ACLU-PA Issues Statement in Response to Copwatch Ruling

February 24, 2016
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On February 19, 2016, the federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a ruling in two ACLU-PA lawsuits brought on behalf of Philadelphians who were arrested or detained when they attempted to record Philadelphia police officers performing their duties. Judge Kearney dismissed the First Amendment claims, ruling that civilians have no First Amendment right to record the police unless they are doing so for the purpose of criticizing the police. The following statement can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, Executive Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:

“Police have extraordinary power, and civilian recordings of police actions are essential to holding police accountable for how they use that power. The freedom to monitor the police without fearing arrest or retaliation is one of the ways we distinguish a free society from a police state. Every court that has addressed this issue has ruled that the right to record the police performing their duties in public is at the core of what the First Amendment protects. Judge Kearney’s ruling is an outlier, and we intend to appeal it.”

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