[Note: As of July 7, 2017, the 3rd Circuit has reversed its decision regarding Fields v. Philadelphia, ruling that citizens in Philadelphia do have the right to record encounters with law enforcement officials. However, only about half of US states and 60 percent of the US population now has this right; it remains a live and crcuial issue. --RL]
The Federal Court in Philadelphia has found that your speech will be protected only when it is expressive conduct.
In a recent court opinion covering two cases, Fields v. The City of Philadelphia and Geraci v. The City of Philadelphia, Judge Mark A. Kearney upheld previous 3rd Circuit court decisions regarding the right to photograph law enforcement officials while on duty in public spaces. Judge Kearny denied Fields' and Geraci's claims that the police violated their first amendment rights by detaining them as a result of photos and videos taken of officers in public and on duty. Kearny decided there was no violation of the plaintiffs' civil rights because neither had, at the time they were filming, an "expressive" reason for doing so. The fact that photos/videos in question might have served as evidence of police misconduct was not a deciding factor.
We believe conduct is unarguably expressive when matters of social concern and social critique are the reason for photographing or collecting information about an event that occurs 1) on public property, and 2) in a manner that does not physically impede the process of law-protection. The federal courts in eastern Pennsylvania, however, are requiring that you know in advance what and why you are filming.
Be ready to claim your conduct as expressive!
To that end, expressive conduct dot org has been established as your default reason for filming in public situations (such as at protests or near public traffic stops) about which you believe your community should be concerned. We want to know about police/community relations in your city through your own original photos and videos. Expressive conduct dot org is willing to consider for publication images and journalism produced by those who would like to provide a view into events that concern you in your community.
Print or save a copy your Expressive Conduct Photographer/Journalist Credentials on your phone by clicking on the image below:
If/when you are asked to stop photographing/filming and you do not think you should have to, say:
"I am photographer/journalist working on a story to submit to Expressive Conduct dot org, a blog concerned with contemporary developments in police/community relations across the United States."
Our Wider Mission
Our wider hope is that this blog may serve as a place for reflective essays about and original photos of your political world.
We are particularly interested by, but our interest is not limited to, issues surrounding photographer's rights, the right to protest, the right to assemble, the right to be free from unreasonable search, to critique the behavior of law-enforcement workers publicly, to question posted signs or distributed fliers, and to inform others of important trends in surveillance practices or local legislation that tend toward the abridgment of citizens' freedoms.
We are also particularly interested in photos and journalism that point to the affirmative behavior of your neighbors, community members, and fellow citizens.
Submit your photos/videos/stories to: expressive conduct at gmail dot com.
Please limit essays to 1000 words. Please caption and credit all photos.
Please consider including your name, but submissions must at least include the city and neighborhood in which your story takes place.
View submitted stories here.