Here's the raw video from the Waco Trib reporter where aMcLennan County Sheriff's Deputy took her cell phone because she was recording a shooting investigation in downtown Waco.
There are a lot of issues at play here. Before I get into any of them, here's the link to my interview with Parnell McNamara who is not the GOP nominee for Sheriff of McLennan County. I haven't had a chance to ask the other general election candidates about their position but I will. Keep in mind McNamara's response was a month ago and was a hypothetical (the Q&A on recording police begins at the 7:45 mark) . Even so, it's comforting to those of us who think a sheriff's deputy shouldn't be in the business of confiscating people's cell phones in public places.
So now some thoughts:
It's especially disturbing that the deputies seem to give the reporter her phone back primarily because she's a reporter. What happened to the other average schmos whose phones were taken and happened to not have a high-profile news gig?
Is there any sound legal ground for the sheriff's office to stand on here? If they felt the videos might contain information that could be used in the investigation, does it give them the right to take the cameras without a court order because they feared the evidence would be deleted or the people would walk off and not be found? I don't think so, but most cases I've read have centered on a person's right to record in general and not if there is evidence on the tape.
How does a sheriff's office not have a policy on recording officers in 2012 (as Sheriff Larry Lynch told the Trib) when it seems everyone has a phone with a video camera? And it's not as if this is the first time there has been an altercation between law enforcement and citizens recording in public places.
The deputy acted like a jerk. Barking orders at citizens who aren't breaking any laws is no way to treat the people you took an oath to serve and protect. But there might be some room to give this guy the benefit of the doubt since his own department doesn't have an official policy for such instances. But come on, don't yell at people when they don't immediately comply with your command to do something you probably don't even have the authority to ask them to do.
If you think you are recording police in accordance with the law and are asked to stop, then make sure you know your rights. That can be kind of tricky since many of these cases are breaking new legal ground with each decision. But most importantly, don't be a jerk yourself. Police deal with idiots every day. Don't be one of them and don't give the officer a reason to bark orders at you.