Washington DC's chief of police issued a general order on July 19th that gives officers explicit guidelines on how to respect and uphold the First Amendment right of citizens to record officers on duty in the public, but apparently it wasn't enough to keep DC police from unlawfully interfering with that right the very next day. On July 20th, MPDC police allegedly confiscated resident Earl Staley's device, after they discovered him recording officers who Staley says were punching a man they were arresting, WTTG Fox 5 reports. Staley's phone was returned, but without the memory card, which he says contained hundreds of pictures of his daughter — a clear violation of the department's new general order.
The number of similar confiscations and prosecutions that have occurred across the country in recent years is staggering — enough to provoke the US Justice Department to rebuke the Baltimore police department for failing to uphold its own general order on citizen recording, similar to MPDC's. While a single violation is certainly not enough to indicate that the new police policy on cellphone recordings isn't working, it's unfortunately a stark reminder that explicit instructions and oversight are necessary.