You’re walking down the sidewalk and see police officers making an arrest. They’re using force, and the man they’re arresting is protesting. You pull out your cellphone and start recording. An officer orders you to stop, and demands that you hand over your phone. Are you breaking the law? Not in Florida, as long as you were in a public place and not interfering with the officer or his investigation, says the Orlando Sentinel. “You have an absolute right to videotape an officer or anyone else on the street,” said Howard Marks, an attorney who specializes in civil-rights cases. “Law-enforcement officers don’t like being taped. That’s tough luck.” The issue has become a growing civil-rights dispute, the result of smartphone proliferation. It has transformed a dispute that used to involve a relatively small number of people — news photographers — into one that has the potential to put cops at odds with any bystander with a cellphone. It has prompted arrests, disputes and lawsuits across the country.
On Monday, Alberto Troche, filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against Orlando police officer Peter Delio, accusing him of falsely arresting him and violating his constitutional rights Dec. 7 when the officer ordered him to stop video-recording another man’s arrest. The video shot by Troche shows several officers yelling at a crowd of bystanders, ordering them to stop video-recording the arrest and threatening them with arrest if they refuse. “We’ve seen over the past couple of years … a pattern of law-enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking pictures or videos in public places as well as taking cameras and arresting people who fail to comply,” said Baylor Johnson of the American Civil Liberties Union. “That’s something we find really troubling.”