Florida City's Police Guidance Criminalizes Citizen Recording
Dec 24, 2015 07:14 AM EST
An undated document from Lakeland Police Department has recently been made visible by the Photography Is Not A Crime or PINAC Newsroom bearing guidance on how and when to arrest a citizen or seize their devices when found recording a police officer on duty.
The document was signed by LPD attorney Roger Mallory who was previously demoted in his rank after losing a public records lawsuit. It has caused the city's taxpayers to spend $160,000 against the plaintiff Joel Chandler who then called Mallory's legal strategy, "doubling down on stupid."
Mallory provides a four-page instruction to delegate to the police officers when to blow their cover should they be undergoing a secret operation and a citizen is causing them to get seen or is plainly distracting them in their work.
"You are conducting surveillance from a location under circumstances in which we have a clear and reasonable intention and investigative need to remain secret and the videorecording/photographing can be reasonably expected to include your chosen location such that a viewer of that video/photograph could identify that location," orders the police guidance manual.
"You are acting in an undercover capacity, you are actively conducting law enforcement business (not, e.g., on lunch break, etc.), i.e., you are actually performing some legal duty (e.g., conducting an investigation), and the video-recording/photographing would somehow reveal your identity as a police officer, thereby endangering you and/or denying you the opportunity to continue to perform your legal duty."
Additionally, Mallory also bent the state's wiretapping statute as he recommends that any citizen recording the officer should inform him that he is being recorded verbally or written.
The citizen can also raise or position his device so that it is prominent or is clearly visible to the police officer on duty. If either of the two is not provided and the officer believes that he is being recorded without his permission, he can arrest the offending citizen for felony.
Mickey Oterreicher, General Counsel to the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), expresses his distaste over the said guidance as he comments, "I believe that Lakeland Police Department General Counsel, Roger Mallory does a great disservice to his chief and his department by suggesting ways in which officers may violate the clearly established constitutional rights of citizens and journalists to photograph and record police officers performing their official duties in a public place."
Many find Mallory's set guidelines for criminalizing citizen recording, be it by photograph, audio, video or all of these being simultaneously done, absurd as it is a Constitutionally protected right of free speech and law enforcers should be protecting constitutional rights of the people, not finding ways to arrest them for exercising these given rights.