You can use your phone to film the police, even if they tell you not to


This should be obvious to anyone living in a free society but, it’s worth repeating: citizens have the right to record the public actions of the police. And while some police officers don’t like this fact, they have no right to stop you.

The issue came up again this week in riot-torn Ferguson, Missouri where police reportedly told a crowd of protesters to turn off their cameras following a volley of tear gas and rubber bullets. If this account is true, the police are simply wrong: protesters have the right to film the police.

This is the position of  liberal and conservative scholars, and of appeals courts throughout the United States. As scholar and blogger Eugene Volokh explains of a 2011 First Circuit decision:

Just as the right to speak can be unconstitutionally burdened by restrictions on spending money to speak, or associating in order to speak, it can also be unconstitutionally burdened by restrictions on the gathering of information that…

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