People have a right protected by the First Amendment to film police while they work, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver ruled Monday, a a decision that concurs with decisions made by six of the nation’s other 12 appeals courts. The ruling came in the case of a YouTube journalist and blogger who claimed that a suburban Denver officer blocked him from recording a 2019 traffic stop, the Associated Press reports. Citing decisions from the other courts over two decades as well as First Amendment principles, the 10th Circuit said the right to record police was clearly established and reinstated the lawsuit of the blogger, Abade Irizarry. A three-judge panel said that “Mr. Irizarry’s right to film the police falls squarely within the First Amendment’s core purposes to protect free and robust discussion of public affairs, hold government officials accountable, and check abuse of power.”
While bystander video has played a vital role in uncovering examples of police misconduct in recent years, including in the killing of George Floyd, whether it is a right is still being determined in courts and debated by lawmakers. Five appeals courts have not ruled on the right to record police and the U.S. Supreme Court would likely not get involved unless appeals courts were on opposite sides of the issue, said Alan Chen, a University of Denver law professor and First Amendment expert. Arizona’s governor last week signed a law that makes it illegal to knowingly video record police officers 8 feet or closer without an officer’s permission. U.S. government lawyers intervened in Irizarry's appeal to support the public’s right to record police in the 10th Circuit, which covers six states.