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Memphis Police Arresting Citizens For Filming Them

Memphis police

Image source: CommercialAppeal.com

Simply taking pictures of police officers has gotten a number of people arrested in Memphis [1], Tennessee, arrested. Several citizens have come forward and said that officers seized their phones and in some cases arrested them for taking pictures of and videoing cops trying to shut down a rap concert.

The incident took place on a public street and news articles indicate that officers were afraid that video of their behavior would end up on YouTube. This incident is disturbing because it is legal for citizens to take pictures of police and other government employees in public, say civil liberties groups.

Yet more and more citizens are reporting that police all over the country are trying to stop them from exercising this right. The problem has become so pervasive that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has actually created a special feature about it on its website [2].

“Unfortunately there is a widespread continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply,” the ACLU noted.

Conflicts between police and citizens because of cameras are growing problems, partially because of the widespread usage of high-quality cameras on smartphones.

You have a constitutional right to take pictures

“Taking pictures of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right,” the ACLU stated. The standard legal doctrine in the United States is that you have a right to take pictures of anything that happens in public.

They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor so that we could be free! [3]

That means you can take pictures of police officers in the street, in public places such as parks and on the highway. The ACLU’s position is that this right extends to government buildings and public transportation systems such as light rail trains.

What you have a right to do:

What the police can and cannot do

Police officers’ power to stop filming or photography is actually very limited according to the ACLU. Here’s a rundown of what officers can and cannot do: