War on Cameras

D.C. Police Officially Declare Photography Is Not a Crime


Last week, two years after Washington, D.C., cops told Jerome Vorus to stop taking pictures of a traffic stop in Georgetown and to stop recording his encounter with them, the Metropolitan Police Department issued a general order against such illegal interference with citizens' exercise of their First Amendment rights. The order (PDF), part of an agreement settling a federal lawsuit Vorus filed last year with help from the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation's Capital, "recognizes that members of the general public have a First Amendment right to video record, photograph, and/or audio record MPD members while MPD members are conducting official business or while acting in an official capacity in any public space, unless such recordings interfere with police activity." That was not the position taken by the cops who detained Vorus in July 2010, four of whom incorrectly informed him that he was breaking the law by photographing and recording police without permission from the department's public affairs office. To the contrary, Police Chief Cathy Lanier says in the new directive, "A bystander has the same right to take photographs or make recordings as a member of the media, as long as the bystander has a legal right to be present where he or she is located."

That right applies in "public settings" such as "parks, sidewalks, streets, and locations of public protests" as well as "an individual's home or business, common areas of public and private facilities and buildings, and any other public or private facility at which the individual has a legal right to be present." If someone is legally taking pictures or making a recording, an officer may not "order that person to cease such activity," "demand that person's identification," "demand that the person state a reason why he or she is taking photographs or recording," "detain that person," "intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices," or ""in any way threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage an individual from recording [officers'] enforcement activities." Furthermore, "a person has the right to express criticism of the police activity being observed…so long as that expression does not jeopardize the safety of any member, suspect or bystander…and so long as that expression does not violate the law or incite others to violate the law."

The order also establishes procedures for police access to photographs or recordings that they have probable cause to believe include "evidence of criminal acts." Instead of handing over his device, a bystander can choose to transmit the files by email, for example. If the bystander declines to cooperate, the officer can seize the evidence without a warrant only in "exigent circumstances" and only with clearance from the watch commander.

Previous coverage of Vorus' case (including the Reason.tv story embedded below) here. More on camera-shy cops here.


NEXT: Florida Police Changed The Real Suspect's Charges to Attempted Murder After They Fatally Shot Andrew Scott Instead

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61 responses to “D.C. Police Officially Declare Photography Is Not a Crime

  1. Dancing however still is.

    1. I want to have this broad’s feckin’ babies!

        1. I could see it. Take the shoulder pads off, make sure her sidearm is FAR away and start bangin’. Yeah, it works.

          1. That’s how she looks with makeup and flattering lighting. And it’s still pretty meh.

      1. That’s a woman? You sure?

        1. I thought it was an ad for Edie Falco starring in a spinoff of The Wire.

  2. “a person has the right to express criticism of the police activity being observed…so long as that expression does not jeopardize the safety of any member, suspect or bystander…and so long as that expression does not violate the law or incite others to violate the law.”

    You could drive a snowball-covered Hummer through those exceptions, but it’s a start.

    1. Will almost certainly be police pushing back at the margins of this, but at least there now are boundaries instead of the lack of them.

    2. You could drive a snowball-covered Hummer

      Nicely done, Tulpa.

      … Hobbit

  3. D.C. Police Officially Declare Acknowledge Photography Is Not a Crime Civil Rights


  4. According to our resident supercop Buckaroo Banzai, as long as the cops are not given sufficient training, they can not be held responsible when they illegally arrest people for photographing them. It’s a double standard, sure, but it’s one he fully supports.

    1. So cops aren’t responsible when they illegally arrest people for contempt of cop, because they were never trained that contempt of cop isn’t a crime?

      1. Or how about this:

        “You can’t arrest me for refusing to have sex with you!”

        “Sorry ma’am, I’ve never been told that rejecting my advances is legal.”

        1. Here you go for your reading pleasure.

          Dunphy (the real one)|7.20.12 @ 4:29PM|#|?|filternamelinkcustom
          yes. that double standard IS the one that is in place.

          i 100% admit it.

          it was the duty of the POLICE AGENCY to update the training, since there is significant gap between laws passing and going into effect

          investigation by IIU revealed no such notice had been made

          thus, ofc was not responsible.

          i agree it is a double standard.

          and one i support

          1. No one told me it was illegal to shoot a fucking dickhead cop for taking my camera.

          2. And then there’s this:

            Dunphy (the real one)|7.20.12 @ 5:36PM|#|?|filternamelinkcustom
            in brief, knocking on a door is not an aggressive act. the duty is on the homeowner to query before opening the door if he feels unsafe

            again, i could poll dozens of uof firearms instructors, those who teach civvies and/or cops, and they would agree that coming with a drawn gun in your hand merely because somebody is knocking is grossly wrong

            Hey, I have asked the one in my family and he says dunpy’s full of shit.

            And then there’s this:

            Seems like the cops at Policeone have a different standard when the person at home’s a cop.

            1. This comment was precious:

              ” You know how you know NSP404R isn’t a cop?? Because if he/she were a cop, he/she would know that a cop doesn’t have the luxury of shooting first and asking questions later. ”

              I agree, it’s not a luxury, it’s a perk.

    2. Sloopy, it’s flat out unfair to expect cops to act with the same level of human decency and common sense as the general public.

      They need hundreds of hours of training to act in acceptable ways.

    3. The double standard is astounding.

      Police have to be TOLD that when they put on the uniform and swear a sacred oath to uphold the law, they have to actually uphold the law.

      But whenever a court considers whether a police officer is giving competent testimony, knows what he is talking about or examines the officer’s actions, he’s considered a trained expert.

    1. Umm, no it does not. Body armor may prevent the bullet from piercing the body, and that is only some models of body armor, but it is still like be hit with a sledgehammer.

      1. Forgot to add, depending on the gun.

      2. My title for the link was sarcastic by the way.

      3. This is why you can’t use sarcasm when women are present.

        1. This is why you can’t use sarcasm when SOME women are present. FIFY.

    2. By the way.

      This is the “Assault Vest” referenced in the Salon article.

      1. Holy shit, I should have checked that.


        The thing is made of goddamn nylon. A sweatshirt would offer more ballistic protection (not to mention the big holes in it).

        The picture that guy put up for the article fooled me-I figured that was what the dude was wearing based on his caption.

    3. I wish I could tell you there’s a way out. But like all those poor souls who perished in Aurora, I don’t know how this movie ends.

      Ouch. Too soon.

      1. That’s the worst part about this whole thing, isn’t it? Those people got cheated out of seeing the rest of the movie — and now some of them will never see it.

    4. But really bad guys?guys capable of planning a serious rampage?aren’t stupid. If you want to take your time murdering a theater full of people, the prospect of some would-be hero drawing a weapon law that says you can’t buy a gun at Walmart is no problem.


      1. If they’re that fucking brilliant, then I doubt gun control laws are going to stop them. They’ll either use a bomb, or get a gun on the black market (yes, it will still exist — if only cops and soldiers can legally have guns, then cops, soldiers, and criminals will have guns, and cops and soldiers will be that much richer).

        1. Most machinists can MAKE guns. It takes an actual gunsmith to be good at it, but anybody who knows how to run a full metal shop can make a functional gun. There are guys in Afghanistan who turn out an AK-47 a day with just unpowered hand tools.

          People have successfully made basic guns in maximum security prisons before. There is simply no way to remove guns from the world without removing all skilled labor too.

  5. Everybody smoke a bong and watch … THIS!


      1. Yes, I agree that it’s ridiculous they used TNG and not TOS. Good to see we’re on the same page, FoE.

        1. ..|.

          Did you see the finger?

          1. I don’t think you’re doing it as hard as you can.

            1. General cap l just doesn’t know what to do with it.

              1. Using a key to gouge expletives on another’s vehicle is a sign of trust and friendship.

                1. Apropos on this day of mourning for the Penn State football program. The heart, it bleeds. And the anus too, it bleeds a well.

                  *All of My Posts Today are Dedicated to Sally Ride*

    1. More like a Fark response to one sentence that means very little out of context.

      Will Farkers click through to RTFA? Nope.


      1. Why you laughin’ at me and my girl, dogg?

  6. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says in the new directive, “A bystander has the same right to take photographs or make recordings as a member of the media, as long as the bystander has a legal right to be present where he or she is located.”

    You mean if the police deem that the bystander has the “legal” right, I guess. Right? Wink-wink, nod-nod?


      1. Wanna hear sumpin’ fucked up?

        I got charged with that after a cop tried to run me over with his car. Spent a goddamn holiday weekend in jail over that shit only to have the charges dropped.

        1. Not surprised at all. Slightly on topic, here’s the policeone response to a man slightly lifting his arm as a cop punches him in the face.

          1. What goddamn video were they watching?

            Maybe their super cop-o-vision allows them to see a fast as lightning punch thrown by Bruce Lee the victim.

            I tell you what man. I live on the edge of the ghetto now and I feel safer going to the bars nearby than the cop bar that used to be by my previous residence. Those guys are fucking animals. If one can’t fuck you up many will and if there’s a scratch on ’em guess what? Yer going to jail asshole.

            1. Preaching to the choir, they just shot an unarmed mexican on my block for turning around as ordered. This guy was the one who called the cops in the first place.

              1. Never call the cops.

    2. You mean if the police deem that the bystander has the “legal” right, I guess. Right?

      One time I saw the cops beating the shit out of some people and as I stopped and stared, one of them ran up to me and told me he’d take me to jail for loitering if I didn’t get moving on the sidewalk. So I stepped onto the grass. Then he told me he was going to take me in for trespassing. So I stepped into the street. At this point he pulled out his “tactical baton” so I ran away.

      I suppose a bystander only has a “legal” right if they are standing on their own property, though I imagine that’s doubtful as well.

      1. Just to add to this, I ran to where I lived and sat on the steps, and as he started towards me I shouted “I live here” whereupon he paused and then turned around.
        I’m sure though that if I’d had a camera things would have gone differently.

  7. OK, so Michael Moore will be giving us his opinion on Aurora tomorrow on Piers Morgan.
    Anyone brave enough to watch and report back?

    1. I’d rather scoop my eyes out with a jagged shard of glass.

  8. Good ‘ol ratfucker is quakin’ in his boots over an NRA WORLD!oneSKEERD!

  9. This news is really a inspirational news for the civilian rights,

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