A New Jersey appellate court has recognized the right to videotape police in public places. Kelly Ramos was producing a documentary film about the rise of gangs in Trenton. During the filming process Ramos was warned not to film police, harassed, and arrested. The New Jersey court relying on both the Federal and New Jersey Constitution concluded:
” A documentary about a subject of public interest, such as urban gangs, is a form of investigative journalism, and the process of preparing such a documentary is a form of news gathering. For that reason, those activities are protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by the New Jersey Constitution, most particularly Article I, paragraph 6.”
Perhaps equally important the court concluded this right was clearly established and as such the officer who violated Ramos’s rights was not entitled to qualified immunity.
The very fact that this was even a case is disturbing. As the number of devices with cameras have proliferated, so too have the number of police videos. In many cases the police have responded by using state wiretap laws to arrest the person taking the video or photo.
The case is Ramos v. Flowers (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Sept. 21, 2012).