The DC Metropolitan Police Department has new guidelines that require officers to recognize the rights of citizens to take photos, video and audio recordings of police activity from public space. The guidelines were part of a settlement reached between Jerome Vorus, represented by the ACLU, and the District, bringing to an end his .
The two sides reached a settlement and filed for the case to be dismissed July 23. The settlement included the new guidelines on public photography and other recordings of police activity as well as an undisclosed monetary settlement for Vorus.
The new guidelines state:
"The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) recognizes that members of the general public have a First Amendment right to video record, photograph, and/or audio record MPD members while MPD members are conducting official business or while acting in an official capacity in any public space, unless such recordings interfere with police activity."
According to court documents, on July 3, 2010 Vorus, of Alexandria, was standing on a public sidewalk in Georgetown taking photos of a traffic stop. When officers asked him for indentification, Vorus asked if he was being detained, he was eventually told he was free to go.
Vorus continued making an audio recording while he was being detained and was told by four different MPD officers that it was illegal to take photos or record officers without their consent.
Vorus with ACLU representation filed a law suit in June 2011 and in August the District tried to have the complaint dismissed.
Last year the District's attorneys argued that they had not identified any case law that "clearly establishes a constitutional protection for the narrow right that Plaintiff claims here: the right to capture images and video of public servants in public places for personal use."
Almost a year later, the District now has guidelines that explicitly allow those actions as a First Amendment right.
"I was glad I was instrumental along with the ACLU in making these changes because this is not just a victory for myself but a victory for all photographers in this city and hopefully around the country,” Vorus told Photography is Not a Crime writer Carlos Miller in a phone interview Monday.