Must You Hand Your Camera to a Police Officer if Asked?
In the United States the answer is no, unless that camera has been used to commit a crime (such as child pornography), or as a weapon in a crime (such as beating someone with it).
I have been following the recent sad case where Johannes Mehserle, a BART officer, fatally shot 22-year-old Oscar Grant while Grant was restrained on a train platform on New Year’s Day. Many videos were taken by witnesses using their mobile phones. These mobile phones were confiscated by police when they got to the scene. The videos that have made it on the internet and to the news agencies are those taken by passengers on the train, which departed before the police arrived, or by onlookers on the platform who managed to walk away from the scene before the police got to them.
Could the police lawfully take away these mobile phones from the witnesses? The answer is at the top of this post.
Read more about the story as it pertains to photographers’ legal rights at Photography Is Not a Crime.