If people want to take pictures or video of police making an arrest they have the legal authority to do so in Seattle. The Seattle City Council passed a so-called "Public Safety Bill of Rights" on Monday.
It says that people can observe, record and even criticize police in public as long as they don't impede the officer's work.
Seattle Police Officer's Guild president Kevin Stuckey said he's fine with civilians recording police. He said that is within their rights already. Stuckey does caution, however, to respect the officer’s distance.
Stuckey: "At some point an officer is going to turn to you if they're making an arrest, and at that point you should tell them what you're doing. [Say] ‘I'm filming you.’ You have a right to do so and do it. But [don't] try to enter into the arrest or become a part of the incident."
He said getting too involved is what could lead bystanders to be arrested or police to use force on them.
The First Amendment already makes it legal to record police in public. Seattle’s measure goes further, specifying that officers are prohibited from retaliating against civilians who record or criticize them.
The City Council's Public Safety Bill of Rights specifies:
- A person not involved in an incident may remain in the vicinity of any stop, detention, or arrest occurring in a public place, and observe or record activity and express themselves, including making comments critical of an officer’s actions, so long as the person’s conduct and presence are otherwise lawful.
- No employee of the Seattle Police Department nor an agent thereof shall prevent a person from engaging in an action or actions protected by this bill.
- No employee of the Seattle Police Department nor an agent thereof shall use physical force for the purpose of punishing or retaliating against a person engaging in an action or actions protected by this bill.
- When an officer is using less-lethal tools in the presence of persons observing or recording police activity, the officer shall seek to minimize harm to non-targeted persons.