How to Photograph Cops


Miami journalist Carlos Miller has been arrested twice for photographing the police. He beat the rap both times: In 2010 he was acquitted of resisting arrest without violence, and his 2008 conviction for resisting arrest was overturned on appeal in 2009. Miller runs the website Photography Is Not a Crime, where he defends First Amendment protections for anyone with a camera. We asked Miller to share three tips for dealing with cops who don't like having their activities recorded. 

Get it on video. Police think twice when dealing with video, as opposed to a still camera. If your camera has video capabilities, start rolling. If you have a smart phone, use a live stream service like Qik that stores the video online immediately. Inform the officer that the video is live streaming and people are already watching it online.

Assert your rights. Police also think twice when dealing with people who know their rights. Inform the officers that they need a subpoena before confiscating your camera, even if they demand it "as evidence." Police can confiscate your camera only if it was used in the commission of a crime, such as child pornography.

Just leave. Ask the officers if you are being detained or are free to leave. If they are detaining you, they must have reasonable suspicion you are committing a crime. Taking pictures or video in public is not reasonable suspicion. If they are not detaining you, then you are free to leave—with your camera.