Great article in the Seattle Times by Daniel Beekman discusses how Seattle’s City Council voted Monday to enshrine in the Seattle Municipal Code the rights of the public to observe, record and criticize police activity without fear of retaliation.
The First Amendment can offer protections to members of the public when they watch and record police. And a Seattle Police Department policy adopted in 2008 says bystanders may remain nearby and record the incident as long as they don’t interfere.
So, people already were allowed to watch and record police in Seattle. But the council’s vote means the rights of police observers are now recognized in city law.
According to Beekman, the ordinance says officers should assume members of the public are observing and possibly recording their work at all times. Councilmember Herbold initially proposed the change last year, pointing to high-profile shootings that was recorded by bystanders.
Across the country, smartphones are helping regular people hold their police departments accountable. But people watching, recording and criticizing officers have in some instances been arrested, according to a council memo.
My opinion? Wonderful! I’ve had many Clients complain that their attempts to record interactions with police result in their cameras being confiscated and being slapped with charges of Obstructing and Resisting police.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: recording interactions between police and citizens makes everyone behave better and shows proof of what really happened. Kudos to the Seattle City Council.