First Amendment | Right to Record Police

First Amendment Watch, Free Speech Center Unite in Educational Video Project

A screengrab from the “Recording Police: Know Your Rights” educational video produced in a collaboration between New York University’s First Amendment Watch and the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University.

Two of the nation’s most prominent First Amendment academic centers are teaming up to produce a series of videos exploring First Amendment issues in everyday life.

The first release from First Amendment Watch at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University focuses on the rights of those who wish to photograph or record video of police officers in public places.

“Recording Police: Know Your Rights  explains in a brief video that recording police officers in public is a First Amendment right, but also counsels citizens to keep back and not interfere with the work of police,” said Free Speech Center Director Ken Paulson. “It can be a delicate balance.”

“Seven federal appeals courts have unanimously recognized that videos of police officers working in public serve the critical First Amendment value of helping to hold police officers accountable for their actions,” said Stephen D. Solomon, NYU journalism professor and editor of First Amendment Watch.

The video was produced by Free Speech Center Director Steve Boyle, who has worked with Garth Brooks, the Beach Boys, Don McLean, Merle Haggard and dozens of other prominent musicians.

The video is available at the home sites of both the Free Speech Center and First Amendment Watch,, as well as on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

Read and download our Teacher and Citizen Guides for Recording Video and Audio of Police Officers.

About First Amendment Watch

First Amendment Watch is a nonprofit news site and educational resource at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Founded in 2017 by Professor Stephen Solomon, First Amendment Watch documents threats to the First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and petition, all rights that are critical to self-governance in a democratic society.

From Alex Jones’ defamation cases, to the use of social media by public figures, to the right to record police and the explosion of disinformation, we seek to inform the wider public on the legal bases of First Amendment cases in a way that is both analytical and accessible for journalists, educators, students and the public. In this way, First Amendment Watch provides all citizens with the tools to better understand their rights and freedoms.

About the Free Speech Center

The Free Speech Center is a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy center dedicated to building understanding of the five freedoms of the First Amendment through education, information and engagement. It does not participate in litigation or lobbying.

Its educational efforts include:

  • The First Amendment Encyclopedia, an unparalleled collection of more than 1,500 articles on First Amendment topics, court cases and history developed in partnership with the Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies. Articles are written to be accessible by young people and the general public. About 20,000 students and educators access the site each school day.
  • 1 for All, a national nonpartisan and nonprofit educational effort to build understanding and respect for the five freedoms of the First Amendment in secondary and higher education.
  • Frequent news, analysis and commentary on current First Amendment issues at The Free Speech Center.