Washington, DC - The ACLU has been spreading the word about how DC police will be keeping their body cameras off during election day protests. They even offered an explanation of why it's illegal, and we pointed out that they're wrong. Now DC police are being told to keep the cameras rolling.
Our street-level police sources with Metropolitan Police Department informed us that a message went out to all officers informing them to keep the cameras on in order to to film any violations that may occur. If questioned, the police officers were instructed to make it clear that they were legally recording and the Metropolitan Police Department has no interest in using the recordings to identify peaceful protesters.
In a statement from DC Chief of Staff Matthew Bromeland, he advised, "With regard to this year's Inaugural events, MPD members equipped with a BWC will be required to activate the cameras in accordance with our policy and the law. Our mission is to ensure anyone wishing to peaceably exercise their First Amendment rights within the District of Columbia has a safe environment to do so, absent legal restrictions relating to the time, place, and manner of such activity. MPD's use of BWC's at First Amendment activities is not for the purpose of identifying and recording those persons present that are lawfully expressing protected speech, but rather it serves as an accountability tool for MPD management with respect to ensuring the proper conduct of members and the appropriate handling of policing functions at the scene."
After the DC branch of the ACLU spread the word that DC police officers would be keeping their cameras off during protests, they got a lot of heat for "demanding" that the cameras stay off.
However, the ACLU claims that they never made any demands, it's simply the law in DC not to record protesters. While the ACLU pushed for implementation of the law, they say that the law’s the law, and it’s not their fault that DC cops have to keep their body cameras off. After all, it’s the law that says so; except the problem is, that’s not what the law says:
MPD officers may record First Amendment assemblies for the purpose of documenting violations of law and police actions, as an aid to future coordination and deployment of law enforcement units, and for training purposes; provided, that recording First Amendment assemblies shall not be conducted for the purpose of identifying and recording the presence of individual participants who are not engaged in unlawful conduct.
That explicitly allows for officers to have their body cameras on at the protests. It says that officers are allowed to record the protesters on the condition that the recording isn’t done for the purpose of identifying protesters who are engaged in legal activity. However, police officers wouldn’t be recording for that purpose, they’d be recording to identify people involved in illegal activity, and to document police actions, just as the law allows for.
The focus here is all on the actual purpose of the recording. If the intent of the police department is not to record legal protesters with the intent of identifying them, then it’s legal for the officers to have their cameras on.
The way the law is written, it’s all based on the intent of the police department at the time they make the recording. If the department makes the recording with the intent of using the footage to only identify criminals, then all of the body cameras can be on.
Police in DC apparently read the law, and they aren't willing to give up their very important and very expensive investigatory tool to cater to a fraudulent claim that it's unconstitutional or illegal.
The question remains. Is the ACLU intentionally lying to people, or are they just incompetent? Let us know what you think on our Facebook page or in the comments below.