As we have covered here before, the Philadelphia Police do not like it when you photograph, record, or film them. At times, PPD officers have been known to arrest (on phony charges) and intimidate those filming, while erasing what they recorded. And since, you know, recording the police while they are policing is totally legal (as long as they are “performing official duties in public”), the ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Temple University student Chris Montgomery, who was charged with disorderly conduct after filming the police in 2011.
ACLU senior attorney Mary Catherine Roper told KYW, “These cases are coming up all over the country, and unfortunately in Pennsylvania, the courts have waffled on whether you have a First Amendment right to record police. We think it’s inconceivable that you would not have a First Amendment right to record police — after all, they work for you.” CBS continues to say that Charles Ramsey has, in the past, issued a memo “advising officers to allow video recording,” but that doesn’t seem to have worked.
According to the ACLU, the lawsuit “seeks to confirm the public’s First Amendment right to record law enforcement officers,” and is the first of several wrongful arrest complaints the ACLU plans to file. We’ve laid our feelings about this out before, and they still stand: No matter how annoying some snot-nosed “photographer” (or for that matter, clean-nosed actual photographer) is, if they aren’t breaking the law you shouldn’t throw them in jail just because they didn’t get your good side.