered Good News on a somewhat related topic, in July 7, a panel of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the First Amendment protects an individual's right to film police officers performing their official duties in public, ruling that "The First Amendment protects the public's right of access to information about their officials' public activities."

The 3rd Circuit now joins the 1st, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th Circuits in concluding that the Constitution guarantees such a "right to record." No federal appeals court has ruled the other way.

So why tempered Good News? Well, for one thing, cops keep doing it - keep telling people that they, the cops, are exempt from being observed by mere non-cops; they keep arresting people, even assaulting people, destroying cameras, because we are apparently supposed to walk around with our eyes cast down and never record anything a cop does - except, of course, for the planned and choreographed PR photoshoots.

Even more, the 3rd circuit also ruled - by a 2-1 vote - that the two Philadelphia cops involved in this case have what's called "qualified immunity" against suits - meaning they walk away untouched - because the right to record, it said, was not "clearly established" at the time, and ruled that way even though at the time of the incidents involved, three circuits has already found a right to record and even more to the point, they happened after the Philadelphia Police Department had recognized that right.

Which is another reason cops keep doing it: They have learned, like the most cliched spoiled brat, that there are no consequences for wrong behavior.

Still, there is the decision about the right to record, so yeah, tempered Good News.

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