Jacob Sullum on the Right to Record Walter Scott's Death



Even before it became clear that Feidin Santana was witnessing what local authorities later described as a murder, it took guts for him to record the police encounter that ended in Walter Scott's death. Santana, who was walking to work at a barbershop in North Charleston, South Carolina, the day before Easter, risked retaliation by camera-shy cops the moment he stopped talking on his smartphone and started using it to capture Scott's interaction with patrolman Michael Slager. 

Although the First Amendment right to record the police as they perform their duties in public is well established, writes Jacob Sullum in the July issue of Reason, cops often violate that right by ordering people to turn off their cameras, confiscating their cellphones, or arresting them on trumped-up charges. The shooting of Walter Scott, which led to Slager's arrest thanks to the details revealed by Santana's video, illustrates both the prevalence of this contempt for constitutional rights and the importance of counteracting it.