“Copwatch” Case heard by 3rd Circuit

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals heard argument on May 9, 2017 on the question of whether there is a 1st Amendment right to film on-duty police officers. The case is Fields v. City of Philadelphia and a video of the argument can be viewed from this link.

The plaintiffs claimed that police retaliated against them for taking a video recording of them during separate incidents in Philadelphia. The District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that civilians have no 1st Amendment right to film on-duty police absent expressive conduct.

The Pennsylvania ACLU appealed to the court of appeals on behalf of the plaintiffs.

In a written statement about the “copwatch ruling,” the ACLU-PA called civilian video recordings of police “essential” to holding officers accountable for their actions.

We can expect a decision from the 3rd Circuit in about four months.

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