New York City Mayor Eric Adams said on Wednesday that pedestrians portraying police closely is “unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
When he won the Democratic nomination last summer, Adams was seen as a moderate. Adams, a former NYPD captain who became a senator, rejected calls to empty the police of funds at a time when the idea was gaining traction on the left wing of his party. But Adams’ tenure in office was not a civil liberal dream. For example, despite criticism of the “stop-and-search” policies practiced under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Adams now plans to implement his own version.
On Wednesday, Adams appeared at the New York City Police Academy in Queens to announce the reintroduction of the NYPD’s controversial gun control unit. in reply to Reporter’s question Regarding citizens wanting to “document what’s going on,” Adams responded forcefully:
“This is something we will do: We will teach the public how to properly document… If an officer is trying to prevent a conflict and de-escalate that dispute, they should [not] Have someone stand over their shoulders with the camera in their face, yell and yell at them, without even realizing what the encounter is about. There is a proper way of policing, there is a proper way of documentation…Stop being on top of police officers while they do their jobs. This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Adams too added“If your iPhone can’t take that picture and you’re at a safe distance, you need to upgrade your iPhone.”
This last stab was likely intended to be tongue in cheek, but it fits with the overall authoritarian tone of Adams’ answer, implying that there is a right way and a wrong way to hold the police accountable. While Adams emphasized General The right to film – allowing that “you can safely document an accident, and we can use that footage to analyze what happened” – his comprehensive answer on the topic leaves much to be desired.
Bystanders filming police interacting with the public is nothing new, but it has exploded into mainstream consciousness with the 2020 murder of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. While the Minneapolis Police Department Initial report Just mentioning that a man died ‘after [a] Medical accident during police interaction,” the footage of bystanders actually clarified what happened.
But despite being confirmed by multiple circuit courts across the country, citizens’ right to police registration remains a matter of debate between police and lawmakers. Officers continue to harass citizens for filming them, sometimes violently, even when officers are not obstructed in any way. Several countries have attempted to legislate further restricting this practice. What these bills tend to do is specify minimum recording distances, anywhere between five feet and 30 feet, and say that anyone filming is not allowed to approach the officer. But these laws, especially those with high minimum distances, are quite likely to be unconstitutional. There is a distinct difference between interfering with the duties of an officer, and merely recording the event, and it is dangerous for lawmakers to confuse the two.
Although citizens should not obstruct a police officer in the performance of his duties (which is indeed a crime, including in New York), bystanders should be allowed to photograph that officer. People have the right in the First Amendment to depict police interactions, even if they are “screaming and screaming,” as Adams puts it. After only two months in office, Adams’ record on police reform is already disappointing.