DC Police Chief Publicly Criticizes Officer's Actions After He Attempts To Shut Down A Citizen Recording An Arrest

from the an-event-so-rarely-seen,-it-has-long-been-presumed-mythical dept

Over two years ago, Washington, DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier enacted a new policy for her officers to follow when dealing with citizens armed with cameras. Very simply put: leave them alone.

"A bystander has the same right to take photographs or make recordings as a member of the media," Chief Lanier writes. The First Amendment protects the right to record the activities of police officers, not only in public places such as parks and sidewalks, but also in "an individual's home or business, common areas of public and private facilities and buildings, and any other public or private facility at which the individual has a legal right to be present."

Lanier says that if an officer sees an individual recording his or her actions, the officer may not use that as a basis to ask the citizen for ID, demand an explanation for the recording, deliberately obstruct the camera, or arrest the citizen. And she stresses that under no circumstances should the citizen be asked to stop recording. [Emphasis added for reasons that will become clear in a few paragraphs.]
Even if citizens are somehow impeding police work, under no circumstances should they be asked to stop recording. They should be asked to move out of the way and that request should be the totality of the interaction.

The new citizen recording policy was violated the next day. DC police officers seized a man's phone. They later returned it, but without the memory card. Both actions violated Lanier's clear instructions that cameras/phones could only be acquired with the person's permission and that all devices seized must be returned intact.

This policy has now been in effect for nearly 26 months. Some officers apparently have yet to be "read in" on the specifics.

Here's what happened to one citizen who attempted to record an arrest being made.


From the description:
"I pulled out my phone and began recording when I came upon a man being physically restrained by 7 D.C. police officers outside the downtown branch of the D.C. Public Library September 7, 2014, at 6:24 p.m. The video came out blurry, but 48 seconds in, Officer C.C. Reynolds (badge 3983) didn't like that I was recording the proceedings, and tried to intimidate me into leaving the scene."
Officer C.C. Reynolds tries out various tactics, like claiming a public sidewalk is private property, claiming the recording is part of the investigation/evidence, claiming that the person recording could easily become part of the investigation (a little threat) and that the photographer is interfering with the arrest. All of it is false. He also baselessly demands the photographer give him his name and present ID.

So far, nothing surprising. The First Amendment right to record public officials is still intact, but it is very often ignored by those being recorded. What is surprising is the official reaction. None other than the police chief herself criticized the actions of the officer in a written statement to WNEW.
We have an extremely clear policy that addresses the Metropolitan Police Department's recognition of the First Amendment rights enjoyed by – not only members of the media, but the general public as well – to video record, photograph and or audio record MPD members conducting official business or while acting in an official capacity in any public space, unless such recordings interfere with police activity.

We spent an extensive amount of time to ensure that members were aware of the policy (developed in 2011).

The video speaks for itself. I was shocked when I saw it. There is no excuse for an officer to be unaware of the policy.

This matter is under investigation.

Cathy L. Lanier
Chief of Police
It's not very often that a police chief will publicly criticize an officer's actions. Normally, this sort of thing is handled with a blow-off statement about being "under investigation." Only in very rare circumstances is that statement accompanied by a clear admission of fault.

According to Andrew Heining (the photographer who was harassed), he received another out-of-the-ordinary response when he filed a complaint at the precinct.
I filled out a PD-99 Citizen Complaint form with MPD Sunday night and submitted it to Internal Affairs and the District 1 Commander. I heard back from Commander Jeff Brown and Captain Brian Harris on Monday afternoon, and again from Capt. Harris Tuesday night. Capt. Harris told me the officers shown were clearly in the wrong, that he and another officer he showed it to said "What the hell!?" aloud while watching it. He told me that the officers in the video would be disciplined.
If nothing else, this indicates Chief Lanier is dead serious about the new photography/recording policy. It wasn't something slapped into place as a token effort to mollify critics. She wants officers to respect her constituents' First Amendment rights. Even better, it appears other commanding officers feel the same way.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 3:51am

    Cmon Techdirt let's Streisand Effect the hell out of this piece.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 3:59am

    Appropriate discipline

    If a citizen did this, they would be arrested, charged, and prosecuted. Why should a public servant be exempted from that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 4:35am

      Re: Appropriate discipline

      ruling class needs thugs to do their bidding. The only way to attract those is to give them special privledges

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 5:04am

      Re: Appropriate discipline

      Sovereign or qualified immunity.

      In other words: do as I say - not as I do.
      ... and pick up that can

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 4:26am

    Attention law enforcement, if you have nothing to hide, as you constantly tell us, what's the harm in a little bit of recording by the citizenry?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 4:31am

    What's this? One photon of light in the infinite sea of darkness?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 4:34am

    These are the people entrusted with guns. Those that break the laws constantly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tim R (profile), 17 Sep 2014 @ 4:41am

    MPD

    I don't know who the officer was that interjected "What the hell?" during the review of the video, but that man deserves a promotion, as does Capt. Harris for publicly declaring it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 4:49am

    Oh, boy. Whatever's not going to like this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 17 Sep 2014 @ 5:29am

    Well, it's D.C.

    D.C. is by far the place where terrorizing the populace can backfire worst. Beat the shit out of some asshole and next thing you know you are being defunded or reined in. Don't give the lawmakers ideas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    The Wanderer (profile), 17 Sep 2014 @ 5:34am

    Applause and kudos to Chief Lanier, Captain Harris, and the "other officer" involved. This is exactly the way police officers (especially high-ranking ones) should react when learning of violation committed by other officers, especially when there's strong evidence that they have been - and it's also just about the only example I can think of having seen of a case where they actually have reacted that way.

    Let's hope that they keep this up, both in this case (so that it doesn't end up getting swept under the rug or disappearing into the cracks of Internal Affairs after all) and in any future cases that may, and likely will, arise. Let's also hope that any necessary changes to training, monitoring, and discipline procedures to prevent future violations will be made with appropriate determination and alacrity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 5:49am

      Re:

      So very much agreed. This is one of the best news stories I've read all week. I sincerely hope more police departments start taking notice and acting very similarly.

      Or, even better, maybe the DOJ should start taking notice and doing exactly this top-down. Shame whole departments, impose referendums, investigate heavily and severely slash the funding of departments which choose to be recalcitrant. That is the revolution we need.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Sep 2014 @ 5:37am

    Now if they could get a policy where discipline was something real, rather than a paid vacation... or overturned by an arbitrator...

    I await the police union screaming about how unfair this is to the officers, making them actually respect the rights of citizens and daring to punishment them when they break the law.

    It seems like a good start, it is refreshing to see a Chief actually say something and mean it for a change. Now lets hope that seeing it enforced makes other officers follow the rule/law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 17 Sep 2014 @ 5:53am

      Re:

      Now if they could get a policy where discipline was something real, rather than a paid vacation... or overturned by an arbitrator...

      They'll probably just deport him to NY or LA where he is free to hassle photographers or shoot jaywalkers without an awful lot of congress members in vicinity.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Michael, 17 Sep 2014 @ 6:11am

        Re: Re:

        That's not fair.

        NY police officers will hassle photographers whether there are congressmen around or not.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 7:00am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Will they hassle photographers if they are also congressmen?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Michael, 17 Sep 2014 @ 7:48am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Members of the US congress are not technology minded enough to be beyond cave drawings.

            However, if there was one that could operate a camera, I am sure the police in NYC would be happy to assault them for doing so.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 9:31am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              | Members of the US congress are not technology minded enough to be beyond cave drawings.

              Sounds like a fair match for the NYC police then.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 6:03am

      Re:

      Yeah, I'm not on the bandwagon cheering about this... yet. Yes, the Chief's statement is great. Now *DO SOMETHING*. Fire him. Doesn't have to be immediately, it can wait until after the investigation, but then fire this completely out of line officer. Then, and only then, will the other officers start taking notice.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 2:35pm

        Re: Re:

        I'd say that, except for the reactions of the other officers. Saying that sort of thing on the record is both an admission of guilt and proof that the station culture as a whole doesn't go in for that. That's encouraging, and significantly different than the image we've been getting of other PDs lately.

        The real way to stop this sort of behaviour isn't with penalties (although that *might* help) but with creating a policing culture that stigmatizes those who behave in such negative ways. Without this kind of culture, any penalty will be pointless (kind of like how putting people in jail without society being vocally upset about what they did not fixing anyhting).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 17 Sep 2014 @ 7:46am

      Re:

      I would make Officer C.C. Reynolds's discipline as such.

      "Officer C.C. Reynolds will turn in his firearm. He will not be allowed to carry his firearm for 1 year while on duty as his ability to assess and react to even the most mild of interactions is in question. During this 1 year of probation, if he incurs any other another infraction of policy, he will be terminated."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 12:28pm

        Re: Re:

        Ossifer Reynolds probably already lost his firearm down the toilet...or in a bowl of pistol whip...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 2:38pm

        Re: Re:

        Termination of a person is a bit over the top, don't you think? Terminating his contract with prejudice (meaning, the reason for his contract being terminated being made available to other departments) would make much more sense.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Sep 2014 @ 5:23pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          It would make sense that this be an offical reprimand in his record and get enough of them, you are terminated.
          He is a police officer, his boss said these are the rules and he went off on his own and broke them.
          There needs to be a clear punishment that can't be arbitrated away, and they need to know that termination is on the table if you fail to follow the orders. (not to mention the laws of the country that do not stop because a cop wants them to.)

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 5:53am

    Are those tears of joy in my eyes? Yes, i believe they are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 17 Sep 2014 @ 6:14am

    Officer C.C. Reynolds

    Why hasn't Reynolds food products issued a DCMA takedown of this video yet?

    I'm totally confused, are they endorsing this?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    That Guy, 17 Sep 2014 @ 6:49am

    Kind of saddens me how things are going downhill. Reminds me of the officers from the movie Idiocracy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WD8aZV-Y8bE

    Its nice to see that at least this incident was acknowledged as being out of line.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 7:24am

    "Put it on YouTube. I wanna be a star". rofl

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 17 Sep 2014 @ 7:59am

    Kudos

    Kudos to police chief Lanier for handling this correctly and not just rallying around and defending the officer. We should be celebrating when the police (and particularly management) are doing the right thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 8:01am

    DC is home to more protests and more First Amendment exercises than anywhere else in the country. These dopes should (and certainly did) know better. I hope they all get busted down to parking enforcement to remind them that the law matters and applies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 8:03am

    I'm just happy for the person that he didn't have a Motorola X or G phone. Since they don't memory expansion slot, the police would've unlawfully confiscated your phone.☺☺

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 8:15am

    regardless of what was done previously to clarify what offices could and could not do, it seems to me that they need reminding quickly, loudly and permanently of the consequences for disobeying the chief's words and the breaking of citizens amendments rights! it makes no difference what is said and what is done if those the measures are directed at ignore and are allowed to ignore. it just gives offices the Police State actions which are not questioned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    hoare (profile), 17 Sep 2014 @ 9:07am

    mental illness

    Discipline?
    What should the discipline be for trampling Constitutional Rights? The cop already appears "unstable". Will he continue to carry a gun in public?
    I thought we were trying to disarm all the psychos.
    I've written my congressman and Senators and asked them what I should do when given an illegal order by a police officer.
    None of them have responded.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 2:41pm

      Re: mental illness

      You have your answer... when given an illegal order, try to ignore you heard it for as long as possible.

      I'm not sure I'd ask for ethical advice from a politician.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Steerpike (profile), 17 Sep 2014 @ 9:27am

    Haha. What's up with the ten foot long single piece of crime scene tape that doesn't block anything? People are crossing the street and walking on the sidewalk on the other side of it in the middle of the video.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      DogBreath, 17 Sep 2014 @ 10:09am

      Re:

      A barrier denoted by a single line that does not close off anything, also known as, "A barrier of one", or in this case "A barrier to one".

      Something tells me math was this officers worst subject in high school.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 9:58am

    No help from Congress

    We should remember that Washington DC is not like the 50 states as they have no proper representation in Congress.

    "One of the greatest disgraces in this country is that the over 600,000 people living in Washington D.C. are denied enfranchisement. They can’t vote for Congress or set their own laws without Congressional approval."

    http://elections.firedoglake.com/2014/09/16/no-one-should-get-basic-rights-until-dana-milb ank-is-allowed-to-break-traffic-laws

    And individual congresscritters think they are above the law.

    Which way will the MPD bend, in the end?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Sep 2014 @ 5:25pm

      Re: No help from Congress

      Of the 600,000 550,000 are lobbyists & support teams... they buy plenty of representation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 7:07pm

        Re: Re: No help from Congress

        Well, the lobbyist and support teams do work there, but I bet the vast majority actually live in VA or MD, they don't like living in the ghettos.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 11:26am

    🍩 🍩 🍩 🍩 🍩

    This 5 Donut Award goes to the three Law Enforcement Officers listed below .

    DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier ,
    Commander Jeff Brown and
    Captain Brian Harris

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 12:26pm

    I don't think she's as bothered by the officers trying to prevent a citizen's perfectly legal actions, as by the massive FUCK-YOU that the officer gave to her direct instructions....

    If I was DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier then I would hammer this officer so deeply into the ground that even his hat wouldn't be visible.

    If she doesn't stamp her absolute authority now, then she does in effect become powerless and those she is in charge of will basically flout any instruction she gives.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan the Man, 17 Sep 2014 @ 1:30pm

    Not Correct

    "The First Amendment protects the right to record the activities of police officers, not only in public places such as parks and sidewalks, but also in "an individual's home or business, common areas of public and private facilities and buildings, and any other public or private facility at which the individual has a legal right to be present."

    Actually, this is obviously wrong. There are many placeswhich are private or quasi-private (malls, etc.) where an owner has the right to set certain standards of conduct. The issue gets complicated in 1st Amendment jurisprudence, but this blanket states is absolutely incorrect.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2014 @ 2:45pm

      Re: Not Correct

      True, but I'd rather the authorities get it wrong in this direction than in the other.

      And actually, since DC isn't protected by state law, it's possible that in DC, this is mostly correct -- except that it's not first amendment rights that give this right, but the fact that rights are there by default, and there's no law limiting this behaviour in DC.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Meta-Dissappointed, 17 Sep 2014 @ 2:23pm

    Is meta-disappointment gonna be a thing now?

    It made me sad that the police being rational is praiseworth. Chris Rock says it best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0B_ekSrsEk

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    KRA, 17 Sep 2014 @ 3:20pm

    It is so seldom that I read something on here that makes me feel like things are getting on the right track--particularly where law enforcement is concerned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ismail, 17 Sep 2014 @ 4:51pm

    C.C. Reynolds needs to be made an example of....

    How NOT to conduct business as a public servant. How would this be accomplished? Mr Heining needs to file a civil lawsuit against Reynolds personally. The judgement against Reynolds should be such that it impacts him personally, professionally, and financially. Bad cops will continue to be bad cops unless their misconduct comes back to bite them specifically, rather than the department/state they work for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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