The RTDNA Voice of the First Amendment Task Force applauds a Friday ruling from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, which upheld peoples’ First Amendment right to take photographs and otherwise record police officers while performing their duties in public.
The ruling involved two separate cases of people who were arrested or detained by Philadelphia police while attempting to record officers.
According to the ACLU of Pennsylvania, which participated in the appeal of a lower-court ruling upholding the detention and arrest, the Philadelphia federal appeals court has now become at least the sixth U.S. Court of Appeals across the country to rule that the First Amendment gives citizens the right to record the official actions of police officers.
“In this era where the First Amendment has been under unrelenting attack, it’s gratifying, to say the least, to have judges acknowledge the sanctity of citizens’ right to record public officials performing their official duties,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Incoming Executive Director, who spearheads the task force.
In one of the cases, then-Temple University student Rick Fields was arrested in 2013 for using his iPhone to record officers breaking up a house party. He was charged with “obstructing the highway,” although authorities later dropped the charges.
In the other case, a trained legal observer, Amanda Geraci, was detained by police in 2012 while photographing an anti-fracking protest near the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“The First Amendment applies to all Americans, not just journalists. This ruling is particularly important precisely because it did not involve reporters. There are countless examples throughout our history of everyday citizens recording and sharing with the public events that have had a significant impact on our society,” Shelley added.
“RTDNA’s Voice of the First Amendment Task Force was formed to defend against threats to the First Amendment, and to help the public better understand why responsible journalism is essential to their daily lives. Sometimes, flagrant acts of responsible journalism are committed by people who don’t have press cards,” he said.
People wishing to support RTDNA’s efforts may reach out to the task force by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.