Personal Liberty Poll
Taking photos and videos of public officials working in public is a key way to make sure that agents of the state aren’t abusing their authority or American citizens’ rights. But an appeals court judge in Missouri just contradicted the rulings of six other federal judges in a decision declaring Americans have no right to video police or other public officials in public places.
Missouri NBC affiliate 13KRCG reported the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last week:
The case stemmed from a lawsuit brought by Matthew Akins of Columbia, who has had numerous run-ins with police as he attempted to videotape them pulling cars over and making arrests. Akins was typically standing on public property such as a street or sidewalk while videotaping the encounters. Akins was videotaping the encounters on behalf of a group called Citizens for Justice, which he founded in 2010.
According to his lawyer, Stephen Wyse of Columbia, Akins was threatened numerous times for his actions, his employer was hassled, and he was ordered to stop videotaping by police on several occasions. He had charges filed against him, many of which were later dropped, according to the Eighth Circuit ruling.
Akins sued Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight and several Columbia police officers, citing violations of his First, Second, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The court’s move is likely to kick the case to the Supreme Court, where hopefully Americans’ right to police their public officials in public will be upheld. That would put an end to what the American Civil Liberties Union describes as ” a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs or video in public places and harassing, detaining, and arresting those who fail to comply.”
“The right of citizens to record the police is a critical check and balance. It creates an independent record of what took place in a particular incident, free from accusations of bias, lying, or faulty memory,” the ACLU says on its website. “It is no accident that some of the most high-profile cases of police misconduct have involved video and audio records.”