The Department of Justice isn’t satisfied with the Baltimore Police Department’s recently issued orders on citizens’ right to record officers, reports the city’s Sun. Jonathan Smith of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division filed an 11-page letter with the court this week in the case of a Howard County man suing police for allegedly deleting videos from his cellphone after he recorded an officer arresting a woman in 2010. Since then, police drafted new guidelines and implemented training to instruct officers that citizens can record officers’ actions.
But in his letter Smith said the new police policy still does not adequately protect individuals’ constitutional rights in some areas. It should be more clear in prohibiting the deletion or destruction of recordings “under any circumstances,” Smith wrote, and it does not define what constitutes the “public domain” where recordings can take place. The policy also should instruct officers “not to threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage an individual from recording police officer enforcement activities or intentionally block or obstruct cameras or other recording devices,” Smith wrote. The case is believed to be the first where the Justice Department has weighed in on citizens’ right to record police officers, an issue that has exploded in recent years with the growing prevalence of camera phones.