Some Philadelphia police officers apparently missed a 2011 memo from Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey saying that Philadelphians have the right to record, videotape or photograph them in public spaces, says the Philadelphia Daily News. The American Civil Liberties Union plans to file a federal lawsuit today over complaints from people who say they were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for recording officers in public, an act that the ACLU says is a First Amendment right.
Ramsey issued the memo after the Daily News reported incidents in which cops wrongly arrested people for using their cellphones to record what they thought were violent arrests. In some instances, their phones and footage were destroyed. Ramsey declared then that it was not illegal to videotape an officer. Christopher Montgomery, a photojournalist and senior at Temple University, is the lead plaintiff. In 2011, Montgomery was waiting for a friend on the street when a verbal altercation between a group of youths and an older individual drew a crowd of onlookers. Several police cars arrived and Montgomery pulled out his iPhone to record the arrests. He was then arrested for disorderly conduct.