Nat'l Press Photographers Assn. replies to Dallas Police Assn's 'no right to photograph cops' demand

DPD Chief Brown affirms public's right to photograph and record

Last week, the president of the Dallas Police Association told CBS DFW he did not think the public had a right to photograph officers working on the street.

This quote - and the story - went viral, for good reason...

Dallas Police Association President Ron Pinkston wants citizens to stop taping because he worries someone will get hurt. “It’s creating a major officer safety issue,” he said. “We don’t know who it is pulling behind us. We don’t know they’re there to videotape, they might be part of… if that guy has has just done a kidnapping they could be part of the kidnapping. You don’t know.”

Early Monday morning, Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, sent a letter to DPD Chief David Brown, stating:

Such ill-informed statements only underscore the apparent lack of understanding or respect by those officers who still have the erroneous belief that they can order people to stop taking pictures or recording in public. Interference and in some cases arrests stemming from those actions have led to a number of court cases resulting in: six-figure settlements, new policies and procedures and sometimes serious disciplinary actions against the officers involved.

NPPA - Dallas PD Letter 04-14-14


DPD Chief David Brown responded to the NPPA letter immediately.

The department supports your position and we encourage citizens to do so safely.

Your correspondent sent back this answer.

When we met at the DPD Central Division "Chief on the Beat" event last year, I handed you copies of 'public photography' general orders from (if I remember correctly) Miami Beach and one other city, plus the Dept of Justice letter to Baltimore PD regarding the issue.

While the DPA has no authority to tell officers how to act while on the street, I am concerned some will carry out the spirit of his demand for the public stop taking photographs/video of officers doing their jobs. While I can count instances of these types on both hands after several years of shooting, I fear an increase is coming.

Attached to this email you will find policies from Baltimore, Metro Washington DC, and Miami Beach, as well as the DOJ letter.

I cannot say it any stronger: Dallas needs a similar written 'public right to photograph' policy added to its General Orders, and it needs to be added soon.

I urge you to consider Mickey's offer to host a 'public right to photograph' program, sponsored by NPPA, here in Dallas. This would not just be a DPD event - why not invite the Dallas Sheriff Office (Ms Valdez took the class in January), DART, and any other local law enforcement agency in the Dallas County area to participate???

And Mickey Osterreicher (NPPA General Counsel) replied to Chief Brown:

Thank you very much for your prompt and supportive reply.

This week I will be in San Diego and Los Angeles moderating panel discussions on this issue. I met Sheriff Lupe Valdez when I presented a program at the National Sheriffs Association meeting in Washington, DC this January.

I am attaching a copy of the LA event as well as an abstract of the programs I do around the country.

Please let me know if I/NPPA may be of any assistance. My goal is to improve public-police-press relations.

By Avi S. Adelman under Public safety , Legal issues