PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Allegheny County District Attorney Steve Zappala announced that the Allegheny County Chiefs of Police Association has developed guidelines for police action after having been observed, photographed or videotaped by citizens.
The guidelines begin with the admonition:
“Upon discovery that a bystander is observing, photographing or video recording the conduct of police activity, do not impede or prevent the bystander’s ability to continue doing so based solely on your discovery of his/her presence.”
“You guys may remember there was a county police officer who was arrested for road rage incidents, there was a guy in the back seat,” said Zappala. “He was videotaping the encounter. I think it was audio and video. Do it. It’s a public integrity issue.”
Zappala says the public should know they have the right to observe and record police activity but at the same time they should know there are limits to those rights.
Last month teacher Dennis Henderson was arrested after an altercation with police during which he prepared to record an officers actions and the officer tried to take his phone away.
Charges against Henderson were dropped by the D.A.
But while the guidelines tell officers their orders regarding citizen photography can not be automatic, the guidelines also say a citizen’s criminal activity cannot be shielded just because they have a recording device.
“As to any constitutional right, they’re not unlimited,” says Zappala. “They have to be exercised reasonably, so if you want to video a police officer in a public place, you have the right to do that. You do not have the right to antagonize the officer or to try to get them to arrest you. So we’re going to be looking at every circumstance on a case by case basis.”