Two years after he was detained by cops in Washington D.C. for photographing them on a public street, Jerome Vorus reached a settlement with the Metropolitan Police Department that requires officers to abide by newly implemented guidelines when dealing with photographers.
At 21 years of age, Vorus is not naïve enough to believe the new guidelines will immediately change their unconstitutional ways.
But the settlement also came with a nice financial bonus that will allow him to upgrade his camera arsenal and continue testing their knowledge of Constitutional law.
“I plan to buy a Canon 5D Mark III and maybe a couple of hidden cameras I can wear on my body,” he said during a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime Monday afternoon.
“I was glad I was instrumental along with the ACLU in making these changes because this is not just a victory for myself but a victory for all photographers in this city and hopefully around the country,” he said.
He plans to carry the guidelines with him as he walks around the city to ensure that the multitude of other law enforcement agencies in the capital, including the U.S. Park Police, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Federal Protective Services, U.S. Mint Police, U.S. Capitol Police and Metro Transit Police also abide by the same guidelines.
Vorus was detained for 30 minutes in July 2010 after he snapped the above photo of cops making a traffic stop in Georgetown.
A male cop demanded to know what he was doing. He asked if he was being detained. The cop hemmed and hawed and told him no, he was not being detained. That he was free to go.
“As I was walking away, two other units pulled up,” he said in a phone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.
A female officer then stepped out and demanded his identification. He asked again if he was being detained. He also started recording the conversation.
“I notified her that I was only required to provide her with ID if I was suspected of a crime,” he said.
“She said, ‘yes, you’re being detained.’ I said, ‘now that we’ve established I’m being detained, here is my ID,’.”
The officer, who was under the impression that it was illegal to photograph police in public, then checked to see if he had any warrants against him. She also said it was illegal for him to audio record her, which he was doing openly.
That officer should not have any question about the legality of the citizens photographing cops anymore if she bothers reading the new guidelines, which state the following:
As long as the photographing or recording takes place in a setting at which the individual has a legal right to be present and does not interfere with a member’s safety, members shall not inform or instruct people that photographing or recording of police officers, police activity or individuals who are the subject of police action (such as a Terry stop or an arrest) is not allowed; requires a permit; or requires the member’s consent. Additionally, members shall not:
- Order that person to cease such activity;
- Demand that person’s identification;
- Demand that the person state a reason why he or she is taking photographs or recording;
- Detain that person;
- Intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices; or
- In any way threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage an individual from recording members’ enforcement activities.
After buying his new camera gear, Vorus will have some money left over to fly down to Miami where we will test local police on their knowledge of the First Amendment.
And now that he’s 21, I’ll be able to buy him a beer, unlike the time I hung out with him in D.C. last December when he was still 20.
CARLOS MILLER’S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
My goal is to set some type of precedent to ensure this does not happen as often as it does today where cops simply get away with it.
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