Credit Where It Is Due

I hoped that President Obama would live up to campaign promises to protect civil liberties in post-9/11 America. So far, he's been a grave disappointment on that subject.

But let's give his administration some credit on the occasions it is due. Kudos are due to the Department of Justice for taking the right position on the right of citizens to record police in public:

The Obama administration has told a federal judge that Baltimore police officers violated the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments by seizing a man's cell phone and deleting its contents. The deletions were allegedly in retaliation for the man's use of the phone to record the officers' arrest of his friend. According to the Maryland ACLU, this is the first time the Obama Justice Department has weighed in on whether the Constitution protects citizens' right to record the actions of police with their cell phones.

. . . .

"Although defendants have taken some remedial actions, these measures do not adequately ensure that violation will not recur," the Obama Administration said in a Tuesday court filing. While the city's new training materials acknowledge that it's legal to record the actions of the police, they "do not explicitly acknowledge that private citizens' right to record the police derives from the First Amendment, nor do they provide clear and effective guidance to officers about the important First Amendment principle involved."

As readers know, citizens' right to record cops without abuse is a major issue for us, and I submit that it is a canary-in-the-coal-mine issue on limits on police power. Good for the Obama DoJ on this one issue.

Thanks to tipster Andrea on the link.

Edit: In the course of shaking his palsied fist and yelling at me to get off of his lawn, Scott Greenfield points out that he already wrote about this, as did Radley Balko. Perhaps. But Andrea was the one who used a shiny object to attract my attention at the price moment when I needed something to post about. So there.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. says

    This isn't exactly on point, but wasn't it recently ruled that the police are allowed to search a person's cell phone contents? I believe it was a state case, but it may have been federal.

    At any rate, I'm glad the administration has weighed in on recording. In our hyped-praise of police officers as gods it is often forgotten that they are really just people. People with power. They should be watched.

  2. Scott Jacobs says

    This isn't exactly on point, but wasn't it recently ruled that the police are allowed to search a person's cell phone contents?

    I know what one you're thinking of… If I recall it correctly, if the phone is not secured, they can search it…

    So put a fucking PIN on your fucking cell phone, people.