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News: Photographers' Right To Photograph and Film Police Activity

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
In the USA, a major clarification of Photographers' Rights has been issued.

This means that you can record any police action, even in the public areas of private premises, (that would include Malls etc where the local rent a cops try to forbid shooting of any incident) . Well if we can photograph real police, there's no problem, I'd think with the private cops, as long as photographer maintains a distance and refrains from obstructive or interfering behavior.

"The letter goes on to provide what amounts to a prescription for a new policy that protects citizens rights. Among the recommendations:
BPD should clarify that the right to record public officials is not limited to streets and sidewalks – it includes areas where individuals have a legal right to be present, including an individual’s home or business, and common areas of public and private facilities and buildings.
[P]olicies should instruct officers that, except under limited circumstances, officers must not search or seize a camera or recording device without a warrant.
Officers should be advised not to threaten, intimidate, or otherwise discourage an individual from recording police officer enforcement activities or intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices.
Policies should prohibit officers from destroying recording devices or cameras and deleting recordings or photographs under any circumstances.

If a general order permits individuals to record the police unless their actions interfere with police activity, the order should define what it means for an individual to interfere with police activity and, when possible, provide specific examples."

Read the entire publication, here and copy and print it.


Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Who has read the new US rules? How does this compare with other countries tolerance for photographers. Would you consider including this in your waller to show polices if the try to stop you photographing. Are First amendment Rights for photographers
important to you?


Bob Latham

New member
The picture in the UK is less well defined and written in such a way that both parties can exercise what they see as their rights. Sections 43 and 44 of the Terrorism Act are frequently quoted but one needs to look at section 58 of the act to get a better feeling.

Photography and Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000
The offence concerns information about persons who are or have been at the front line of counter-terrorism operations, namely the police, the armed forces and members of the security and intelligence agencies.

So, that places your average police officer within the terms of the act. It goes on;

Section 58A makes it an offence to publish, communicate, elicit or attempt to elicit information about any of such persons which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

We're now in the debatable realms of whether a photograph of a police officer could be used by a potential terrorist. Section 58 continues with;

Reasonable excuse under section 58A
It is a statutory defence for a person to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for eliciting, publishing or communicating the relevant information
Important: Legitimate journalistic activity (such as covering a demonstration for a newspaper) is likely to constitute such an excuse. Similarly an innocent tourist or other sight-seer taking a photograph of a police officer is likely to have a reasonable excuse.

Finally, we see that the photographer has got his own get out clause.

In practice, an easy going police officer will either ignore you or politely ask you to stop. A more officious individual might try so form of intimidation or ruin his (and your) afternoon. I guess it's best to make an assessment of the situation and be prepared for some inconvenience until common sense prevails.

I should add that the quotes above were based on the Terrorism Act as it stood in 2009 (when I left the UK) and changes may have been made since.


Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
That's an interesting heads up, Bob. Best to say one is a tourist, I guess. :)

Are they in the habit of confiscating or destroying film or deleting files? Is it considered important in the EU to record the actions of police exceeding their powers?


Bob Latham

New member

There are numerous reports of the police demanding that photographs are deleted. Whether these are the result of "internet trolls" or poorly informed police officers, I'm not sure. The police have no power to delete images and we need to go backwards to section 44 of the Terrorism Act to see the definitive statement.

Photography and Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000

Viewing Images and Seizure

If a police officer already reasonably suspects the person to be a terrorist they should use section 43.
Digital images may be viewed as part of a search under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, provided that the viewing is to determine whether the images are of a kind which could be used in connection with terrorism.
The camera, film or memory cards may be seized where a camera is found and the officer reasonably suspects it is intended to be used in connection with terrorism. For example - He or she reasonably suspects photographs are being taken for the purpose of reconnaissance or targeting for terrorist activity.
Officers do not have the power to delete images or destroy film.
Once cameras or other devices are seized, to preserve evidence, officers should not normally attempt to examine them further.
Seized cameras and other devices should be left in the state they were found in and forwarded to appropriately trained forensic staff for forensic examination.

The text above also appears in section 43 of the act. Section 43 deals with the powers that the police have with regards to "stop and search".

Acts like the UK's Terrorism Act are not part of an EU wide aggenda and the various sovereign states formulate their own. The individual has various courts to appeal to if he or she believes there has been an injustice. The final court would be the European Court of Human Rights.

There is a high profile case in the UK media at the moment. A police officer on riot duty assaulted an elderly man and the victim died shortly afterwards.....the assault was caught on video (mobile phone, I believe). The officer is on trial for manslaughter and the short video clip forms the main part of the prosecutions evidence. I suspect that there would be no trial or prosecution without it.