Last week, civil libertarians celebrated a victory in D.C. — Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced a new policy that clarified that residents are free to photograph and record Metropolitan Police Department officers as they do their jobs. But this being D.C., things are never that easy. The order is limited to the 3,800 sworn officers under Lanier’s command, but doesn’t explicitly extend to the many other police forces that operate in the city.
That being said, a number of police forces already operate under the presumption that photography and recording is OK, provided the person doing it isn’t interfering with active police work.
Caroline Lukas, a spokesperson for Metro, said that the Metro Transit Police will follow MPD’s lead. “Our existing policy for MTPD officers is generally consistent with MPD’s approach. Members of the public have the right to film in public areas, provided that they do not interfere with police activity or compromise safety,” she said in an e-mail. Additionally, she noted, photography in stations is fine, provided that no flash or tripods are being used.
Sgt. Paul Brooks of the U.S. Park Police also said that they allow photography and videotaping, as does the U.S. Secret Service. The Capitol Police didn’t return e-mails requesting clarification on their policy.
The thing to watch out for, though, is how consistently the different police forces respect those policies. In March, Oskar Mosco, a D.C. pedicab operator, was arrested by Park Police after using a videotape to film officers arresting one of his fellow pedicabbers. Mosco is set to go on trial in September for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, charges he denies.
[Continue reading Martin Austermuhle’s post at DCist.com.]