General Orders and Reference Materials
Police departments across the United States have issued General Orders or similar documents to explain to their officers and supervisors how to deal with photography and video in the public space and the use of body cams.
These Orders cover such topics as how to legally secure copies of images, when it is permissible to seize images under extremely limited circumstances, and how to maintain the chain of evidence for the images.
DISCLAIMER: The documents posted on this page are not to be construed in any way as legal advice regarding the Right to Photograph and Record in Public. Should you have any questions or concerns regarding these issues you are strongly advised to consult with your own (or your department’s) legal counsel before taking any action.
This is not a complete list; it will be updated as more documents are submitted
If your department / agency has a 'photography in public' policy, we would like to include it in this directory. Please submit your document(s) by clicking here.
Photography in Public Policies
BodyCam / Body Worn Cameras (BWC) Policies
|The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has created a database/map of BWC polices across the USA|
Related documents, such as court decisions and Department of Justice letters
US Department of Justice Statement of Interest - March 2013 - in re whether individuals have a First Amendment right to record police officers in the discharged of their duties and whether officers violate individuals' Fourth and Fourteenth Amendement rights when they seize such recordings without a warrant or due process
Turner v Driver, US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2-16-2017 - “Filming the police contributes to the public’s ability to hold the police accountable, ensure that police officers are not abusing their power, and make informed decisions about police policy,” Justice Jacques Wiener wrote. “Protecting the right to film the police promotes First Amendment principles.” (link - Star-Telegram story 2-27-2017)
How Pervasisve Video Affects Law Enforcement and Civil Rights / 1-30-2016 / Houston Bar Association / Law and The Media Seminar / Leatherbury, Gividen, Miller, Vinson & Elkins, LLP
Rules and Protections for the Undercover Journalist: A primer on possible claims and defenses in Texas courts based on headline journalism cases / 1-30-2016 / Houston Bar Association / Law and The Media Seminar / Parker, Jackson Walker LLP
Federal Highway Administration, DOT Pt. 634 – Worker Visibility - rules that require law enforcement officers, reporters and photographers to wear high-visibility vests if they are standing within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway and are exposed to either traffic or construction equipment.
US District Court/ Southern District of New York - Higgenbotham v City of New York et al - 14-cv-8549 - May 12, 2015 - First Amendment generally protects videorecording of police, and this right is 'clearly established' in 2nd Circuit
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press - Police, Protesters and the Press: How a wave of protests across the nation has tested police-press relations, and what it means for journalists who cover them.
Buehler v Austin (Texas) Police Department (Opinion and Order US District Court of Eastern Texas) A federal lawsuit filed by local activist Antonio Buehler against the Austin Police Department has cleared a hurdle as a U.S. magistrate judge upheld his constitutional right to photograph and film police officers.
Glik v Cunniffe et al 655 F.3d 78 (1st Cir. 2011) was a case at the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit that held that a private citizen has the right to record video and audio of public officials in a public place, and that the arrest of the citizen for a wiretapping violation violated the citizen's First and Fourth Amendment rights.)
US Department of Justice Letter to Baltimore Police Department (US Department of Justice) The US Department of Justice sent a strongly worded letter to the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), reprimanding it for insufficiently supporting the right of citizens to record video of officers on duty — a move that suggests the federal government is becoming increasingly concerned over related civil rights abuses.
Changing the culture of unconstitutional interference: a proposal for nationwide implementation of a model policy and training procedures protecting the right to photograph and record on-duty police (Kimberly McCullough, J.D., Lewis & Clark Law School, Associate Attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP (August 2014)
ACLU Illinois v Alvarez The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals enjoined enforcement of the Illinois eavesdropping law. The court ruled that the law, which prohibits people from making audio recordings of police officers in public, “likely violates” the First Amendment (United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit. May 8, 2012)
Riley vs. California, 13-132 Police need warrants for cell phone searches. Police must get a search warrant before examining the contents of cell phones they seize from people they arrest, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, invoking Americans' right to modest privacy protections in the troves of personal information stored in the compact devices.
A Guide To Photographer’s Rights (And What To Do If You Get Arrested) Hopefully, none of you will ever actually be in a situation where this would be useful, but Mickey Osterreicher, General Counsel for The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), sat down to make a quick, but helpful, informational video regarding the legal rights of photojournalists. In the video, which is a 3-minute long gem of a sound bite, Osterreicher explains several different scenarios photographers working in public places often find themselves in and what they can do to prevent interactions with the police from escalating.
Press Freedom Under Fire in Ferguson (PEN AMERICA) On August 9, 2014, Ferguson Police Department Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown six times, killing him. Brown’s killing touched off protests in Ferguson that grew into several weeks of demonstrations. The aggressive law enforcement response to the protests drew national attention.