Attorney Insists on Filming Police Who Said He Would Be Jailed for Recording Them

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. 

[via Washington Post and New York Post]

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11 Comments

Leigh Miller's picture

NO shock there...Police have always been willing to lie (and I say this as someone who has several family members in the military and law enforcement).

The difference now is that recording devices have gotten small enough and easier to operate at a moments notice. Law enforcement will be forced to catch up with modern times...and it will either be a painful (expensive) or smooth transition..their choice.

My car has an internal video/audio recorder that activates with a touch of a button...has worked well for me on several occasions in court.

Leigh Smith's picture

"internal video/audio recorder" could you clarify?

Leigh Miller's picture

Nope.

However I had one installed after repeatedly being pulled over in a car "that doesn't look like I belong in it".

The last time the cop flat out carried on with BS even after I told him that he was being recorded. I played it back for his Division and changed his tune pretty good.

Leigh, as a 20+ year retired military veteran I would like to ask you not to lump the military with police. I absolutely hate it when people do that. The reason being is that the police and military have two very different roles and function under very different legal environments. That is why I hate it even more (a huge understatement) when cops trying to act and look like the military.

Great idea, by the way, on the hidden recording device. I wonder if such a thing would be considered legal in the fascist state of California. Thankfully, as you said, video cameras will be so small and well designed for cars that a dirty cop wouldn't even notice it.

"Great idea, by the way, on the hidden recording device."

Although I believe that recording without announcing it would be tougher to defend.

Even cops with body cams need to state that they are recording...

Jim Stone's picture

Becker 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."

Becker probably didn't say that, after all he's the lying officer in the video...bad behavior by the police.

Absolutely staggering, though not surprising, that the only consequence that cop received was being "counseled." That piece of garbage cop should have been fired and then arrested for his threatening and lying behavior. There should also be a nationwide database to prevent such people from ever being a cop, or even a security guard, again. Fascist scum!

I also wouldn't have held back the video or even spoken to the police department. This kind of footage needs to be put out there as soon as it happens. Appealing to police departments to do the right thing almost never works. Police culture in America is corrupt to the core. It is the result of decades of putting cops on pedestals through movies and TV shows.

And for those that will inevitably chime in by saying that most cops are not corrupt, BS! The silence amongst police offers is universally deafening when one of their own does wrong. The time has come for federal oversight and undercover operations to catch police officers engaging in such activity and if necessary the dismantling and rebuilding of entire police departments.

Ask your president what he would do, and I bet you 10:1 he would say to disbar the attorney for being a jerk. Because he loves cops and they love (and voted!) for him.

Fish always stinks from the head down.

We can tend to *our* president in regards to domestic issues without foreign input.