Under the First Amendment, citizens have the right to record the police performing their duties in public. This right is essential to informing the public about police activity and holding government accountable for the actions of law enforcement.

First Amendment Watch’s Citizen’s Guide to Recording Police

On October 9, 2020, the Georgia First Amendment Foundation hosted and recorded a virtual training session exploring ways the First Amendment protects the public’s right to record police; the rules of engagement when journalists and citizens record police in action; and how free speech rights come into play in encounters between the public and police.

In the City of Atlanta, pursuant to a court order in Anderson v. City of Atlanta, 11-CV-3398-SCJ (N.D.Ga. 2012), Atlanta Police Department Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) require as follows regarding citizens’ right to record:

  1. All employees shall be prohibited from interfering with a citizen’s right to record police activity by photographic, video, or audio means. This prohibition is in effect only as long as the recording by the citizen does not physically interfere with the performance of an officer’s duties;
  2. Employees shall not intentionally delete or destroy the original or sole copy any photograph, audio, or video recording of police activity created by a member of the public;
  3. Employees shall not intentionally delete or destroy the original or sole copy of any photograph, audio, or video recording relating to any use of force described under the “Reporting Requirements” section of APD SOP 3010 (“Use of Force”).
A videocamera facing a large crowd.

The Issue

Right to Record

The First Amendment generally protects the right to gather information about what public officials do on public property, which includes the right to record matters of public interest. Although this right is clearly established, some government officials try to prevent or retaliate against those who record them. Read more about our advocacy for the right…

Explore Issue