An attorney who moonlights as an Uber driver caught a police sergeant and a sheriff’s deputy lying about videoing law — on video.
The cops told Jesse Bright it was illegal to record them him, but a few days later the police chief admitted it was legal for Bright to tape law enforcement officers.
“Taking photographs and videos of people that are in plain sight including the police is your legal right,” Wilmington, N.C., Police Chief Ralph Evangelous told the media. “As a matter of fact we invite citizens to do so when they believe it is necessary. We believe that public videos help to protect the police as well as our citizens and provide critical information during police and citizen interaction.”
Evangelous’s officers did not get the memo. A few days earlier, Wilmington Police Sergeant Kenneth Becker stopped Bright’s car and asked to search the passenger. Bright decided to record the incident, and he then turned the tape over to WECT TV.
“Hey bud, turn that off, OK,” Becker said.
“No, I’ll keep recording,” Bright responded. “Thank you. It’s my right.”
“Don’t record me,” Becker said. “You got me? Be careful because there is a new law. Turn it off or I’ll take you to jail.”
“For recording you?” Bright asked. “What is the law?”
Unable to give Bright a specific law, Becker then began arresting him.
“Step out of the car,” Becker responded.
“What are you arresting me for?” Bright asked. “I’m sitting here in my car. I’m just recording in case anything happens. I’m surrounded by five police officers.”
“You’re being a jerk,” Becker said.
Seconds later he said: “I know the law. I’m an attorney, so I would hope I know what the law is.”
Bright had picked up the passenger from a spot near a “drug house,” police said. Eventually, both men were let go without being charged.
Laws in 38 states allow citizens to record cops as long as they do not interfere with police operations, Gizmodo reported.
Bright said the police he encountered have a self-interest in not wanting anything recorded.
“It’s definitely in their best interest to have the only copy of the video, but it’s not within their rights to have the only copy in an incident,” Bright said of police. “If the only recording of an incident is on their camera, they kind of control if that gets released or sometimes there can be a malfunction with it.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has posted a list of rights for filming and photographing police.
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