The Baltimore Police Department has instituted a new policy that prohibits officers from stopping people from taping or photographing police actions, reports the Baltimore Sun. The new rules were unveiled as the city agreed to pay $250,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a man who says police seized his cellphone and deleted the video of an arrest at the Preakness Stakes in 2010. “Four years ago, if we had taken the complaint seriously and addressed it in a very rapid manner, we may not be sitting here today,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said yesterday. “What I’ve been brought here to do is do reform of this organization. It’s not an easy job. It’s a tough job, because we’re changing the culture in the Police Department as a whole.”
The agency issued rules on the public’s right to film officers in 2012, but the American Civil Liberties Union said they didn’t go far enough. The new policy states that “members of the general public have a First Amendment right to video record, photograph, and/or audio record BPD members while BPD members are conducting official business … unless such recordings interfere with police activity.” The new policy also states that officers “shall allow all persons the same access for photography and recording as is given to the news media.” The case centered on officers’ actions at the Pimlico Race Course, where Christopher Sharp said officers violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights when they took his phone after the “arrest and beating” of his female friend.