In a ruling last week, the First District Court of Appeals has told us something that we should have all known from day one, and is something that I have been telling everyone for years:
It is perfectly legal for citizens to photograph and videotape police officers.
A couple of years ago, I was walking down Las Vegas Boulevard, and I saw a motorcycle cop pull a car over for a traffic infraction. Wanting to add to my stock footage, I pulled out my camera, pointed it at the officer, and was immediately reprimanded by a man I didn’t know.
“Hey, you can’t do that! Don’t take pictures of the police!”
I looked up and saw a rotund man carrying a tall, purple, novelty beer container, pointing at me. He was genuinely upset that I was photographing the cop, and even more upset that I decided to ignore him and keep snapping shots.
“It’s perfectly legal to photograph the police,” I told him.
“Not anymore”, he replied, “you ever heard of something called the Patriot Act?!”
I shook my head in disgust, finished up, and distanced myself from the Walmart shopper and his ridiculous beverage. Later, I became depressed with what had happened to a once great nation. Where once stood brave men, now stood sheep. Obese sheep gambling away their mortgage while drinking beer and quoting laws they’d never read. Sheep with average IQ’s of 98.
I’m not kidding, folks. That’s the Intelligence Quotient of the average U.S. resident. 98.
The general dimness of the U.S. citizenry is one reason I now refuse to leave the Pacific Northwest. It’s full of goofy, flaky, socially awkward lemmings … but the average IQ here is the highest in the USA. Sure, this isn’t saying much, but the PNW is as far as I can go without crossing the Canadian border and being subjected to their moose piss beer and stupid duck currency.
In any event, now that the right to tape police has been upheld 2,500 miles away, what does this mean for us here in Washington?
I am happy to report that, as usual, we’re light years ahead of the New England chowderheads.
Beginning in 1992, two separate courts ruled that it is perfectly legal to videotape police in this state.
The first ruling is Washington vs. Flora, and if you are a budding blogger, journalist, or simply a shutterbug, you should familiarize yourself with it.
In the ruling, the court stated:
“We decline the State’s invitation to transform the privacy act into a sword available for use against individuals by public officers acting in their official capacity.”
Years later, in Johnson vs. Hawe, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals once again unequivocally upheld the right of citizens to tape police here in Washington State.
The judges wrote:
“It is not a violation of the Washington Privacy Act to tape-record a police officer in the performance of an official function on a public thoroughfare. Such conversations are not ‘private’ under the Privacy Act. This rule of law was clearly established by Washington Courts in 1992 in the case of State of Washington v. Flora.”
So there you have it. Legal rulings you may cite should your ability to record government officials ever be questioned in the State of Washington.
Use them wisely.