After the death of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, much of the public has questioned what exactly does the First Amendment protect? Are we, as a civilized and democratic society, allowed to record officers in uniform as they make an arrest? As they arrest us? Is it illegal to do so? If an officer asks us to stop recording, should we stop? Should we forfeit our phone and be required to delete the recording?
To put it simply, no. The United States is unique in that it protects free speech in order to prevent suspicious arrests and arbitrary stops. So, what happens if an officer is making an arrest and I want to record it, whether the officer knows it or not? I can. The First Amendment allows us to record officers while they are on duty. Since officers have no expectation of privacy while on duty, wiretap laws are normally inapplicable. Unless a person is interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations, recording an officer is legal. The media has embraced this protection, particularly protestors angered by the lack of indictments of the two police officers who killed unarmed civilians.
Some states like Illinois are attempting to restrict a citizen's ability to record officers while making an arrest, however this bill has yet to pass and is unlikely to be constitutional if it does pass.
Until then, it is YOUR RIGHT to record an officer.
Nadin Said, Editor-in-Chief.