Camera lens
By Jkimxpolygons (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A First Amendment confrontation and police wearing cameras

A few leftover tidbits from my story in Thursday’s paper about the Baltimore Police Department updating its policy on citizens’ right to record:

One voice I could not fit into the story was Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s. The mayor sits on the Board of Estimates, which on Wednesday approved a $250,000 settlement to the underlying lawsuit.

“We have to strike a balance,” she told my colleague, Adam Bednar, following the hearing. “We want to make sure we’re keeping our officers safe, but I’m pretty sure we’ve been clear that the public has a right to film and we’re going to work and make sure we have rules of engagement that everyone knows what, the public knows that they can do it in a certain amount of space and the officers know how to respond.”

“We are [training officers about the public’s right to film] but there’s always more that can be done,” she continued. “I mean ,that’s the type of thing that we need to continue to talk about. Because it’s usually in the height of a situation that this issue comes up and, you know, the more that you drill that information that ‘This is OK. These are the regulations.’ It will become second nature.”


The new recording policy was released a few days after The Baltimore Sun posted on its website a series of photos showing a city police officer forcibly moving a Sun photographer away from a crime scene.

Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts declined to discuss the incident Wednesday when asked about it by The Sun’s Luke Broadwater, citing an ongoing internal investigation.

“There are always two sides to each story,” Batts said. “Officers will be held accountable if something done wrong.”


Batts also was asked about the possibility of Baltimore police officers wearing cameras while on duty. It’s an idea Batts knows well; while police chief in Oakland, Calif., he implemented a policy in 2011 requiring officers to wear small cameras while on duty.

Batts said it’s a possibility for Baltimore but that he did not want the city to be the “beta site” for wearing cameras. The cameras raise privacy issues, he said; for example, the media would have access to film taken by police investigating a child abuse incident.

One problem Batts did not mention: Many officers in Oakland still do not wear the cameras.

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