News Gathering

First Amendment Watch Releases a Citizen’s Guide to Recording Police

A protester photographs a protest with his cellphone in St. Louis, Missouri, following the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd.
A protester records a protest in St. Louis, Missouri, with his phone June 1, 2020, days following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. (Reuters/Lawrence Bryant)

In response to the nationwide demonstrations against police brutality, NYU’s First Amendment Watch is publishing a guide informing citizens of their right to record the police in public places.

Many millions of people now have the capability to document news in a way that only journalists and film crews could do in the past, and the videos they capture have played an important role in shedding light on police misconduct.  

The video of George Floyd’s brutal death at the hands of the Minneapolis police, as well as the hundreds of videos taken by bystanders documenting use of force by law enforcement against peaceful protestors, underscores the role that journalists and the public play in illuminating misconduct. 

The First Amendment right to record public officials such as the police performing their official duties in public is central to our democracy. Without the ability to document and disseminate such information, citizens would lack an indispensable tool for keeping the public informed, and for holding their leaders accountable.

First Amendment Watch is an online news and educational resource designed for journalists, educators, students, and the general public. It is specifically designed to answer the need for impartial as well as timely information about First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and petition.