A North Carolina attorney got into a tense verbal altercation with police after they claimed a new law forbade him from recording them.
Jesse Bright is a criminal defense attorney who drives for Uber to help pay off his student loans. On February 26, he was pulled over by the Wilmington Police after he allegedly took his passenger to a drug house under surveillance. While pulled over, Bright began recording the situation, when Sgt. Kenneth Becker told him to stop filming. Bright insisted that it was his right and he would continue recording, at which point the officer claimed there was a new state law forbidding him from doing so and that he would be arrested if he continued. Again, Bright insisted, and in response, the officer called him a "jerk," told him to get out of the car, and that he "better hope" they didn't find anything in the vehicle.
Police called for a K9 unit and claimed it "hit" on the vehicle, giving them probable cause to search it, despite Bright's earlier insistence that he did not consent to a search. Eventually, both he and his passenger were let go. Bright told the Washington Post he initially did not want to make the exchange public, but did so when Sgt. Becker and the department did not return his calls or apologize for what he says was a violation of his constitutional rights. Eventually, Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said an internal investigation was launched, the officer was counseled as to a citizen's rights, and the department issued a statement affirming that it is indeed the right of a person to record police in public places and that doing so does well to protect all involved. Bright said:
I think the video shows that the police are willing to lie in order to coerce people into doing what they want them to do. You just have to know your rights.
It's an important reminder (particularly as photographers) to be fully aware of the law regarding photo and video in public places.