Filming Police Not Always Protected Speech Under First Amendment, Federal Court Rules

A federal court in Philadelphia ruled on Friday that not all videotaping of police officers engaged in their duties is necessarily protected speech under the First Amendment.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Kearney ruled that videotaping police officers, absent doing so as an express form of protest or as a challenge to the officers, does not rise to a form of protected speech.

"While we instinctively understand the citizens' argument, particularly with rapidly developing instant image sharing technology, we find no basis to craft a new First Amendment right based solely on 'observing and recording' without expressive conduct," Kearney stated in his ruling.

The ACLU has vowed to challenge the ruling.

"Without a protected right to film officers, the ability of the public to monitor police activity is really reduced," said Mary Catherine Roper, an attorney with the ACLU.


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