A Seattle bicyclist has started a thread on the social news website Reddit asking for legal advice after a dispute with a Redmond Police officer over his rights to record a traffic stop.
In a YouTube video the bicyclist also posted, the officer is heard saying "if you record me, I'll arrest you...if you do this one second longer, you're violating a law in this state."
Both the video and account on Reddit were posted under a pseudonym.
According to the cyclist's account on Reddit, he was riding his bicycle with two other friends on Cleveland Street at around 2 p.m. last Saturday when the group was stopped by Officer Bill Corson for impeding traffic. The cyclist said he immediately began recording the encounter using a cell phone app but was ordered to stop and threatened with arrest. Here is more from his Reddit post:
The officer asked what I was doing, and when I explained that I was recording him, he threatened me with illegal arrest under the state recording law. I presume he was referring to RCW 9.73.030, but that does not apply because RCW 9.73.030 only restricts recording private communication where the parties have not given consent. There is no expectation of privacy in public. Furthermore, Courts of Appeals in multiple circuits and the Department of Justice have said that recording the police in public is a first amendment right.
In one of the most recent high-profile cases concerning video recording of police actions, the DOJ has instructed the Baltimore Police Department "not to threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage an individual from recording police officer enforcement activities or intentionally block or obstruct cameras or other recording devices."
Redmond Police Chief Ron Gibson sent this statement to Redmond Patch via email:
The Redmond Police Department prides itself on maintaining the professional, ethical, and legal behavior of all our officers. We have been contacted by the individual involved in this incident with Officer Corson. The Redmond Police Department has policies and procedures in place to handle complaints of this nature and we have initiated an internal investigation into the behavior of this officer during this contact. The Redmond Police Department takes all complaints very seriously and we intend to thoroughly investigate this incident. We anticipate having this investigation completed per our policies within the next 30 days.
You can read the entire Reddit thread by clicking here.
Editor's note: This story was revised a few minutes after it was posted to include a statement from Redmond Police Chief Ron Gibson.