Skip navigation
The Habeas Citebook Ineffective Counsel - Header

General Order re Video Recording D.C. Metro Police 2012

Download original document:
Brief thumbnail
This text is machine-read, and may contain errors. Check the original document to verify accuracy.
GENERAL ORDER
Title

Video Recording, Photographing, and
Audio Recording of Metropolitan Police
Department Members by the Public
Topic

OPS

Series

Number

304

19

Effective Date

July 19, 2012
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

I.
II.
III.

I.

Policy
Regulations
Cross References

Related to:
GO-PER-201.26 (Duties, Responsibilities and Conduct of
Members of the Department)
GO-SPT-204.01 (Media)
GO-OPS-304.10 (Police-Citizen Contacts, Stops and Frisks)

Page
Page
Page

1
1
6

POLICY
The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) recognizes that members of the general
public have a First Amendment right to video record, photograph, and/or audio
record MPD members while MPD members are conducting official business or while
acting in an official capacity in any public space, unless such recordings interfere
with police activity.

II.

REGULATIONS
A.

B.

Members are reminded that photography, including videotaping, of places,
buildings, structures and events are common and lawful activities in
Washington, D.C.
1.

If a person is taking photographs or recording from a place where he or
she has a right to be, members are reminded that this activity by itself
does not constitute suspicious conduct.

2.

Members shall refer to GO-HRC-802.06 (Suspicious Activity Reporting
Program) for guidance concerning identification and reporting of
suspicious activities.

In areas open to the public, members shall allow bystanders the same access
for photography as is given to members of the news media [See GO-SPT204.01 (Media)]. Members shall be aware that:
1.

A bystander has the same right to take photographs or make
recordings as a member of the media, as long as the bystander has a
legal right to be present where he or she is located.

RECORDING OF MEMBERS BY THE PUBLIC (GO-OPS-304.19)

C.

2 of 6

2.

A bystander has the right under the First Amendment to observe and
record members in the public discharge of their duties.

3.

Public settings include, e.g., parks, sidewalks, streets, and locations of
public protests; but that protection extends also to an individual’s home
or business, common areas of public and private facilities and
buildings, and any other public or private facility at which the individual
has a legal right to be present.

4.

The fact that a bystander has a camera or other recording device does
not, however, entitle the bystander to cross a police line, to enter an
area that is closed to the public, or to enter any area designated as a
crime scene.

As long as the photographing or recording takes place in a setting at which
the individual has a legal right to be present and does not interfere with a
member’s safety, members shall not inform or instruct people that
photographing or recording of police officers, police activity or individuals who
are the subject of police action (such as a Terry stop or an arrest) is not
allowed; requires a permit; or requires the member’s consent. Additionally,
members shall not:
1.

Order that person to cease such activity;

2.

Demand that person's identification;

3.

Demand that the person state a reason why he or she is taking
photographs or recording;

4.

Detain that person;

5.

Intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices; or

6.

In any way threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage an individual
from recording members’ enforcement activities.

NOTE: Members may ask questions during the course of a contact, but
members are reminded that there is no justification for ordering a person to
stop or requiring that they answer unless the member reasonably suspects
that a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit any crime.
[See GO-OPS-304.10 (Police-Citizen Contacts, Stops, and Frisks)].
D.

Members are reminded that the public does not have a right to interfere with
police activity. Interference consists of conduct, threats, actions or activities
that prevent or hinder, or purport to prevent or hinder, members from doing
their job.

RECORDING OF MEMBERS BY THE PUBLIC (GO-OPS-304.19)

E.

3 of 6

1.

If a person is photographing or recording police activity from a position
that impedes or interferes with the safety of members or their ability to
perform their duties, a member may direct the person to move to a
position that will not interfere. However, a member shall not order the
person to stop photographing or recording.

2.

If a person is photographing or recording police activity from a position
that impedes or threatens the safety of members of the public, a
member shall direct the person to move to a position that will not
interfere. However, members shall not order the person to stop
photographing or recording.

3.

A person’s recording of members’ activity from a safe distance, and
absent any attendant action that obstructs the activity or threatens the
safety of the member(s), does not constitute interference.

4.

A person has the right to express criticism of the police activity being
observed. So long as that expression does not jeopardize the safety of
any member, suspect or bystander; and so long as that expression
does not violate the law or incite others to violate the law, the
expression does not constitute interference.

Evidence on a Camera or Recording Device; Probable Cause
1.

Probable cause exists where the known facts and circumstances are
such that a reasonable member in the same situation would believe
that evidence of a crime will be found.
See, e.g., United States v. Scott, 987 A.2d 1180, 1191 (D.C. 2010).

2.

If a member has probable cause to believe that a camera or other
recording device contains images or sounds that are evidence of
criminal acts, the member shall request that the person either:
a.

Voluntarily provide the device or recording medium (e.g., the
memory chip) to the member; or

b.

Where possible and practicable, and in the presence of the
member, voluntarily transmit the images or sound via text
message or electronic mail to the member’s official government
electronic mail account.

c.

Consent to take possession of a recording device or medium
must be given voluntarily. A member shall not, implicitly or
explicitly, coerce consent to take possession of any recording
device or any information thereon.

RECORDING OF MEMBERS BY THE PUBLIC (GO-OPS-304.19)

3.

4.

4 of 6

If the person provides the device or recording medium to the member,
the member shall:
a.

Exercise due care and caution with any of the individual’s
property or electronic device(s);

b.

Obtain CCN numbers for the evidence obtained, and provide
the CCN numbers to the individual;

c.

In the “Property listing/Evidence Recovered” section of any
applicable field report(s), Document the item(s) surrendered by
the individual in the PD-81 in accordance with MPD procedures;

d.

Document the member’s request and the individual’s response
in the narrative of applicable field reports and other documents;
and

e.

Submit the device(s) to the Electronic Surveillance Unit to
access any relevant material as quickly as practicable.
Members shall not attempt to view, download, or otherwise
access any material contained on the device.

If the individual declines to voluntarily provide the device or recording
medium, or to electronically transmit the sound and/or images where
possible and practicable, and the member believes that exigent
circumstances exist insofar as the evidence of criminal activity will be
lost absent a seizure of the device, the member shall contact the
Watch Commander, Criminal Investigations Division (CID).
a.

The Watch Commander, CID, or other official with supervisory
authority over the member, must be present at the scene before
a member takes any significant action involving a person’s use
of a recording device. This includes warrantless search or
seizure of a camera or recording device, or an arrest.

b.

The member shall inform the Watch Commander of the nature
of the evidence of criminal acts believed to be contained on the
device.

c.

The Watch Commander, CID, shall, in consultation with the
Commander, CID, determine whether exigent circumstances,
including the seriousness of the possible crime at issue, permit
the seizure of the device without a warrant. Warrantless seizure
is permissible only when:

RECORDING OF MEMBERS BY THE PUBLIC (GO-OPS-304.19)

F.

5 of 6

(1)

There is probable cause to believe that the property
holds contraband or evidence of a crime; and

(2)

The exigencies of the circumstances demand it or some
other recognized exception to the warrant requirement is
present.

d.

If the Watch Commander, CID, finds that exigent circumstances
permit the seizure of the device without a warrant, approval
shall be given to the member for the seizure.

e.

The member shall obtain and provide CCN numbers to the
individual possessing the device.

f.

Any such seizure must be a temporary restraint intended only to
preserve evidence until a warrant can be obtained. Illinois v.
McArthur, 531 U.S. 326, 334 (2001).

Viewing/Listening to Evidence on a Camera or Recording Device
1.

Absent exigent circumstances, members shall obtain a search warrant
before viewing photographs or listening to recordings on a camera or
memory chip that has been seized as evidence.

2.

In exigent circumstances, where there is reason to believe that an
immediate search of the seized material is necessary to prevent death
or serious injury, members shall contact the Watch Commander, CID,
for authorization to review photographs or recordings without a
warrant.

3.

The Watch Commander, CID, in consultation with the Commander,
CID, may authorize such review without a warrant.

4.

Photographs or recordings that have been seized as evidence and are
not directly related to the exigent purpose shall not be reviewed.

G.

Members shall not, under any circumstances, erase or delete, or instruct or
require any other person to erase or delete, any recorded images or sounds
from any camera or other recording device that is in the possession of a nonmember, or that has been voluntarily turned over or seized under the terms of
this order.

H.

Members shall maintain cameras and other recording devices that are in
Department custody so that they can be returned to the owner intact with all
images or recordings undisturbed.

RECORDING OF MEMBERS BY THE PUBLIC (GO-OPS-304.19)

III.

CROSS REFERENCE
A.

GO-SPT-204.01 (Media)

B.

GO-OPS-304.10 (Police-Citizen Contacts, Stops, and Frisks)

C.

GO-HRC-802.06 (Suspicious Activity Reporting Program)

Cathy L. Lanier
Chief of Police
CLL:PAB:MOC:JC

6 of 6

 

 

Prison Phone Justice Campaign
CLN Subscribe Now Ad
Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual - Side