Cop To Cameraman: ‘If You’re Invoking Your Rights, You Must Be Doing Something Wrong’

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The notion that certain rights are guaranteed to citizens is being proven false every day. For instance, you have the First Amendment right to film police officers and other public officials, but it often takes an official policy change (usually prompted by lawsuits) before these public servants will begrudgingly respect that right.

By Tim Cushing @ Tech Dirt

You also have certain rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, but even these aren’t innate. You can’t simply remain silent while detained or arrested. You have to invoke these rights (often repeatedly) or risk having your silence (things you didn’t say) used against you.

In the case of photographing police officers, you’ll notice that activists and others who are recording will invoke their rights repeatedly. In some cases, this forces those being recorded to back off and reconsider their attempts to shut down recordings or seize cameras. It doesn’t always work but it works often enough to show that these police officers know you have this right but won’t respect it unless you invoke it.

Techdirt reader timlash sends in this video of two citizens filming a sally port (where prisoners are shuttled in and out of the courthouse) in Jacksonville, Florida. As is to be expected, police officers show up and try to shut down the recording of a public building from a public sidewalk. But the most amazing part of the video is the police officer’s statement in response to the cameraman invoking his rights.

“You must be doing something wrong if you invoke your rights.”


That’s the prevailing attitude. Invoke your Fourth Amendment rights to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures and the government assumes you have something to hide. Invoke your Fifth Amendment rights and the government assumes you’ve committed a crime. Invoke your First Amendment right to record police officers and you’re told that you’re “obstructing” an investigation or creating a public disturbance.

You have rights as an American citizen. They just won’t be respected by default. And when you invoke them, you’ll be treated as an activist (at best) or a criminal (at worst). The land of freedom has tipped the balance away from the citizens and towards the government — because whether we’re fighting terrorism, drugs or illegal immigration, the respect of citizens’ rights impedes the progress of the nation’s many “warriors.”

This article originally appeared at Tech Dirt

  • Jeff Mcleroy

    Again, the guy just comes across as an ass hole. Just tell him your name and yeah, if you act like how the douche acts, that is gonna raise a red flag. again, the guy just comes across as an ass hole (NOT the cop)

  • Edo Edo

    All members of law enforcement are trained in and to observe the rights of the citizens of this country. If the people feel it necessary to invoke their rights to the police, then it is the police who “must be doing something wrong”, NOT the citizen. It doesn’t get more simple than that…

  • armoredheartts

    Though usually I would up in arms about something like this…The officer does have every right here to question the person filming. “Taking the 5th” is for use in court cases not on the street, it allows for a person not to say something that may incriminate them…The person in the video is taping a Sally Port which could be seen as gathering “intelligence” on how the port works, how it is guarded, etc. I would say the officer has reason for concern and is only asking the person valid questions about his activities. He is being good natured and friendly…He only wants his name and is asking him why he is filming the port. Remaining silent is a Miranda Right and this person is obviously not under arrest and Miranda rights do not apply…The guy filming is just being an ass and trying to start shit in my opinion or invoke a response